Verizon claims that net neutrality violates their First and Fifth Amendment rights

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Verizon claims that net neutrality violates their First and Fifth Amendment rights
Verizon has just changed their strategy in fighting against an open and free internet and it could have very large repercussions. Verizon long ago decided that net neutrality is a VERY BAD THING. They’ve spent huge amounts of money lobbying the FCC, Congress, and anyone else who will listen, and largely won in that the FCC is only imposing a form of "soft net neutrality" on wireless carriers. Despite that, Verizon has been fighting this watered-down set of regulations ever since. That court battle started out on whether or not Congress authorized the FCC to regulate the carriers in this way, but now Verizon is shifting the fight from defensive to offensive, and it could have implications far beyond just Verizon customers.

The reasons for the fight aren’t hard to understand – Verizon wants to be able to prioritize content that it profits from – either their own services or that of its partners (who pay Verizon for the privilege). After all, if Blockbuster streaming video is willing to “partner” with Verizon while Netflix isn’t, Verizon doesn’t want the popularity of those services decided by customers; it wants to make using Blockbuster a much better experience.

Verizon isn’t alone of course – in general all of the major carriers have come out against net neutrality. Net neutrality constantly threatens to turn their networks into lower-margin dumb pipes that compete against each other on pricing, rather than the back-bone of the higher-margin services companies that they are today. Verizon has been the loudest so far, but we suspect that’s because Verizon has been first to roll out a 4G LTE network. Increased internet bandwidth means that external web services are increasingly able to compete with Verizon’s own services; in other words, Verizon is seeing the writing on the wall a bit more clearly than the other networks that are still trying to roll out LTE networks.

To this end Verizon has been making the case that Congress never gave the FCC the authority to regulate the bandwidth that Verizon leases from the U.S. But Verizon seems to have become aware that even if they win in court, Congress could scuttle everything if they turn around and pass a law that provides the FCC with such a legal mandate. It’s not hard to imagine that the populist response to SOPA and PIPA earlier this year may have made the carriers sit up and take notice that the mass throngs of internet users can actually work in concert to affect the legislative process when they become aware that the internet they are used to may be compromised.

So to try and prevent that eventuality, Verizon just filed a brief in its legal challenge to the FCC, stating that while yes, they still believe that Congress hasn’t given the FCC a mandate to regulate wireless carriers, they also believe that such regulation violates Verizon’s First and Fifth Amendment rights, thus Congress can’t pass such a low even if they want to. Verizon argues that broadband network owners should be given editorial discretion about what goes over their networks, analogous to how newspapers owners have discretion over what gets printed in their papers. Detractors would point out that Verizon's network is more like the postal carrier delivering the paper than a news editor. And printing presses and ink don’t actually belong to the U.S. people the way the airwaves do.

Perhaps anticipating such responses, Verizon is also asserting their Fifth Amendment right against the unreasonable seizure of private property without compensation. In this case they claim that any sort of regulation is “an electronic invasion” of their network, akin to the government putting a permanent easement on their private property.

It's not clear if the courts will be sympathetic to either claim - especially on publicly-owned bandwidth. But if Verizon can convince the courts of either of these two arguments, they would be able to fend off any sort of net neutrality oversight, baring a constitutional amendment that either changes the legal status of corporations under the law, or provides explicit permission for the FCC to regulate carrier networks. Verizon winning on these claims could have even wider-ranging impact on the open web, since Verizon’s arguments would apply just as well to land-based broadband suppliers that are currently required to maintain net neutrality. And seeing as how much of the web is hosted on servers located in the U.S., the ripples from such a ruling could eventually spread out to impact nearly everyone who uses the web, whether they own a mobile phone or not.

It's hard to see how such a situation would be good for consumers, but that may not be the driving factor behind the final ruling. Regardless of which side you are on, this is an issue you will probably want to pay attention to, as it has the potential to impact just about everyone.

source: arstechnica via Droid-Life



1. RangersK

Posts: 68; Member since: May 15, 2012

STFU, Big Red!

19. latinfirepr

Posts: 7; Member since: Jul 27, 2009

What are you talking about? I agree with Verizon... If they don't protect they're infrastructure and Verizon becomes this do whatever the government says and we can use your network how we want... Who do think will pay for it? We will. I don't think any of you guys are seeing the big picture here of what will happen. So you are FOR big Government being able to seizure any of Verizon's private property through they're network infrastructure that they built and we pay for when ever they want? I wonder if all of us are reading the same article above??

22. MartyK

Posts: 1043; Member since: Apr 11, 2012

Huh? it's call public domain, every individual in the USA is subject to this, and since Verizon thinks it's a person ( their claims), they are subject to public domain like everyone else. They are not special.

37. Gawain

Posts: 438; Member since: Apr 15, 2010

That would apply if every person had invested billions of dollars in the infrastructure in the first place.

