Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Verizon The Internet Your Rights Online

Verizon Claims Net Neutrality Violates Their Free Speech Rights 430

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.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Verizon Claims Net Neutrality Violates Their Free Speech Rights

Comments Filter:
  • 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 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 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 Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:36PM (#40542425) "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 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.

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

    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 :(

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 :(

  • 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.

  • 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 rwade ( 131726 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:55PM (#40542591)

    I do agree with their fifth amendment case whole-heartedly however. Their lines, routers and servers are their own property. I think people who advocate government controlled Internet would be better served advocating for the nationalization of Internet infrastructure and services; government-run ISPs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the argument that the Internet "belongs to society" and is a "resource" and thus should not be "controlled by greedy corporations" ?

    Internet access is no longer a luxury item -- something for discretionary spending. It is vital to operating a business and participating in the workforce. It is invaluable for education. It makes keeping in touch with far-flung family in friends easy. I would posit that internet access is a public utility like electricity. Verizon using business practices prohibited by so-called net-neutrality rules are akin to an electric company providing preferential electricity delivery (luckily, not really a thing in this country) for the users of devices made by companies that pay it a license fee on each refrigerator it sells.

    That is clearly a ridiculous idea. So is providing a faster connection non-transparently to certain online content providers at the expense of speedy connections to the servers the rate-payers actually want to use...

  • by reg ( 5428 ) <> 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.


  • 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 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:06PM (#40542695)

    You compare Verizon's network to AT&T or sprint? Seriously? Verizon's network is top notch and way ahead of AT&T. Sprint isn't even in the same class.

    Do your homework before you spill such lies.

  • by srealm ( 157581 ) <> 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,, 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.'

  • 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 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.
  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:40PM (#40543035)

    Incorrect. Congress doesn't have the authority to regulate taco stands. Or any other business that never crosses a border.

    You are wrong []. If you think otherwise, open a taco stand and put up a big sign saying "We only serve white people".

  • by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:54PM (#40543161)

    Your answer did not really answer the question..

    If I am negligent, and somebody dies, I go to jail.. If a company is negligent (say, not training workers on safety, or purchasing the appropriate safety equipment) and someone dies, they usually pay a fine, maybe, maybe someone loses their job.. usually, the company pays a fine and admits no wrong doing.

    You were right about BP.. they paid a fine. And with Enron, the executives went to jail because they commited fraud. They did not go to jail because the "company" committed fraud. You and I don't get that option. We get to see just how "tough on crime" the local Attorney General wants to be in an election year.

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @01:58PM (#40543207)
    Current US law is built on a collection of illogical, disingenuous rationalizations which bear no relation to the clear word and intent of our Constitution.
  • 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.

  • There is no "we". (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) <> on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @02:22PM (#40543399) Homepage

    we do the dirty work

    There is no "we" unless you are a war and weapons investor like the Bush and Cheney families. They would kill you if they decided it would make them more money.

  • by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @02:34PM (#40543499)

    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.

  • by Moofie ( 22272 ) <> 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.

  • 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?

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky