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FCC Asked To Rule Against Verizon Wireless

Mar 18, 2008, 7:00 AM
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A consortium of advocacy groups are pressing the Federal Communications Commission to clarify that Verizon Wireless acted unlawfully last year when it refused to provide an abortion rights group with a short code to send text messages to supporters.

In comments filed with the FCC, Free Press, Public Knowledge and other advocates argued that wireless companies can effectively choke small groups' ability to communicate, unless the agency prohibits the carriers from discrimination. "Without the ability to start ... small campaigns--at least not without the approval of a part of the wireless oligopoly--some speakers will never get their voices heard," the groups wrote.

Last year, Verizon Wireless initially refused to issue a short code to the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice. Without that code, the group would have been unable to send text messages to supporters who had signed up to receive them.

But the same day that a story about the controversy appeared in The New York Times, Verizon Wireless reversed its position and agreed to issue the short code.

Free Press, Public Knowledge and other groups complained to the FCC, asking for a declaratory ruling that short codes are subject to nondiscrimination rules.

--Wendy Davis

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