Blink and you may have missed at Wednesday’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, but signs of a serious rift between Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and the Federal Communications Commission went public. And of course, network neutrality was the bone of contention.
It was interesting enough to see the unfailingly diplomatic FCC chairman Julius Genachowski break from character when asked about the joint statement Google and Verizon made over the summer to set some rules for the road on broadband policy. “I would have preferred if they didn’t do exactly what they did when they did and I think it had the effect of slowing down the processes that could have led to the resolution,” he griped.
The comment came in stark contrast to the one Google CEO Eric Schmidt made in his own assessment of the issue at the Monday session that opened the conference. When Schmidt discussed the rationale behind the statement, he was interrupted by interviewer Tim O’Reilly, who noted that Schmidt likely irked the FCC for taking “the wind out of their sails” (see video, around 31-minute mark).
Schmidt’s response? “We spent a lot of time with the FCC,” he told O’Reilly. “Indeed, The FCC was in a series of meetings with them that I was in.”
The “sails” and “meetings” in question were broached by neither Schmidt or Genachowski on stage, but there’s been ample reporting on the subject (DailyFinance’s Sam Gustin did some strong reporting here). Long story short: Genachowski tried to get Google, Verizon and other top telecom firms to get on the same page regarding network neutrality in a series of secret meetings in Los Angeles, only to have it blow up in his face. Google and Verizon, which had already been meeting to hammer out their own solution, got fed up with the inability to reach consensus and struck out their own–only to strike out given the ensuing firestorm of criticm.
Schmidt himself recognized Monday what he had wrought was not what he intended to reap. “Unfortunately, election fever took over,” he said. “Nothing will happen until January-February, or a while longer. All we were trying to do was move the ball a little bit forward.”
Verizon hasn’t exactly shrunk from this conflict since this all went down. Earlier this week, Tom Tauke, executive VP of public affairs, policy, and communications, at Verizon, spoke out again on the subject. “Attempts by the Federal Communications Commission to assert its jurisdiction in this area have resulted in court rebukes and considerable uncertainty,” he said. “New efforts by the FCC to adopt net neutrality policies are likely to suffer a similar fate.”
Looks like a backburner issue is starting to simmer again.