The report says that the players have reached a "general agreement on some principles," but no consensus on a few critical issues, including whether wireless service would also be subject to neutrality principles.
Present at the meeting on Saturday were representatives from Google, Skype, Verizon, AT&T, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Open Internet Coalition (which includes Amazon, eBay and Netflix), as well as FCC officials.
Stifel Nicolaus says that if all parties can reach a consensus -- including an agreement that Internet service providers won't degrade or prioritize particular material -- the FCC might back away from its plan to reclassify broadband access as a "Title II" telecommunications service.
On the one hand, if the parties can come to an agreement that avoids protracted rule-making -- and the litigation that's certain to follow -- the move could potentially benefit everyone. On the other, as Free Press and others argue, a deal arrived at through private talks might not go very far toward protecting the openness of the Internet.
Another problem with the private deal approach is that the FCC might not be able to enforce such an agreement unless it also reclassifies broadband access as a Title II telecommunications service. That's because a federal appellate court recently ruled that the FCC lacks the power to enforce neutrality principles because broadband is considered an information service and not a telecommunications service.
In other words, the current round of talks could produce an agreement, but not one that could be enforced in court. Instead, ISPs would pretty much be left to self-regulate.
Given the history here, including prior instances of traffic-throttling by ISPs, the FCC shouldn't abandon plans to reclassify broadband service without something more solid than a promise for future self-regulation.