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Verizon Blocks Opt-In Pro-Choice SMS
'Controversial & unsavory' insists company...
by Karl Bode 09:35AM Thursday Sep 27 2007
Verizon Wireless is taking some heat on the network neutrality front for refusing to carry text messages from a pro-choice advocacy group. To be clear, the system proposed by Naral Pro-Choice America would have only sent text messages to interested users who signed up to receive them, but Verizon insists they have the right to block "controversial or unsavory" messages. From the NY Times:
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In turning down the program, Verizon, one of the nation’s two largest wireless carriers, 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.” Naral provided copies of its communications with Verizon to The New York Times.
Note that the other leading wireless carriers have accepted the program. "Our internal policy is in fact neutral on the position," tries to explain a Verizon spokesman. "It is the topic itself [abortion] that has been on our list." Naral has launched a letter writing campaign on their website asking its users to write to Verizon.

Update: Feeling the coming heat, Verizon has now announced they've reversed their decision. Apparently the messages weren't quite so unsavory to higher level executives, who don't want to give any ammunition to those pushing for network neutrality regulation.

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There You Go Again...

Kearny, NJ

2 recommendations

Difficult situation....

Before I begin, I'm sure many people know my stance on this (and if you don't, just read my signature). I want to try to state my opinion without bias - surely, this could happen to any group in NARAL's place. I want to be neutral to their beliefs and mission in making my point here.

First off, this is why many people want net neutrality regulations. Verizon comes across here as heavy-handed and draconian in their refusal to allow these messages to go through, despite their opt-in nature. Opt-in can sometimes be difficult to opt-out of (case in point: spam, spim, spext).

Anyone who's used email could tell you how difficult it can be sometimes to remove themselves from email lists that they had initially opted-in to. I'm a technician at a major media company - I get calls all the time from people who want spam blocked from coming into their email box, and it's a shot in the dark in terms of getting them to stop coming in. Granted, Verizon is only publicly stating that this one group is being singled out for blockage but I'm sure there are a million others who have suffered the same fate with email.

Verizon is hardly the only national cellular provider in the United States and abroad - last I looked, there were at least four other service providers (I'm counting Alltel here because their service footprint is significant enough that I'm watching their commercials despite being unable to use their services).

For home internet providers, net neutrality in this instance would make perfect sense and I wholly support that because should Verizon DSL or FiOS suddenly block all abortion provider websites, it's not too far outside the realm of possibility for them to block pro-life websites as well. I say it is sensible because home internet is, as has been attested to countless times across these forums, quite often a monopoly or duopoly, with little local competition available. If the same number of services were available to all users (if there were more than two ISPs per any given area at any given time), then I would fall back upon my argument against net neutrality on cellular phones.

I'm sure that other providers will seize upon this news and attempt to draw in all the people who are offended by this, most likely by holding some sort of "we support you" press conference with NARAL. Either that, or this will blow over in a few days time and be quickly forgotten.
Abortion is murder, Reagan was a hero, Clinton was a sleazeball, Iraq is much better off without Saddam, and the telcos are not trustworthy with American tax dollars. There! I've managed to offend a significant portion of BBR!


Monroe, MI

3 recommendations

Here It Comes...

...the quickest way to destroy a thread is by letting it turn into a debate about abortion.

Let's not lose sight of the real argument here; should Verizon be controlling SMS messages of any organization that is operating an opt-in system?

Today, pro-choice advocates. Tomorrow, the Democrats. The day after, Republicans. Next week, people who have dogs.

Telcom should be presented with a choice; you have all the legal protections and monopoly benefits of "common carrier" status if you operate strictly as such and just pipe the messages. If you want to run a walled-garden or control what your customers see, then you're not a common carrier.

Chicago, IL

3 recommendations

Whats so dangerous....

You don't see mediums like TV carrying gun commercials, why does it suprise you when other mediums don't want display other death conduits?
Burn a tire, but make sure you buy that carbon offset!