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

    by p0p0 (1841106) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:33PM (#40542379)
    You're a company. The fact that any constitutional rights apply to you is because of dirty lawmaking. Kindly screw off. I *hope* you can only piss off the people so much before they realize "Hey, that's pretty dumb."
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:39PM (#40542457)

      You're a company. The fact that any constitutional rights apply to you is because of dirty lawmaking. Kindly screw off. I *hope* you can only piss off the people so much before they realize "Hey, that's pretty dumb."

      'Cause, you know, corporations are endowed by their creators with inalienable rights.

      • by paiute (550198) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:50PM (#40542531)

        You're a company. The fact that any constitutional rights apply to you is because of dirty lawmaking. Kindly screw off. I *hope* you can only piss off the people so much before they realize "Hey, that's pretty dumb."

        'Cause, you know, corporations are endowed by their creators with inalienable rights.

        "Corporations are people, my friend." - Thomas Jefferson

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

          by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:57PM (#40542617)
          I hope you are joking, as Mitt Romney said that.
          • Re:You're a company (Score:5, Informative)

            by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:16PM (#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?'

            • by toriver (11308) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:26PM (#40542891)

              Can corporations serve jail time for crimes, and if so do all employees get locked up?

              Corporations are not people just because all they earn eventually goes to people.

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

                by Artifakt (700173) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @03:15PM (#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.

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

                by drkim (1559875) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @03:54PM (#40543971)

                It might be more interesting if when a corporation is convicted of a crime everyone who works there goes to jail, except the whistle-blowers.

                It might make for more law-abiding corporations.

              • by Em Adespoton (792954) <slashdotonly.1.adespoton@spamgourmet.com> on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @05:33PM (#40544833) Homepage Journal

                If you follow Romney's logic, you don't even need to pull the jail card.

                Think about this scenario:

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

                Some people in the front of the audience shouted, 'No, they're not!'

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

                Personally, I think corporations are works of fiction, not people, and so should be subject to copyright law, not the constitution.

                I'd love to slap a DMCA violation on a shell corporation :D Any derivative work would also have to be licensed by the original, therefore bankruptcy is no longer an option if you want to rebuild the same company's assets after the fact. Maybe bankruptcy would put the non-tangible assets of the company and any derivatives into the public domain?

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

              by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @02:17PM (#40543361) Homepage Journal

              What he meant is that corporations are made out of people

              Corporations are not "made out of people". They are aggregates of capital, nothing more. You could easily have a corporation with shareholders that are all other corporations. Mitt Romney's statement that "Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people." is demonstrably false.

              Yours is a common mistake, so you shouldn't feel too bad.

              And, to the extent that there are any people involved in a corporation, or working for a corporation, or on the board of directors for a corporation, they each already have individual rights.

              The Citizens United case was nothing more than a law put in place by partisans with the intent of influencing current and future elections. It is enormously unpopular with American citizens (more than 50% more unpopular than so-called "Obamacare") and will be seen by historians as a matter of shame for the current Supreme Court.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by clarkkent09 (1104833)

                You obviously didn't read or understand my post. My point is that the commonly misused quote of "Corporations are people, my friend" which will become even more misused as election gets closer, has nothing to do with Citizen United or the legal rights of the corporations. He was making a point that when you tax corporations you are still ultimately taxing people. That's it. Shareholders, employees and, indirectly, customers are the ones who are paying the corporate taxes.

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

                  by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @04:28PM (#40544289) Homepage Journal

                  He was making a point that when you tax corporations you are still ultimately taxing people.

                  But see, that's not true. When you tax a corporation, you are not ultimately taxing people.

                  As I said, it is possible, even common, for corporations to be entirely owned by other corporations.

                  Let me give you a personal example. I pay income taxes. I am the founder/CEO/owner of a small corporation. The corporation pays me a salary. That's my money. The money that's in the corporation is NOT my money. When the corporation pays taxes, it is not my money paying those taxes, it is the corporations. In fact, corporate charters do not ALLOW for intermingling of personal and corporate funds. If the corporation's tax bill came out of my pocket, I would be breaking the law. The corporation is an entirely separate entity. The corporation could be sued and it has nothing to do with me. The corporation could go bankrupt and my personal finances could be untouchable.

