Amicus Briefs Call Verizon’s Net Neutrality Court Arguments Hypocritical

Late last week several amicus briefs were filed taking exception to Verizon's argument in its federal court case against the FCC's net neutrality rules, calling their claim of "censorship" hypocritical. Those filing amicus briefs included the Center for Democracy and Technology (also co-signed by a group of law professors), a brief written by former FCC chief Reed Hundt (co-signed by several other former FCC commissioners), and

The thrust of their argument is that Verizon was trying to equate its own free speech rights with its role of being a conduit for the free speech of others. The groups acknowledge that Verizon has the right to control content it publishes itself, but that those First Amendment protections do not apply to when Verizon is transmitting the content of third parties – such as its subscribers. In fact, they point out that Verizon takes no legal responsibility for its users' content when it was convenient to do so making its free speech arguments empty.

"Verizon and other broadband providers are more akin to telephone companies," read the brief filed by the Center for Democracy and Technology and signed by a group of law professors. "Like the anti-discrimination obligations that apply to those companies, the Rules do not restrict or compel anyone’s speech but instead protect everyone’s speech by requiring that it be transmitted without interference."

Another brief filed by former FCC chief Reed Hundt and signed by several other former FCC commissioners echoes the sentiments of the CDT's amicus brief.

"There is nothing inherently expressive about transmitting others’ data packets, at a subscriber’s direction, over the Internet," the commissioners argue. And in their view, that means that regulating an ISP's routing policies does not raise First Amendment issues."

The CDT adds that Verizon can't have it both ways; if the ISP is going to say that it is simply a "passive conduit" for copyright purposes, then the decisions its makes on how it directs traffic on its networks cannot be considered "active" enough to deserve First Amendment protections.

The Hundt brief also notes that Verizon endorsed the idea of a neutral Internet in 2010 in an statement it issued with Google:

"The minute that anyone, whether from the government or the private sector, starts to control how people access and use the Internet would be the beginning of the end of the Net as we know it," reads a 2010 joint statement from Verizon and Google. "When a person accesses the Internet, he or she should be able to connect with any other person that he or she wants to."

Hundt's brief goes on to say that Verizon's current arguments are "at odds with common sense, with settled First Amendment law, and with the legal and societal understandings that Verizon has encouraged and benefited from."

Source: Ars Technica


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  1. 0
    faefrost says:

    The FCC's arguments do not exactly hold water either. The "anti-discrimination obligations" governing telephone companies guarantees to carry all communications were put in place as a package deal. Tied to them also were the permissions to operate as a government supported monopoly. One does not exist without the other.Similar rules existed for all such public/private monopolies. Be it electricity, Bus service, etc. In order to be permitted to operate as a monopoly for the public good, the operator must be willing to take and treat all customers without exception or exclusion.

    But the problem is that Internet Service has never been a monopoly in the US. And certainly not mobile broadband. In fact it is Internet Service that is being used to break many of the more traditional government sponsored monopolies. 

    Also it is worth remembering that censorship is only illegal or a violation of rights when it is done by government. Free Speech is a protection from government. Not something that government, such as the FCC, can use to their advantage against private citizens or companies. 

  2. 0
    greevar says:

    That's an incorrect analogy. Verizon isn't trying to prevent people from taking more than they should, they're trying to put as many people on one pipe as they can without actually upgrading the pipes. They aren't trying to ensure that people aren't checking out too many books, they're trying to force people to do with less access to books. Instead of giving you a month to read a book that would take a month to read, they're demanding that you can only have it for a week so that they can loan it (or sell it to be more precise) to more people because it benefits Verizon, but deprives the individual who wants to read it. That detracts value from the service in the eyes of the user. They are getting less so that Verizon can have more. You can't keep slicing the pie forever; eventually you have to make more pie.

  3. 0
    Scott1701c says:

    Really, There is no way to maintain the internet as it exists today, indefinitely. The bandwidth bubble is creeping up on us, not too mention that the "censorship" that many are clamming is not censorship, but more about how we access the internet, and maybe, how much we can download.


    It would be like going into a public library and trying to check out 300 books, all due back in two weeks. The library could tell you no because other people have the right too check out those books too. Is that censorship? No, because there is no way you could read 300 books in 2 weeks. Same with the internet, You will need to be limited in how much you download and upload, not what you can/cannot say.

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