WGAE, FCC Chief Warn About Google-Verizon Deal

“Any deal that doesn’t preserve the freedom and openness of the internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable”

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday gave a warning on any deal between Google and Verizon that could impact his goal for net neutrality.

As reported in TheWrap Wednesday, Google — a big backer of net neutrality – has reached an agreement with Verizon to support the phone company’s plan to offer a tier of “managed services” that could see some websites, including movie studios, charged extra for certain services.

While saying several times that he wasn’t going to comment on a deal that hasn’t been officially announced, Genachowski said he remains committed to net neutrality principles.

“Any deal that doesn’t preserve the freedom and openness of the internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable,” Genachowski told a press conference following an FCC meeting today.

“I am, I have been, I will be firmly committed to preserving the freedom and openness of the internet. It’s been an extraordinary boon for free expression, for innovators, startups, and investment.”

Also on Thursday, Writers Guild of America East also ripped the deal, warning it threatened the growth of the web as a source of independent movies, comparing it to Comcast’s deal for NBC Universal.

“The world’s biggest media companies want to define how people will get content over the internet. Money talks; independent content creators: take a walk,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director, in a statement.

“The internet and other digital media offer an unprecedented opportunity for creators to reach consumers and for people to watch and read what they want, when they want. This is very different from traditional media in which major studios, distributors and television networks control the flow of movies and programs. 

“Digital technology presents a vast range of possibilities to content creators and consumers alike, and it would be a tragedy to squeeze all of that into a narrow commercial band … We do not have to allow Verizon, Comcast, Google, and NBCU to divide up the digital pie amongst themselves,” he said.

Consumer groups also have complained, claiming that the agreement kills net neutrality.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt speaking to reporters Wednesday night in Lake Tahoe, as reported by CNET, declined to confirm the agreement but said Google’s biggest concern was that one content provider didn’t get favored over another.

"What we mean is that if you have one data type, like video, you don't discriminate against one person's video in favor of another. It's OK to discriminate across different types … There is general agreement with Verizon and Google on this issue. The issues of wireless versus wireline get very messy … and that's really an FCC issue not a Google issue."

Genachowski’s comments came as efforts to reach a consensus about net neutrality and broadband issues through a round of private meetings with leading business stakeholders collapsed at the FCC. Those meetings, run by FCC chief of staff Edward Lazarus, and including representatives of Google, Skype, Verizon, AT&T, and of the cable industry, but no representatives of consumer groups had been heavily criticized by consumer groups.

In a statement, Lazarus called the discussions “productive on several fronts” but said they had “not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet – one that drives innovation, investment, free speech, and consumer choice.  All options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue.”