                  In no way, shape or form are corporations people. What we call "corporate personhood" is simply a legal fiction that allows corporations to enter into contracts.

                  I don't know how old you are, but my guess is you (and I) will live to see a time when people look back at this small window in history with disbelief that corporations were allowed to actually participate in elections, with absolutely no responsibility. They are not bound by libel laws, because it's political speech. They are not bound by disclosure laws, because the Republican House voted the DISCLOSE Act down.

                  It really is rather stunning. Thomas Jefferson would never believe the Citizens United decision.

                  • No, there is no such thing as corporation's money. It is the shareholders' money. They can take it out any time they want. Also it doesn't make any difference if a corporation is owned by another corporation, ultimately the owner is the shareholders of that other corporation.

                    On a separate issue of Citizens United, keep in mind that the same thing applies to unions, non-profits etc and it is a bit disingenuous to only focus on for-profit corporations.

                    • by Moofie (22272) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @05:02PM (#40544589) Homepage

                      That's not true at all. The shareholders can sell their shares. They cannot write checks on the company's books.

                    • Corporation in its entirety is owned by its shareholders. That's why shares are called shares. I actually own a corporation as the sole shareholder and I write checks every day. If I was one of a million shareholders of course I would typically need to act through the board of directors which represent the shareholders and are elected by them. But if you setup a corporation you can set the bylaws however you want and if you want to let every shareholder full unlimited access to the company funds you are fre

                    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

                      I actually own a corporation as the sole shareholder and I write checks every day.

                      But those checks are not your money. Even if you are the sole shareholder, the checks are not your money. If you were to treat those checks as your money, you would be breaking the law. And shareholder need not be people, either. There are corporate holding companies that exist only to own shares in other corporations. That can go several layers deep, too. Now, there has to be a human being as a registered agent somewher

                    • This is getting silly. Yes, I have to keep the "corporation's money" separate from my own but that is meaningless in relation to the issue we are talking about. That is so that for legal reason the assets of the corporation are known and can be separated from my own (for taxes, in case of a lawsuit or whatever). That does not negate the fact that when you tax the corporation in which I am the shareholder you are in fact taxing me. I, as a sole shareholder, can write myself a check for the entire contents of

                    • Why are you even arguing such an absurdly framed debate? You are saying corporations aren't people therefore taxing corporations is not the same as taxing people therefore taxing corporations is ok. Taxing people is ok too, so the whole discussion is pointless. I agree with you but that is the trouble with the US political climate at the moment, too many wrongly framed debates and even their opponents perpetuate them without question. Taxes are not bad, taxing people is not bad, taxing corporations is not b
        • by CheshireDragon (1183095) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:00PM (#40542647) Homepage
          Yeah, but when a corporation is charged with a crime, why are they not tried and why does no one go to jail?

          When people are charged with a crime, tried, and convicted, do they not go to jail?
          • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:24PM (#40542879) Journal

            Yeah, but when a corporation is charged with a crime, why are they not tried and why does no one go to jail?

            The fact that you're asking this question shows that you haven't been paying attention. Did you not see the recent criminal charges brought in the BP oil spill case? Have you not heard of Enron?

            When a corporation breaks a civil statute, the corporation is fined and loses money.
            If it does something more serious, the corporate veil is pierced, and the individuals who committed the crime are accused.

            If you think about that for a second, you'll probably realize it makes sense. Imagine if we had the corporate death penalty when a corporation killed someone. Then it would be easy for you, I, or Madoff to start a corporation and get away with any crime. Our corporation would die, but we could start another.

        • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:01PM (#40542655)

          ""Corporations are people, my friend." - Thomas Jefferson"

          Really? Can they vote? Get married? Become elected officials?

          Corporations are NOT people. They were granted, by government, the privilege of acting as people in the matter of basic finance, for the sole purpose that projects too large for individuals to fund could be financed.

          There was NEVER any intent that corporations would be ACTUAL people. Further, any of these privileges that are bestowed by Government cannot be basic human rights, like free speech, because rights come naturally; they are not given to us by government. Nor does government have legal authority to take them away.

          • by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:33PM (#40542955)

            ""Corporations are people, my friend." - Thomas Jefferson"

            Really? Can they vote? Get married?

            Yes, but in most states they can only marry corporations of the opposite sex.

