June 23, 2010 / 1:59 AM / 9 years ago

Parties still far apart in US Internet talks-source

* More talks scheduled for Wednesday

* Talks focused on wireless broadband

* Verizon CEO: FCC proposals unimaginative, overbearing

By John Poirier

WASHINGTON, June 22 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators and phone, cable and Internet lobbyists remained far apart after the latest round of talks on Tuesday over how broadband should be regulated yielded no agreement, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

Tuesday’s meeting at the Federal Communications Commission with representatives from broadband providers — AT&T Inc (T.N), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), a cable industry group and Internet companies — focused on wireless broadband, according the source.

Similar to Monday’s meeting, the latest talks were hosted by Edward Lazarus, chief of staff for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, and it failed to reach a consensus after the parties met in the morning and afternoon, the source said.

The parties some of whom took a break to attend a luncheon speech by Verizon Communications Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg at the Economic Club of Washington also plan to meet for the third straight day on Wednesday.

The series of meetings kicked off on Friday, one day after the FCC voted to collect public comments on whether the agency should reclassify broadband regulation under existing phone rules — typically considered a stricter regulatory regime.

The meetings stem from an April ruling by a U.S. appeals court that said the FCC had failed to show it had the authority to stop Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) from blocking bandwith-hogging online applications.

Genachowski wants the FCC to regulate broadband access to ensure the free flow of information. To allay market fears, he has pledged to tread lightly by not imposing some of the most onerous regulatory provisions under existing phone rules.

Despite FCC assurances, big broadband providers have threatened legal challenges.


“The FCC has proposed basically an unimaginative and overbearing set of rules,” said Seidenberg, who added that there is a “growing disconnect” between Washington and the business community harming companies’ ability to expand the economy and create jobs.

Tuesday’s meeting at the FCC was also attended by lobbyists with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a cable industry trade group; online phone provider Skype and the Open Internet Coalition, which represents Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), eBay Inc (EBAY.O), Facebook, and Twitter, the source said. Google Inc’s (GOOG.O) lobbyist participated by phone.

At the meetings discussions have focused on how Genachowski can win the battle over net neutrality — also known as open Internet principles — in exchange for abandoning efforts to move broadband under phone rules.

Tuesday’s discussions focused on whether broadband providers should be allowed to prioritize or block Web sites on wireless devices, according to the source.

“As each party recognizes it has something to lose, that increases the likelihood of an eventual agreement,” David Kaut, a Stifel Nicolaus analyst said.

In Congress, lawmakers are slated to hold their own series of meetings with industry stakeholders.

“Some stakeholders have shared their ideas with staff at the commission, including ideas for legislative options,” Lazarus said in an FCC blog posting on Tuesday.

Free Press and other public interest groups have criticized Lazarus and other FCC officials for not inviting consumer groups to the meetings and potentially caving into demands by broadband providers.

“The FCC’s blog post is a fig leaf attempting to cover for what appears to be secret negotiations to sell out the future of the Internet,” said Free Press President Josh Silver said (Reporting by John Poirier; editing by Carol Bishopric).

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