Public Knowledge President Gigi B. Sohn said this morning that Verizon's decision to block text messages from Naral Pro-Choice America shows the need for legislation to make certain that telephone and cable companies cannot impose their will over the Internet or any other telecommunications medium.
As the New York Times reported, “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,” with a company spokesman saying initially that the topic of abortion was too controversial to allow a group text message.” After the story appeared, Verizon reviewed the decision and now will allow the messages to go through.
“Instant replay is not the way to guarantee the rights of Americans to communicate freely over telecommunications networks,” Sohn said. “You cannot have unfettered communications by having the telephone company review each decision whenever a controversial issue is raised. A text message like this one alerting Naral supporters to act quickly on a pending political issue is useless after hours of delay by the telephone company referees.
“This incident only became public because the Federal Communications Commission lifted the protections Americans long enjoyed to communicate over telephone networks, because an activist group complained and because a story appeared in the newspaper. Despite Verizon's statement, it's clear that the policy would still be in place absent the publicity.
“This incident, more than ever, shows the need for an open, non-discriminatory, neutral Internet and telecommunications system that Americans once enjoyed and took for granted,” Sohn added.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.