          • Re:You're a company (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @02:00PM (#40543227)
            I should add: of course that contradicts certain recent SCOTUS decisions, such as Citizens United.

            But how the Supreme Court could have forgotten the basic principle that human rights are "unalienable" are are bestowed upon us by nature of our humanity, and not granted by government, is beyond me. That is stated, pretty much in as many words, in our own Declaration of Independence.

            To me, that just illustrates how corrupt and politicized SCOTUS has become. There is very little doubt that Citizens Unitedflies directly in the face of the Declaration, and the Constitution as well.
        • I'm sorry, guys, I generally do like you - but you have to leave it to the US to take a perfectly fine idea, choose the worst possible implementation and then declare the whole concept unworkable.

          Legal personhood for corporations is perfectly fine. It is a tool that allows signing of contracts in the name of the corporation instead of the name of the CEO. That's basically all it is there for, in a sane system.

          A sane system, however, recognizes the difference between legal and natural persons. Only the latt

          • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:22PM (#40542863)

            I fail to see the need to treat corporations as persons, simply to pass around checks or contracts. They can and should be dealt with the same way you deal with a non-incorporated company.

            Also I don't consider corporations a "fine idea". Neither did Jefferson. They consolidate too much power in the hands of a few. A corporation has the wealth of a small government and can use that wealth to buy power (through donations to politicians). This is true not just in the U.S. but the EU, Russia, and all around the world. The voice of the 99.9% are drowned out by the top 0.1% of corporations & their boards.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              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 Fjandr (66656)

                Unfortunately, it's not a flaw of capitalism as much as it is a flaw in every socioeconomic structure Man has ever attempted.

                Even the Marxist systems ended up with the wealth consolidated at the top. Europe is the same way, as is Asia, Africa, and South America, and Central America. The difference is in how the dressings of society are framed, not in where the majority of the wealth is concentrated.

        • by pegasustonans (589396) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:14PM (#40542769)

          You're a company. The fact that any constitutional rights apply to you is because of dirty lawmaking. Kindly screw off. I *hope* you can only piss off the people so much before they realize "Hey, that's pretty dumb."

          'Cause, you know, corporations are endowed by their creators with inalienable rights.

          "Corporations are people, my friend." - Thomas Jefferson

          "That's a big pile of horse shit." -- Abraham Lincoln

      • 'Cause, you know, corporations are endowed by their creators with inalienable rights.

        This has nothing to do with being a corporation. They are engaging in commerce, and the government has the authority to regulate commerce of both corporations and individuals. As an individual, you may not like white people, and the Bill of Rights says you have the freedom to not associate with them, but if you run a taco stand, you still have serve them because it is a commercial activity.

        • by msauve (701917) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:29PM (#40542913)
          No, the feds have the power to regulate interstate commerce. That the Supremes said that red is green in Wickard v. Filburn doesn't make it so, it just makes the hypocrisy in law more transparent. You have freedom of association because it is an innate right, not because it's mentioned in the Bill of Rights (which only serves to remind the government of that right). You have rights not mentioned in the Constitution, which it recognizes (9th A), even if the government doesn't.

          Citizen's United was bad law because corporations are a completely artificial construct of law. The law should be able to place any sort of arbitrary limit on those corporations. There's nothing preventing groups of people from forming unincorporated companies to speak in common, so there's no conflict with free speech rights. They don't because then they don't get the advantages (such as limited liability, separate taxation, and the ability to sell equity) provided by incorporation.
    • You're a company. The fact that any constitutional rights apply to you is because of dirty lawmaking. Kindly screw off. I *hope* you can only piss off the people so much before they realize "Hey, that's pretty dumb."

      You. Noun. Meaning person. If you're going to take on corporate personhood, it might help if you not refer to them as 'they', 'them', 'you', or other words which confer personhood. The word you are looking for is 'it'.

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      >I *hope* you can only piss off the people so much before they realize "Hey, that's pretty dumb."

      That's the definition of pipe dream. When you people stop believing in "people"? What level of public manipulation by exponentially increasing power of technology needs to be achieved before you stop this insanity of belief in "democracy", before you say to yourself: "we played this game long enough for China to surpass us in GDP, what's really the risk of getting another moron on our asses via technocracy, w

      • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:21PM (#40542851)

        China is still a shithole in every imaginable way compared to the USA and you want us to be like them? I think that puts you among your "people without common sense, dumb people, idiots, hillbillies". Perhaps you can be their leader?

