US telcos claim neutrality violates free speech

Rob Powell/Telecom Ramblings
09 Jul 2012

Sometimes you just have to sit back and wonder about the world. This week, Verizon and its smaller US 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.

This article was authored by Rob Powell and was originally posted on

Rob Powell is founder & editor of Telecom Ramblings, which was set up in 2008. The website is dedicated to discussing trends and developments in the telecom industry.

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