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New industry meetings over net neutrality being hosted by lobbyists

By Ed Oswald, Betanews

While much of the focus has been on Google and Verizon when it comes to net neutrality as of late, the Wall Street Journal has reported that lobbyists began a new set of talks among a much wider group on Wednesday.

The Information Technology Industry Council is a lobbying firm which represents dozens of companies, including Apple, AOL, Cisco, HP, Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM among others. Reports indicate Microsoft is in attendance as is Cisco. AT&T and Verizon are also involved in the negotiations, but Google is not.

An ITIC spokesperson is characterizing the meeting as an attempt to generate a net neutrality deal that could gain “broad cross-sector support.” It did mention the Google-Verizon deal, and it may be quite possible that the meeting could be used to drum up support for that particular proposal, although the exact topics of the meetings are unknown.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company is not part of these new round of talks. Other companies that the ITIC represents did not return requests for confirmation on whether or not they are part of any discussion. One party is notably absent, and that’s the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC did not criticize however, with a spokesperson telling the WSJ they were pleased to see that a dialog was ongoing.

Such a stance seems in opposition to what some of its own commissioners have said: Commissioner Michael Copps has consistently criticized the Google-Verizon deal, most recently calling it an attempt to “build a world of private Internets that would vastly diminish the centrality of the Internet that you and I know.”

No public interest groups have been invited to this round of talks, unlike the unsuccessful FCC talks. Those groups used that fact to point out that the consumer has no representation in these latest talks, making them illegitimate.

“The public does not need more time-consuming deliberations,” Media Access Project senior vice president and policy director Andrew Jay Schwartzman said in a statement. “The FCC should take prompt action to assert its authority over broadband providers’ network management practices, without further delay.”

Copyright Betanews, Inc. 2010

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