      • by Reapman (740286) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @02:19PM (#40543383)

        The fact you got moded up at all is pretty scary.

        "People with common sense are minority. They should rule. People without common sense, dumb people, idiots, hillbillies, their name is Legion, should not have ANY say. That's all there is to it."

        Do you realize how many crimes in the past have been done for words such as these?

        "They are unable to take care of ourselves, it is in their best interest if we provide them civilization and a roof over their heads" - Paraphrase of what most slave owners would say back in the day.

        You are how oppresion begins.

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:59PM (#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.

  • by galaad2 (847861) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:33PM (#40542385) Homepage Journal

    they do have free speech but their speech must not affect others' speech.
    this is why neutrality is needed.

    • by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:45PM (#40542501) Journal
      THey do not have free speech. Its a sham. The land lines they run their business on and the airwaves they use are owned by US. WE THE PEOPLE. They LEASE the right to operate from US. We can tell demand of them anything we want, and it will still be constitutional
  • by jd2112 (1535857) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:34PM (#40542393)
    Violates our right to violate others free speech rights.
  • How sweet the savour (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bruce_the_loon (856617) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:35PM (#40542401) Homepage

    You can taste the desperation in their arguments and it is the taste of victory for the man in the street.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:35PM (#40542413)

    It's mine. You're just part of the network. If you make it your speech, you're responsible for it. I don't think you want that.

  • by OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:35PM (#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.
  • by Jawnn (445279) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:36PM (#40542425)
    ...is "disingenuous", for nothing fits the term better than Verizon's twisted argument that a free and open Internet can somehow be an impediment to free speech. If it didn't come from corporate lawyers, it would be unbelievable.
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Don't attribute stupidity when it can be adequately explained by malice, if comes from lawyers. Call it Hanlon's Lawsuit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:37PM (#40542427)

    Verizon needs to understand that they have used wireless spectrum (leased) and public right-of-ways to get their services to their customers. In exchange for this they should be expected to fall under some public oversight via regulation. If they do not agree with this then maybe these public resources should be turned over to someone who will.

    • Not just SOME oversight, we should be storming in and taking over this critical national infrastructure.
  • They are basically saying the government cannot put limits on the sale of "microphones" because it is the sellers free speech, instead of what it is, a business transaction.

    Next up, con-men, oh, that is what Verizon already is...

  • by dav1dc (2662425) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:38PM (#40542445) Homepage

    The last line is the worst: "Verizon argues that the rules amount to 'government compulsion to turn over [network owners'] private property for use by others without compensation."

    In other words - handing over your private information to others would be OKAY if only Verizon got paid for it.

    #faceplam :(

  • Perhaps... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by king neckbeard (1801738) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:39PM (#40542461)
    Perhaps Verizon shouldn't have buried their 'property' in my lawn.
    • That's the whole right of way thing. I think the local municipality gave them the rights. Shame they don't negotiate with the property owner instead.
      • Re:Perhaps... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by msauve (701917) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:11PM (#40542747)
        Instead of having to negotiate rights-of-way with a million property owners (and the risk of not achieving end-to-end connectivity due to one in thd middle, who won't sell), common carriers are allowed to use public rights-of-way. In exchange, they put themselves under regulation for the public good, and give up some rights they might have if they truly owned (or leased) all of their infrastructure. Same thing applies to wireless providers, with the public airwaves.

        Verizon - you want to claim you're not a common carrier subject to public regulation? Fine. I'll lease a right-of-way across my property for the sum of my monthly bill +$100. I suspect everyone else might offer something similar.
  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:40PM (#40542463) Homepage

    For the last f**king time... a company has no right to free speech. It's employees may have, but a company has not.
    Okay... that was probably not for the last time :(

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:10PM (#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).
      • The problem is not with the right to free speech, but the whole "corporations are people" line and that thus they derive the inalienable rights enshrined in the constitution for humans.

        Guess what? The founders did not intend those rights for corporations. "Groups of people" are just that, "Groups of people", not a human. You want to grant free speech rights to corporations because you think that's a good and proper thing? Fine, do that with an act of Congress, not by twisting definitions which have a proper

      • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @04:00PM (#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.

