The United States’ Federal Communications Commission has issued an Open Internet Order which, more or less, prevents ISPs from blocking or restricting access to legal content on the Internet just because they [the ISPs] disagree with the content or because they are providing a competing service or because they are being paid to block content by a third party or etc. Verizon, a major broadband provider in the USA, has sued the FCC in an attempt to have the Open Internet Order annulled.
Here is a section from Verizon’s filing with the United States Court of Appeals:
Broadband providers transmit their own speech both by developing their own content and by partnering with other content providers and adopting that speech as their own. For example, they develop video services, which draw information from, and are then made available over, the Internet. Many also select or create content for their own over-the-top video services or offer applications that provide access to particular content. They also transmit the speech of others: each day millions of individuals use the Internet to promote their own opinions and ideas and to explore those of others, and broadband providers convey those communications.
In performing these functions, broadband providers possess “editorial discretion.” Just as a newspaper is entitled to decide which content to publish and where, broadband providers may feature some content over others. Although broadband providers have generally exercised their discretion to allow all content in an undifferentiated manner, Order ¶ 14 (JA__), they nonetheless possess discretion that these rules preclude them from exercising.
Essentially what Verizon is trying to argue before the court is Verizon, as a broadband service provider that provides other products and services, deserves the same “editorial discretion” allotted to newspaper editors. In other words, Verizon is saying it deserves the right to control where, when, and how content is displayed and accessed on the Internet by Verizon subscribers. To put it simply, Verizon wants to censor the Internet in favor of services provided by Verizon and its partners as opposed to freely allowing Verizon subscribers to access whatever content they desire, such as content provided by Verizon competitors.
In a twisted, lawyer-esque way Verizon’s argument make sense. However, in reality, it is bullsh!t. Newspaper editors have editorial discretion because newspaper customers subscribe to that specific newspaper and depend on the editors to filter content, to prevent the newspapers from turning into books; if any newspaper is ever found to be censoring news, subscribership will drop faster than flies. Verizon’s broadband customers don’t pay for ‘Verizon’s Internet’; they pay for access to the Internet. Any attempt by Verizon to assert “editorial discretion” amounts to nothing less than censorship and should not be tolerated.
Hopefully the judge(s) presiding over Verizon’s appeal will see the ill-logic behind Verizon’s logic and shoot down the appeal without question. If not, this may be the beginning of a dark digital future. Feel free to rage against Verizon in the comments below.