Even as the cable industry has marched in optimistic lock-step that a compromise would be reached, the FCC is saying that talks between itself, Web companies and ISPs have not worked and that it's giving up any thoughts of cutting a deal with the industry.
So it's back to the table with a warning: reports of a deal between Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) better not be true (both sides now say they're not) because they violate the concept of net neutrality and "any outcome, any deal that doesn't preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski warned at a post meeting press conference.
Meanwhile, the cable industry has presented a unified front of optimism. Last week Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) Chairman-CEO Brian Roberts said he was "pretty pleased that there's a constructive dialog around this area with the FCC and with a number of stakeholders." This week Glenn Britt, chairman/president/CEO of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC-WI) prefaced second quarter earnings comments to note "we and other interested parties are working constructively with the FCC to find a reasonable path for them to implement a national broadband plan" of which net neutrality would be a part.
Only Michael Willner, vice chairman-CEO of Insight Communications, seemed a little less than optimistic and a bit more foreboding.
"My personal view is that certainly at the present time the intention of the FCC is not to heavily regulate the cable industry in any way that would be harmful," Willner said, noting that the FCC has a "realistic and commercial attitude towards the business ... (and) they have the right intentions." Willner's biggest concern was not the present, it was the future, where another FCC could be "more heavy handed ... or have a desire to regulate the industry differently. That's why these conversations (between the industry and FCC) are under way."
And now they're not.
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