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Verizon Claims Net Neutrality Violates Their Free Speech Rights 430

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the at-the-cost-of-a-thousand-others dept.
New submitter WickedLilMonkies writes "In a stretch of the meaning of 'free speech' that defies the most liberal interpretation, Verizon defends throttling your data speed." In its continuing case to strike down the FCC net neutrality regulations, Verizon is arguing that Congress has not authorized the FCC to implement such regulations, and therefore the FCC is overstepping its regulatory bounds, but (from the article): "Verizon believes that even if Congress had authorized network neutrality regulations, those regulations would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment. 'Broadband networks are the modern-day microphone by which their owners [e.g. Verizon] engage in First Amendment speech,' Verizon writes." They are also arguing that "... the rules violate the Fifth Amendment's protections for private property rights. Verizon argues that the rules amount to 'government compulsion to turn over [network owners'] private property for use by others without compensation.'"
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Verizon Claims Net Neutrality Violates Their Free Speech Rights

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  • by OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @11:35AM (#40542417)
    Corporations are nothing more than businesses granted a limited liability charter by We The People provided they abide by our rules and regulations -- including the net neutrality rule.
  • Re:You're a company (Score:5, Informative)

    by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @11:57AM (#40542617)
    I hope you are joking, as Mitt Romney said that.
  • Re:You're a company (Score:4, Informative)

    by b5bartender (2175066) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:09PM (#40542729)
    "You" is actually a pronoun.
  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:10PM (#40542741) Journal
    Why not? I know that you aren't saying that corporations don't have free speech, because they do as ruled by the supreme court.

    You are arguing that corporations SHOULDN'T have free speech. Most of the time, when people make that argument, it is mainly because they don't like what the corporation is saying. This is a stupid argument.

    Other times, somewhat more sanely, people think corporations shouldn't have speech because they are large and can speak disproportionately loudly. That's slightly better, but we don't limit speech merely because of a better chance of being heard. That's not how free speech works.

    Another argument is that corporations are not people, thus shouldn't have free speech. This shows a lack of understanding of corporations. If people want to get together and make a movie criticizing some politician, they should be allowed to. This is not even controversial. A corporation is nothing but a convenient way to get together and be organized. If we abolished corporations, people would achieve the same goals (probably using contract law), except we would pay more as a society to accountants and lawyers for keeping track of all the paperwork. What a waste.

    So what good argument is there for limiting free speech of corporations? (Note: this case is not one, because Verizon is speaking the same way a microphone speaks.....that is, they aren't speaking, it has nothing to do with speech).
  • Re:You're a company (Score:5, Informative)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:16PM (#40542793)

    In a different context though. What he meant is that corporations are made out of people and so corporate taxes are also paid by people.

    WaPo transcript of the exchange:

    "Romney explained that one way to fulfill promises on entitlement programs is to 'raise taxes on people,' but before he could articulate his position on not raising taxes, someone interrupted.

    'Corporations!' a protester shouted, apparently urging Romney to raise taxes on corporations, 'Corporations!'

    'Corporations are people, my friend,' Romney said.

    Some people in the front of the audience shouted, 'No, theyâ(TM)re not!'

    'Of course they are,' Romney said. 'Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?'

  • Re:Not about speech (Score:4, Informative)

    by MacDork (560499) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:28PM (#40542907) Journal
    Numbers to back up ACs claim. [] Verizon certainly is fast. Verizon also sells your location data, browsing history, and app usage data. [] I personally don't think their slightly faster network is worth their blatant invasions of privacy.
  • Re:You're a company (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheBilgeRat (1629569) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:30PM (#40542921)
    Sort of like Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, you mean?

    There are some Indians who would like to see that corporate veil pierced []
  • Re:You're a company (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:51PM (#40543139)
    Capital can and will accumulate to the 0,1% with or without legal personhood - that's the whole point of Marx, in the end. What's the difference if that 0,1% are organized as corporations or as owner-led robber baronies? You are pointing at an inherent flaw of capitalism, not an inherent flaw of a sanely implemented construct of legal persons.
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:59PM (#40543211) Homepage Journal

    You're a company. The fact that any constitutional rights apply to you is because of dirty lawmaking.

    They're a corporation, which is a legal fiction created by the government for the purposes of removing liability from actors. In return, the government may regulate them to its ends (they are government, in a specific form).

    A company is any group of people working together, usually for business purposes. The government may not take their individual rights away.

    The distinction is critical, so please don't use the two interchangeably.

  • Re:You're a company (Score:5, Informative)

    by Artifakt (700173) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @02:15PM (#40543737)

    The whole tax consequences point of a standard "C" corporation is they are not a pass through - that is, not all they gain has to pass through to people. An S-corp, a partnership, a sole proprietership - these are pass through entities. Eventually is a very slippery word in the way it's being used by Romney and the rest, as in "After the Collectivist aliens from Alpha Centauri take over the planet in 3987 a.d., humanity will languish for a thousand years before the Randroid is invented to throw off the mutant overlords of Quarb and finally balance those pesky books." . By any normal definitions, not only are corporations not people, period, but there is no guarentee what they earn or control will ever pass back into the hands of people. If it ever does, those people will pay half or less the tax rate other people with the same income range from non-capital gains sources pay, and probably bitch about how they ought to get extra votes for their lesser contribution. A corp can go bankrupt, for just one example, without prior years income ever becoming subject to individual taxation.

  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @03:00PM (#40544027) Homepage Journal

    Another argument is that corporations are not people, thus shouldn't have free speech. This shows a lack of understanding of corporations.

    Oh, enlighten us, do.

    A corporation is nothing but a convenient way to get together and be organized.

    I would agree, if you would delete "nothing but". It in actuality a corporation considerably more than a voluntary association, otherwise there would be no need for corporations to exist as a legal institution. For example, corporations allow individuals to escape liability for debts incurred by businesses they own. This allows businesses to attract far more owner-investors than a straightforward partnership. For this reason corporations need governing structures that allow them to conduct businesses without having to submit every decision to potentially tens of thousands of individual partners.

    And this, by the way, is why the idea of political free speech for corporations is a bad idea; it tends to reflect the interests of the management team rather than the stockholders, especially since much of the ownership can be indirect (i.e. through other corporations). This makes it impossible to keep track of the political activities of companies you own stock in and impractical to do anything about it if you don't like the position the management team is taking.

    The idea that corporations have *political* rights is an ontological fallacy. Corporations have to be legally persons for purposes of entering into contracts and holding or incurring debt on behalf of their owners, but they are not legally persons for every purpose; for example they can't run for elected office. Arguing that they have free speech rights because they are "legally persons" is special pleading; nobody claims that corporations have the same fundamental rights as natural people *except* in the context of allowing their management teams to buy political influence with the stockholders' assets.

    Arguing that corporations have the same rights as people because they're just associations of people is wrong, because the premise is wrong. The corporation is a distinct and artificial legal institution created for the *specific purpose* allowing a business to have a different relationship to its stockholders than an ordinary association would have to its membership.

    For a legal entity other than a natural person to claim to act on behalf of some set of natural persons (be they owners or members), at the very least the management must be directly responsible to *all* those natural persons. If not, there is no reasonable basis for making that claim.

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