There’s a posting on Reddit.com, one of the techie sites I visit, about Verizon’s upcoming change to their Online Terms of Service. It is very scary – really, really scary.
…we have the right, but not the obligation, to pre-screen, refuse, move or remove any content available on the Service including, but not limited to, content that violates the law, our Terms of Service or our AUP.
AUP, in this case is Acceptable Use Policy.
So, if Verizon decided to block geofffox.com or vonage.com or comcast.com, they now have self supplied permission. They can do it for any reason or no reason.
Or, they could just place their ads on my site, or any site, before it gets to you.
I’m giving examples, but I have no idea what they would do, except to say they could do anything.
Throughout my lifetime, companies like Verizon have operated as common carriers. Here’s Wikipedia’s take on that:
An important legal requirement for common carrier as public provider is that it cannot discriminate, that is refuse the service unless there is some compelling reason (e.g post doesn’t allow to send cash). As of 2007, the status of telecommunication providers as common carriers and their rights and responsibilities is widely debated (network neutrality).
However, Verizon and other telecommunications providers like it aren’t businesses that opened and got saddled with these obligations. We allow them to erect their lines on our streets. We gave them (each incumbent wireline phone company) their original cell licenses.
We assume… I think we have a right to assume… they don’t inspect our communications across their network. We certainly wouldn’t allow it with their phone service. Is there really a difference here with this nascent form of carriage?
Don’t they have an obligation not to look over our shoulders?
I have written about Verizon in the past. Maybe you remember me quoting from Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon’s CEO, about cell service.
“Why in the world would you think your (cell) phone would work in your house?” he said. “The customer has come to expect so much. They want it to work in the elevator; they want it to work in the basement.”
Seidenberg said it’s not Verizon’s responsibility to correct the misconception by giving out statistics on how often Verizon’s service works inside homes or by distributing more detailed coverage maps, showing all the possible dead zones. He pointed out that there are five major wireless networks, none of which works perfectly everywhere.
I sense, if this becomes a mainstream news story, Verizon will relent. Sunlight is the great sanitizer.
Can they hear me now?