29. str8tripin

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

Yes but if Verizon is given free reign to control the traffic on their network, you the consumer will only get to utilize that network at it's fullest potential with the apps and content that they deem ok(AKA whatever content is most profitable to Verizon). It will be goodbye small developers and sometimes better products and look forward to more amazing apps like VZ navigator and all the other B$ they preload on your phone for you. Just because there's no money coming in to Verizon for your Netflix that you pay for doesn't mean they should be able to the throttle the speed or worse yet not offer the service to the consumer. Imagine if they decided they wouldn't support any google services or facebook or youtube content. Yes consumers would get upset but how many would really be upset if some of the smaller apps from XDA and other developer sites were no longer deemed good traffic on the network. Yes some of us, especially people on this site and others like it would be upset... but the vast majority of consumers don't even know about XDA or how to mod their phones or why people even root or jailbreak a device. They just want their phone to work and if they lose some free apps that they didn't even know about they wouldn't even flinch an eye. Most people wouldn't care, that now companies like blockbuster, netflix, hulu and others would all compete for bandwidth on Verizons network and the company with the deepest pockets will be able to provide the consumer with the best service and all the others would be degraded or just not offered at all. O and one other thing.... If this becomes ok for cell phone companies why wouldn't it apply to other internet providers and the networks that they maintain as well. All the companies will want their piece of the pie and a big chunk of change in their pocket if they're to provide that 3rd parties content to their customers. All the companies that offer a web based product will pay a surcharge to the network owner... which will up the cost of their product to you, especially if it jumps across several different networks to get to you and quite possibly do away with a lot of the smaller ones out there. It would be great for the coorporations with the networks though and make their pockets quite a bit deeper than they already are and they wouldn't have to worry about improving capacity or increasing speeds anymore because they can just charge more for anything eating up their bandwidth or do away with it or throttle the speeds back if they can't or don't pay anymore.

32. corporateJP

Posts: 2458; Member since: Nov 28, 2009

^ Look! A poster with some intelligence!

36. Zero0

Posts: 592; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

Net neutrality is basically designed to prevent monopolies from forming on the Internet. If Amazon were to pay off all of the ISPs to slow down traffic for other online stores, Amazon would become a monopoly in online shopping, and would have enough market power to increase its prices. That's a dangerous possibility, and exactly the reason for net neutrality.

49. blahb

Posts: 48; Member since: May 16, 2012

You crazy man, "They're Infrastructure" or "their infrastructure" referring to their new LTE network was publicly owned and has since been rented from the public for private use. Had they built this infrastructure from the ground up, aka "their private property", I get it but that is far from the case. They won the auctions knowing the baggage that came along with it. Props to Google for getting the FCC to put those requirements in there from the beginning, just sucks they have since changed their stance. If not we’d all be stuck with VZ Friends, VZTube, VZtwitter, and VZ any other kind of application or service you want to use on the Internet and getting an additional monthly charge for the privilege to use the content VZW deems appropriate for their rented network. Do some reading and educate yourself before you pop off.

2. jmoita2

Posts: 930; Member since: Dec 23, 2011

LMAO!!! Oh, that's right, corporations are persons... Then I say make them eligible for the death penalty too...

31. samwise99

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

Please give the "Corporations aren't people" meme a rest. Individuals have rights to free expression and to be free from unlimited government interference. The reason any organization, be it a for-profit business, a labor union, a private school, or a church, can assert rights against the government is because the government denying the rights of an organization is a denial of rights of the *individual* members of the organization. Now, with regards to Verizon's arguments, it's a difficult issue. Like the author of the article, I suspect that Verizon will probably lose this case for the same reason broadcast networks had to be subject to all sorts of FCC regulations back in the day. That is, because wireless spectrum is a scarce public resource distributed and regulated by the government, the government has an interest in seeing that it's used for public benefit. Net neutrality rules surely qualify. The 5th amendment claim seems bogus for the same reason. Verizon claims that net neutrality would be "taking" it's property. But that's assuming that when it leased the spectrum in the first place, it got the right to use the spectrum however the heck it wanted. I really don't think that's the case, and I think Verizon knows it. Even Verizon isn't dumb enough to fail to see FCC net neutrality rules coming down the pike.

39. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Corporations are people at least as far as freedom of speech. Citizens United decided that and was re-affirmed this term when the Supremes struck down a 90+ year old Montana campaign finance law. The greater problem for Verizon is the fact that they lease the airwaves from the Feds. This is starting to look like Arizona's immigration enforcement rights fight - you don't mess with something explicitly owned by the Feds. Falcone learned that lesson the hard way. Looks like Verizon is going to repeat the experience.

3. tedkord

Posts: 17318; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Verizon, you are a corporation, not an individual.

23. ghostnexus

Posts: 96; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

that's what a corporation is

4. D.Aceveda

Posts: 432; Member since: Jun 30, 2012

People are do y'all sleep at night trying to get people to believe this bull?

8. D.Aceveda

Posts: 432; Member since: Jun 30, 2012

at ***

5. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

Thats it, f*ck Verizon! I'm sick of this sh*t!

