Digital Rights Group Slams Verizon's Anti-Neutrality Argument

Gavel-AB1Verizon's claim that open Internet rules violate its free speech rights is "exactly backwards," a coalition of law professors and digital rights group Center for Democracy & Technology argue in court papers filed on Thursday.

The neutrality rules ban all broadband providers -- wireline as well as wireless -- from blocking sites or competing applications. The regulations, which took effect last year, also prohibit wireline providers from engaging in unreasonable discrimination.

Verizon is arguing to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that the rules should be vacated for several reasons, including that they violate the First Amendment by requiring it to transmit other companies' speech. The First Amendment generally prohibits the government from either censoring speech or forcing people to say something.

But the advocates say in a friend-of-the-court brief that Verizon's argument misses the point. They say that neutrality rules don't infringe speech because the rules only apply when the company is acting as an intermediary for other parties' communications — not when the company speaks on its own behalf.

The advocates add that the neutrality rules are similar to the common carrier rules that have long applied to telephone companies. "The rules do not restrict or compel anyone’s speech but instead protect everyone’s speech by requiring that it be transmitted without interference," the brief says.

Earlier this year, a coalition of libertarian groups backed Verizon's argument that the rules wrongly restrict the company's First Amendment rights. Those groups -- TechFreedom, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Free State Foundation and the Cato Institute -- contend that the regulations wrongly compel broadband providers to "post, send, and allow access to nearly all types of content, even if a broadband provider prefers not to transmit such content."

 

 

 

 

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3 comments about "Digital Rights Group Slams Verizon's Anti-Neutrality Argument ".
  1. Robert Repas from Machine Design Magazine , November 16, 2012 at 12:13 p.m.
    "post, send, and allow access to nearly all types of content, even if a broadband provider prefers not to transmit such content." Yep, that's what it means...just remember that preferring not to goes by another name: CENSORSHIP. If you want Verizon to tell you what you can and can't say, then go ahead and support their position. If you want to say what you want, when you want, then you better be in support of Net Neutrality.
  2. Domenico Tassone from Viewthrough Measurement Consortium , November 16, 2012 at 9:49 p.m.
    Not so fast. Verizon is a private company and we have free markets here in the USA. If people don't like their service why can't they just SWITCH to a one that treats them better?
  3. Robert Repas from Machine Design Magazine , November 19, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.
    Domenica, there is much in your reply that shows you don't understand the telecom situation in the US. It is NOT a free market by any means. In some areas, Verizon is the ONLY provider. Verizon not only offers user end-access, but they also provide a major backbone service used not only by them, but hundreds of smaller ISPs as well. You can switch ISPs, and still end up on Verizon's network. Verizon is offering a public accommodation for Internet access. Not partial access, not just-this-section-of-the-net access, but Internet access, which means, as a public carrier, they need to provide access for everyone on their network to everything on the Internet. Reread the statement, "The rules do not restrict or compel anyone’s speech but instead protect everyone’s speech by requiring that it be transmitted without interference." Imagine if the phone company refuses to connect calls to a pregnant woman's obstetrician because he also performs abortions and that offends the phone company's president? Seems absurd, yes, but that's the very type of situation Verizon is arguing they be permitted to do. If Verizon or any other telecommunication company serving the public isn't willing to carry without interference, then they should get out of the public telecom business.