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September 27, 2007

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This isn't a net-neutrality issue. It's a censorship issue. Net neutrality is about whether traffic can be routed differently based on subscriber fees, not blocked entirely based on content. What Verizon did in this case was wrong regardless of how one feels about net-neutering. The fact that a wireless network was involved doesn't remove the focus from the wrongness of censorship, just as the choice of murder weapon doesn't remove the focus from the wrongness of killing.

Pub - the 3 examples in your last paragraph - just a joke, right? RIGHT? Sadly, I can almost imagine the first 2.

Net neutrality is about whether traffic can be routed differently based on subscriber fees, not blocked entirely based on content.

In a narrow sense, you are correct. But if there's one thing that is true in this world, it's that once the ability to do something exists, it will be done if someone thinks it in their interest. Blocking entirely isn't necessary, just assigning it to a very large queue with a very small server would suffice.

what cw said.

selective routing based on fees paid is a pretty short step from effectively blocking based on "We don't want your money".

also, looks like Verizon">http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/business/27cnd-verizon.html&OQ=_rQ3D2Q26hpQ26orefQ3Dslogin&OP=16bd0b06Q2FkmlPkDaQ5B8,aaZ2k2ccQ3Bkc9k2Q3BkPQ3C8Q7EAl88k2Q3BQ5BADsQ24l,Q7E1aAqIZjY'>Verizon changed its mind.

err... that was:

also, looks like Verizon">http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/business/27cnd-verizon.html&OQ=_rQ3D2Q26hpQ26orefQ3Dslogin&OP=16bd0b06Q2FkmlPkDaQ5B8,aaZ2k2ccQ3Bkc9k2Q3BkPQ3C8Q7EAl88k2Q3BQ5BADsQ24l,Q7E1aAqIZjY">Verizon changed its mind

selective routing based on fees paid is a pretty short step from effectively blocking based on "We don't want your money".

Which, by the way, is exactly what Verizon is doing re the text messaging issue with NARAL. It is worth adding the clarification that what NARAL sought was the ability to text message it's own supporters, and that Verizon simply refused to take the money for that traffic.

Yes, it is not the internet, but it is clearly a model of what to expect if net neutrality is blocked.

Is this all that different from billboard companies which refuse ads from certain advocacy groups, no matter what they're willing to pay? Or from television networks with the same policy? I'm not defending it--and I'm glad Verizon changed their policy with relatively little pressure brought to bear--but it seems to me that a more apt comparison to what happened to NARAL was what CBS did to Moveon in 2004 with the Superbowl ad, or what ClearChannel does to progressive groups who want billboard space.

As for Verizon changing its mind (see cleek link above), this is almost certainly linked to management sensitivity on how it might impact the net neutrality debate. They still want to retain the power to discriminate based on content -- they just don;t want to ruffle feathers on that topic right now.

From the article linked by cleek:

But legal experts said private companies like Verizon probably have the legal right to decide which messages to carry. The laws that forbid common carriers from interfering with voice transmissions on ordinary phone lines do not apply to text messages.

In reversing course today, Verizon did not disclaim the power to block messages it deemed inappropriate.

* * *

In initially turning down the program, Verizon, one of the nation’s two largest wireless carriers, had told Naral that it does not accept programs from any group “that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.”

* * *

On Wednesday, Mr. Nelson, the Verizon spokesman, said the initial decision had turned on the subject matter of the messages and not on Naral’s position on abortion. “Our internal policy is in fact neutral on the position,” Mr. Nelson said. “It is the topic itself” — abortion — “that has been on our list.”

The article points out how the law forbidding content discrimination as to voice transmissions was enacted in response to Western Union discriminating in the 19th century against telegrams based on the political views of the senders. This is not a new issue, folks, and expect content discrimination if access rules are left in the hands of private companies.

Incertus: Is this all that different from billboard companies which refuse ads from certain advocacy groups, no matter what they're willing to pay?

The comparison would be a phone company deciding they're not going to permit me to make outgoing calls, on account of the fact that I'm a lesbian and they don't feel people should be allowed to decide they want to receive phone calls from a lesbian.

It really is that outrageous.

