The FCC has called off negotiations with major Internet industry players to arrive at a compromise for net neutrality. The meetings were an attempt to come to an amicable agreement over net neutrality rules and dodge political pressure over FCC jurisdiction and authority--but asking the fox how to protect the henhouse is generally unwise.
Reports of a secret deal between Verizon and Google for preferential treatment of Google traffic on Verizon's networks may have been a catalyst to the breakdown of negotiations. But, whether that is true or not, the end of the negotiations is great for the future of the Internet. The FCC is supposed to provide guidance and oversight of these Internet industry stakeholders--not the other way around.
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Vice President and Policy Director of Media Access Project, had this to say about the rumored Google-Verizon deal. "What is good for Google and Verizon is not necessarily good for innovation and competition on the Internet. What the two companies have in common is that both are incumbents with dominant positions in their markets. It's no wonder they are prepared to strike a deal that protects their market position at the detriment of the next Verizon and the next Google."
Schwartzman added this advice for the FCC. "The Commission should complete what it has started by bringing broadband services back under its jurisdiction as soon as possible, instead of pursuing its fruitless efforts at a short-term backroom compromise on net neutrality. A regulatory agency like the FCC should not be making deals with the biggest companies any more than it should countenance private side deals that achieve the same outcome. These arrangements could sacrifice successful implementation of the National Broadband Plan as well as broader free speech, privacy, disability, public safety, and consumer protections."
I have to say, I agree with Schwartzman's sentiment. Companies either follow the rules, or they don't. There are no negotiations. When government agencies try to play nice with the industries they are tasked to oversee and include key stakeholders in developing the framework of rules they are supposed to follow, we end up with Enron, the meltdown of Wall Street, the BP oil fiasco in the Gulf, and people dying from taking Vioxx.
We don't expect the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) to let farmers dictate what quality of meat is good enough for Americans to consume. We don't expect the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) to check with Columbian drug cartels to negotiate how much cocaine should be allowed into the country. And, we don't expect DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to talk to Al Qaeda to select which individuals should be closely monitored for terrorist activity. Why should the FCC consult with the industry it is supposed to police?
According to its Web site, "The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable." It should simply fulfill that mission--without asking for permission or apologizing to the industry it is tasked to regulate.