35. Masher

Posts: 3; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

That is the truth!

6. clevelandiskindacool

Posts: 37; Member since: Jul 03, 2012

I'm just a bill on Captial Hill

7. Saamic

Posts: 119; Member since: Feb 20, 2012

I think Verizon is one of the most coorporate money-based companies out there.... They don't give a s**t about their customers

14. androiddownsouth

Posts: 598; Member since: May 02, 2012

So how do you explain the fact that they put more money and effort into rolling out the largest, most reliable network out there if they don't give a sh*t about customers? I've had ATT, Sprint, and Cellular South(now C Spire), won't have TMO b/c they just don't work around here it seems, and NONE of them come close to the quality of network that Verizon provides. You get what you pay for ladies and gentlemen. I'd rather pay more for good quality(i.e. use my phone when and where I want to) than pay less for low quality(i.e. slow data and dropped calls/no service). Your opinion may be that they do not give a sh*t about their customers, but I must say I completely disagree with that.

20. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

Take it from an ex-employee, they don't. The network is just a means to an end...a way to get as many customers as possible to sign a contract with VZW instead of the other guys. AT&T, sprint and T-Mobile each has their own method of doing the same thing, VZW just had the better plan to get the most customers. Now, let's not confuse the people in the call centers and stores with the a$$holes raiding our pockets. The vast majority of reps and agents really do want to provide the best service possible for their customers, but the executives and shareholders are only out for one thing...YOUR MONEY! That's it!

27. androiddownsouth

Posts: 598; Member since: May 02, 2012

The vast majority of companies function as you are describing my friend. Very few can truly be called "customer centric" by the standards you set there. Sad thing is, you are mostly right when you get to the executive and shareholder levels......

46. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

Sad, but true! +1

38. CRICKETownz

Posts: 980; Member since: Oct 24, 2009

if a company strives to keep themselves profitable while yet providing what's regarded as the most reliable services by most critics to their customers...can that really be considered not caring about their customers? its all greed...businesses are just more honest about it than consumers. operating costs are real & they're also expensive, but customers are oblivious to that side of things (that or they could care less about it - which puts them in the same greedy category as they accuse businesses to be in - but you won't get a customer to come to that realization). as an ex-employee of Verizon, what do you suggest their business model be? should they take a page out of the book of Sprint? T-Mobile? two companies on the verge of non-existence that are ironically the two cheapest monthly do the math. Verizon wants to be around & they want to be profitable. as a business owner (small or corporation) wouldn't you want to be? all the money you pour into your company to receive a return in some way for the services you offer. who goes into business saying today I don't want to be profitable.

43. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

I wasnt debating their business plan. My response was to whether VZW cares about it customers or not. And the truth is they don't. Now if you need to believe they do, by all means...keep those blinders on. But their showing you just how much they care about you with the last all the recent changes they've made. 1. No more new every two discounts. 2. New $30 upgrade fee. 3. Changed from 30 day test drive to 14 days. 4. Tried to make us pay $2 fee just to pay our bill. 5. Moving to tiered data plans. 6. Killing off grandfathered unlimited data plans. 7. And now they want to tier our Internet access too? You have every right to be cool with it, but I'm not. I gotta say WTF? They're basically trying to make us pay for the same service twice. If I'm already paying for access to the Internet, why should I have to pay extra to certain levels of the same Internet I'm already supposed to have access to? And where will this all end?

61. sprockkets

Posts: 1612; Member since: Jan 16, 2012

And it is all apple's fault too, since it began with them and the iphone4

41. slickric620

Posts: 11; Member since: Jun 30, 2012

Isn't this common logic and the fundamentals of any company large or small? Companies are there to turn a profit. There isn't a company around that exists that is there to give the customer everything they want for the lowest possible rate while keeping nothing for themselves. People that start companies with that mindset fail. You have to be profit driven. The best way to make the most money... sell the best product... and try to offer the best customer service while doing it.

45. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

Since when did business and profit become the new American religion? You guys act as though I'm saying they shouldn't be allowed to make a profit. I never said that. You guys are basically saying "Boys will be boys and we just have to accept it"??? No, not me! We all vote with our dollars in one way or another but my dollars will not be paying for restricted Internet if I have anything to say about it. Like a couple guys down below are pointing out, this is OURS!!! VZW is just providing a portal to what already belongs to us! If your bank told you you could take out up to $500 of your own money for free, and pay $10 per $100 thereafter, would you just except it or would you take your money that allowed you to have full access to all of your money? That's basically what this is, they want to charge you to get more access to what you already own!

57. blahb

Posts: 48; Member since: May 16, 2012

...(i.e. use my phone when and where I want to)... That's great but VZW is trying to tell you HOW you can use your device. Even if it's the best network I know how my phone works, what I can do with it and I won't stand for a carrier telling me HOW I can use my data.

60. corporateJP

Posts: 2458; Member since: Nov 28, 2009

Man, you are just a monkey in Verizon's tree, aren't you?

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