  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:40PM (#40542465)

    So, Verizon—you're claiming ownership of all the data, er, 'speech' that travels over your network? You do realize that also makes you *liable* for all of it, right? Way to shoulder responsibility there, big guy.

    • by cob666 (656740) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:53PM (#40542565) Homepage
      If Verizon doesn't adhere to neutrality then simply revoke their common carrier status. I'm sure the FCC has the authority to do that and it will wake Verizon up REALLY fast when they ARE being held liable and accountable for everything that goes through their network.
      • by Miseph (979059)

        Are you kidding? They would LOVE that. There's a reason cable companies haven't been made Common Carriers, and instead fought for the DMCA: being a Common Carrier comes with responsibilities and limits on power. Verizon would absolutely cream themselves if they were suddenly permitted to block any communication they felt was "dangerous" or "controversial" or "against company policy".

        Now, what we COULD do is instruct the FCC to cease renewing their radio spectrum leases until they are in compliance with the

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      No, they are saying that without being able to throttle users, their network would collapse, and then they could not send messages through it, so in a round-about way such rules would deny them their free speech rights. To use their microphone analogy, if they had a badly designed microphone that violates electrical safety regulations, they are saying that those regulations would be unconstitutional as enforcing them would deny their first amendment right to use that microphone.
  • Not about speech (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:43PM (#40542487)

    Verizon isn't for or against free speech. It is, however, sitting on an antiquidated nationwide infrastructure of oversubscribed, overutilized, and underdeveloped cell phone towers and backhauls that it has steadfastly refused to upgrade because it would impact quarterly profits. Now that other cell service providers (AT&T, Sprint, etc.) have been upgrading their networks for about two years, Verizon's data service is looking really stale and with new devices continuing to roll off the production line, and nobody with a hot new phone wanting to get exclusive with Verizon, their subscribers are starting to bail as their contracts expire.

    So, like all american businesses do, they've decided to try their luck with the legal system, and hopes they'll give them some options to hide the stinking fetid data service behind aggressive QoS control, painfully limiting bandwidth caps, and Terms of Service that are printed in negative point fonts so as to not alert the customer that they're basically signing up for a two year contract with a guaranteed service level of 'zero'.

    I wish people would stop thinking service providers give a damn about free speech... it's always been about the benjamins. It's like people who insist RIAA and the MPAA are behind bandwidth caps instead of aging infrastructure and short-term thinking. Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.

  • Broadband networks are the modern-day microphone by which their owners [e.g. Verizon] engage in First Amendment speech...

    Seriously, to get from that analogy, to arguing that net neutrality violates their free speech rights... Well, OK, the analogy would not actually be that microphones themselves have 1st Amendment rights--it would be that the manufacturers of microphones have 1st amendment rights to monitor what buyers of their microphones are saying through them, and shut down the microphones that are being used for things they do not like. (And then defending that by arguing that they themselves also sometimes use their ow

  • ...throwing something against the wall and seeing if it sticks.

  • Fuck you verizon. Thank god I live in an area where there is some competition and I can choose what ISP I want but I feel really bad for people that don't have a choice. I dumped them a long time ago because they wouldn't fix our phone service for months and then they expected everyone to buy FIOS.
  • Okey, they hold the microphone and they are the owner of whatever they recorded. So i wonder, could i sue them for libel, misrepresentation and in fact for not recording everything that i say, and even worst, for picking only selected phrases of my speech and thus causing me bodily harm (don't ROFL, i already did)???
    Just my 2 cents.
  • by reg (5428) <reg@freebsd.org> on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:56PM (#40542597) Homepage

    Yes, the internet is a modern day microphone. But the network is not the microphone, it is the wire. The microphone is the content. Their argument supports exactly the opposite conclusion: Net netrality is required to protect the free speech rights of the people using the network.

    -Jeremy

  • by infosinger (769408) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:03PM (#40542663)

    If the company developed its network in an open and free marketplace it has a right to its property. A company is a person or group of people that risk their capital to create that network. However, most telecom networks were not developed in a truly free marketplace. Various government regulations, subsidies and monopolies allowed them to effectively dominate and/or monopolize access to the "free speech". If antitrust regulations had applied to telecom providers everyone would have more than one choice for accessing the network. Many of us have only one choice and this is NOT a free marketplace.

