Closed-door negotiations on the future of net neutrality have been halted in the US after rumours of side talks between two key participants, search giant Google and internet provider Verizon Communications.
Both companies were swift to issue a denial, with a Google spokesperson claiming the company "have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google traffic. We remain as committed as we always have been to an open internet."
But Google CEO Eric Schmidt added to speculation that an agreement of some sort was forthcoming, claiming in a press conference that Google and Verizon have been talking “for a long time about trying to get an agreement on what the definition of Net neutrality is”.
“What we mean is that if you have one data type, like video, you don't discriminate against one person's video in favour of another. It's ok to discriminate across different types,” he told reporters in a meeting at the inaugural Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, California.
Some commentators are now questioning whether the reported talks were centred on mobile, rather than broadband, internet traffic. One source told Reuters: "Verizon would not block or slow Internet traffic over land lines, but could do so to wireless devices."
With Verizon’s US mobile business centred on selling handsets operating on Google’s Android operating system, such a deal could be an opportunity to capitalise on criticisms leveled at the AT&T network, which is the sole carrier of Apple's iPhone in the US.
Meanwhile the US Federal Communications Commission’s decision to end their talks with industry representatives on net neutrality has been praised by some public interest groups. Sources party to the FCC discussions claimed the talks were proving largely fruitless, with little chance of the committee’s findings having any imminent legislative impact in the US Congress.