Verizon, MetroPCS Club Net Neutrality With the Bill of Rights

July 6th, 2012 by · 2 Comments

Sometimes you just have to sit back and wonder about the world. This week, Verizon (NYSE:VZ, news, filings) and its smaller mobile competitor MetroPCS took another swing at network neutrality regulations. This time though, timing things to coincide with our annual preoccupation with 5-4 Supreme Court rulings du jour, they brought out the legal guns of last resort, claiming net neutrality violates their freedom of speech.

Specifically, they claim 'editorial discretion' to prioritize their own web content if they want to. It's the 'go build your own pipe' argument repackaged in constitutional clothing, and not for the first time. Basically they're claiming that the right to free speech includes the right to filter, de-prioritize, charge for, or hinder other free speech that might pass across the last mile bottleneck they have built, bought, or inherited.

It's a purely legal argument that has never worked before and that doesn't address the public relations nightmare that would face any attempt to do such things. The legal basis for net neutrality has never been as relevant as the public mood against limits on people's ability to do what they want with their data. The regulators aren't the protagonists here, but rather the puppets of popular opinion.  No corporation really wants to oppose that directly, so instead they pretend everything would be fine if the regulators would just back off.

There's nothing much new here, but you can definitely feel an upswell building among last mile providers globally against net neutrality, from Korean moves to allow the blocking of VoIP to Teliasonera's plans to charge from it to Comcast's attempt to exempt its own traffic from caps to the rumored toll free data plans being readied. It's going to be an interesting year.

Categories: Government Regulations · ILECs, PTTs · Internet Traffic · Wireless

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2 Comments So Far


  • CoCo says:

    Much as it pains me to be on the side of these smarmy cretins of our industry using the Constitution when its convenient, I agree. Even though net nuetrality would benefit any company I’ve ever worked for, and thus me too, I think there is something fundamentally wrong with seeing packets and frames as a “right” that one is entitled to. There is an owner of all the capital-intensive infrastructure required to get information to people, and its exhausting trying to operate in an environment where no one thinks thats relevant. The total irrationality of the telecom price model has already crushed the cost model. We consumers have brought this debate on ourselves by demanding data for cheap or free, but then wondering why these companies are trying to protect their content and squeeze something out of it. That cabling and fiber isn’t there as part of evolution, its there because someone spent billions of dollars getting it there, and they have a right to make some return on it, and put some data over the wire that they think will make them some money.

  • CostCausation says:

    CoCo, a few comments…

    For this argument to prevail, we must literally, not figuratively, declare the INTERNET dead. Consumers subscribe to internet service. They do not subscribe to VZ’s, Metropcs’, or some other carrier’s content selected service.

    If I bought a Porsche that later turned into a Ford Pinto I think I’d have a pretty strong bait and switch case against the auto manufacturer.

    A freedom of speech defense may sound patriotic — after all, we just celebrated Independence day — but their argument is anything but. With this argument the ISPs have now redefined the “I” in ISP. It’s like Wiley Coyote suing the the Roadrunner for pain and suffering and damages. Wiley (the ISPs) pursued the Roadrunner (consumers) for years, deploying all kinds of tricks (unlimited internet), artifices (service bundling), devices (smartphones), etc., and when he couldn’t successfully catch him, he relies on the courts to fix his problem?

    This argument is so preposterous that it’s scary. It’s scary because of its boldness. It’s bold because, if successful, it permits any corporation (e.g., banks) to redefine at any point any product or service they offer.

    This is akin to redefining the color blue as black.

    “In·ter·net
       [in-ter-net] noun
    a vast computer network linking smaller computer networks worldwide (usually preceded by the ). The Internet includes commercial, educational, governmental, and other networks, all of which use the same set of communications protocols.”

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