    So, the question is: If you are granted a monopoly do you forfeit certain rights to your private property?

  • by srealm (157581) <prez&goth,net> on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:09PM (#40542721) Homepage

    Every person has the right to free speech. But they can then be held accountable for that speech. Thus libel, slander, etc.

    So congress introduced Common Carrier status, in which telecommunications companies could then be NOT held responsible for data that simply passes through their network.

    Now let me get this straight, Verizon is trying to claim anything passing through their network is their free speech? This raises two problems for them.

    First, if it is all their speech, then they can thus be held accountable for everything going through their network, as common carrier only applies to OTHERS speech going through them as a conduit. Meaning they can be held responsible for every libelous, slanderous, copyright-violating, child porn-downloading piece of data going through their network.

    Second, this becomes straight out copyright violation. If I post something online, it is still copyright by me. Now Verizon is trying to claim it is THEIR free speech, not MINE. Essentially violating my original copyright by asserting their ownership of it because it happened to go through their network. It would be the equivalent of Barnes and Noble asserting copyright of any book on their shelves because it went through their store (by saying it is THEIR creation, not the original author's).

    Both these arguments pretty much break down Verizon's free speech argument, without even delving into the 'corporations are people' argument. They would NEVER want either of these to be true, as it would open them up to massive amounts of civil and criminal charges. But if they are claiming that everything on their network is THEIR free speech, then one or both must be true, and they must then lose common carrier status.

    And incidentally, they can't claim the whole private property rights either, because THEY are the ones letting people use the network, and THEY are connecting to peers specifically to allow the provider's content (youtube, microsoft.com, whatever) to get to the people who are paying them to use their network. You can't complain about people walking across your private property if you are charging them specifically TO walk across your private property. If they want to claim private property, they should then simply be not allowing people to access their network, or peering with other ISPs to allow traffic to flow through their network. Of course, that then means they have no customers and no business, but it would protect their 'private property.'

  • by rollingcalf (605357) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:14PM (#40542777)

    ... based the content or who is the sender, they should also be held criminally responsible for illegal content that travels over their wires, just as a newspaper would be liable if they published child pr0n.

    Either you're a dumb data carrier who isn't responsible for the data being carried, or you're an active participant liable for what you transmit. Can't have it both ways, fools.

  • Great! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lennier1 (264730) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:18PM (#40542819)

    If they want to be treated as people, make the CEOs personally liable for every piece of child porn and other filth that's delivered by their network and throw them in jail.

  • by IVI V K (2022732) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:29PM (#40542917)

    Verizon wireless' new Share Everything plans are also designed to challenge Network Neutrality. As the wireless phone providers continue to implement LTE, voice services will soon be just another part of your data stream rather than a separate service.

    Anticipating this change, verizon's new phone plans all have unlimited voice calling included in a low cost base price price phone plan. Most of the costs associated with higher minute calling have been shifted to the data side such that your first GB of data will now cost $50.

    After they have completed the transition to more expensive data plans, Verizon will next argue that net neutrality is bad for the customers because they might not be allowed to provide the free unlimited data for calling and texting. In reality though, they have just shifted the costs for unlimited voice into the lowest data plans, and have no intention of providing any free services.

    The communications companies are fighting against the commodity nature of data delivery, buy requiring you to purchase extra services such as voice or media just to access basic data.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:36PM (#40542989)

    Verizon better watch it. If the courts accepted the argument that broadband service is like a microphone, any subcribers to Verizon could sue and claim a violation of their free speech if Verizon throttles their speed. That is a truly slipper slope they are working on. Since you are locked in to their service via a contract, you do not have the ability to switch to another microphone. They own and control the microphone. Throttling back the speed could be construed as limiting your use of the microphone and therefore infringing on your, the individual's, excercise of free speech.

    • You forget our supreme court is broken. They can find corporations are people and throw out votes and recently they privatized taxation. Don't expect them to make sense other than to bow to long term corporate interests.

  • by the_B0fh (208483) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:57PM (#40543193) Homepage

    Are they claiming rights over *MY* speech?

  • by ThePeices (635180) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @04:56PM (#40544535)

    If broadband is the "microphone" then Verizon is the "microphone cable".

    Its the person speaking into the "microphone" who creates the speech, not the cable carrying the signal.

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