If this was a general text message ad, one that was being broadcast generally across the Verizon network, I'd say you had a point. But, this is an organization that says they want to be able to send text messages to supporters who have signed up to receive such messages. Verizon says that pro-choice supporters can't be allowed to receive messages from a pro-choice organization.

I see where you're coming from Jesurgislac. Hadn't considered it in that light. Thanks.

the difference between this and say billboards is thatt contol of underlying network infrastructure is at stake. it's one thing not to take a billboard ad, it's quite another to police communications networks (the lifeblood of the economy) by content

That was the point of the last paragraph -- those examples all illustrate the absurdity of policing by content the networks and channels that we (and commerce) rely on

as for the point about this isn't really net neutrality, it certainly is. access tiering has been the main focus, sure. but that's only b/c no one really though verizon and others would be stupid enough to do content-based discrimination. the latter is actually far more disturbing, but less likely b/c of the backlash potential. but you can see how easily something like this could pop up.

i guess the bottom line in net neutrality is that the internet is too important to leave to verizon. they'll just fuck it up (pardon my french)

Incertus:

Re billboards and TV ads, there are two important distinctions.

First, there is no competition possible if my favorite advocacy group wants to contact me by text message. I have to change carriers if I am a NARAL member and I am angry with Verizon. Second, this is not a broadcast form of advertising, but in essence a private communication from NARAL to its members (or those on the list to get the message).

Verizon isn't alone in this sort of discrimination. Truthout was having similar issues.:
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/091307Z.shtml
"Thursday 13 September 2007

Currently, AOL- and Microsoft-related email providers, including Hotmail, are preventing delivery of a range of Truthout communications to thousands of our subscribers. Such communications include Truthout's regular newsletters and notifications to our subscribers from individual workstations of Truthout administrators informing those subscribers that they are affected."

"UPDATE: 09.20.07:12:noon:pdt:

It looks like AOL has lifted their ban. While it's still pretty early, it looks like we convinced AOL that you do have the right to read what you want.

Microsoft and Yahoo are still interfering.

Microsoft is dug in and blatantly refusing to deliver messages, that's Hotmail, MSN, WebTV and who knows what else. Yahoo too while not communicating any position to us is sending a large portion of our communications to you to your junk mail folders, apparently according to complaints, even though readers are attempting to designate the newsletters as acceptable in the Yahoo mail interface."

Incertus, I had exactly the same reaction as you when I thought these were generic text ads to be broadcast to Verizon customers at random. (I mean, I hate those kind of ads anyway, but in any case, that would be different.)

Glad they came to their senses - I was going to have a conversation today with Mrs. R. about switching.

"Net neutrality is about whether traffic can be routed differently based on subscriber fees, not blocked entirely based on content."

Oh really? So the topic of net neutrality ONLY covers network speed issues and NOT network packet-sniffing/censorship? Silly me, I thought they were two peas in a pod.

Network neutrality isn't some set-in-stone definition. That's part of the problem with the discussion. But to say that network censorship ISN'T part of the "neutrality" problem is naive. Since this is a text service it's somewhat different, but the idea that a pipeline provider has the right or obligation to monitor the CONTENT (not volume) of it's traffic is anything but neutral.

Would you want the highway department to monitor what book your reading while driving down the interstate? I doubt it, and that's the kind of detailed analysis (even of supposedly "dark" P2P networks) that pipeline providers can do.

Would you want the highway department to monitor what book your reading while driving down the interstate?

I'd personally be quite happy for them to monitor that you're not reading any book while driving.

Was I the only one to whom this kind of thing was a blatantly obvious result of not having net neutrality guaranteed?

Yes, it is not the internet, but it is clearly a model of what to expect if net neutrality is blocked.

Honestly this is the Internet. The difference between voice and data networks is largely indistinguishable at this point. There are different addressing schemes (IPs vs. Phone numbers) and different protocols (TCP/IP vs. what ever phones use) but most of the data aggregates through the same places. If they can choose not to carry you text messages they can choose not to carry anything.

That said the issue at hand is policy and not technical capacity. My reading of the article leaves me to believe that the group could have transmitted the messages across the network but they were denied the "short code". More than anything it is bad public relations policy.

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