While not “Net Neutrality” related, this underscores the potential power and abuse allowing common carriers to regulate the content transmitted on their networks would permit.

Saying it had the right to block ?controversial or unsavory? text messages, Verizon Wireless has rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon?s mobile network available for a text-message program.

The other leading wireless carriers have accepted the program, which allows people to sign up for text messages from Naral by sending a message to a five-digit number known as a short code.

Verizon has essentially said that Party A and Party B are prohibited from discussing abortion, despite the fact that both parties are voluntarily participating in the (private!) discussion. The kind of (again, solicited) text message that Verizon is blocking? “End Bush?s global gag rule against birth control for world?s poorest women! Call Congress. (202) 224-3121. Thnx! Naral Text4Choice.”

I know wingnuts will say “the market will sort itself out”, and I certainly hope it does (if you use Verizon, you should cancel your business with them if at all possible, and let them know in no uncertain terms that censoring private communications in unacceptable), but this act should be illegal. In fact, it is illegal to do the exact same thing to voice communications, and text messages should be protected as well.

And don’t forget, cell phones operate over a portion of the publicly owned airwaves. Their right to control the frequencies they broadcast cell signals over is granted by the public. So telling them they can’t censor traffic by content is entirely legitimate.

UPDATE: Verizon has reversed their earlier position, and will now allow Naral to use the network.

Saying it had the right to block ?controversial or unsavory? text messages, Verizon Wireless rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon?s mobile network available for a text-message program.

But the company reversed course this morning, saying it had made a mistake.

?The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident,? Jeffrey Nelson, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

?It was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy,? Mr. Nelson said. ?That policy, developed before text messaging protections such as spam filters adequately protected customers from unwanted messages, was designed to ward against communications such as anonymous hate messaging and adult materials sent to children.?

Yeah, I’m not buying that explanation.

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