27 September 2007

Verizon and content control

This article in today's NY Times illustrates the deeper linkage between content and carriage that is occurring in today's networks. This is a feature of walled gardens of any sort ... here Verizon chooses to control content and elsewhere Apple chooses to control applications on the iPhone.

What do I think?

  • Verizon is on a slippery slope, just as the FCC was under its "fairness doctrine". I am guessing that they will reverse this policy once they realize this.
  • This issue will become the "poster child" for the network neutrality folks, even if Verizon ends up reversing its decision.
  • Verizon, whose opposition to network neutrality is on record, made a really boneheaded decision in what is basically a political issue.

Do you think that this is a harbinger of things to come? I build an equivalence between Apple and Verizon ... is this appropriate? If not, what are the differences that are notable?

UPDATE 2007-09-27: On they Cybertelecom Mailing List, Sean Donelan had this to say, which I think adds a bit of nuance:
he article [sic] briefly mentions, but doesn't really explain the difference between standard user-to-user SMS texting and SMS short code campaigns.

For whatever historical reasons, subscribers seem to view user-to-user SMS texting as the wireless company acting as a "common carrier" but subscribers seem to view SMS short code compaigns as the wireless company acting as the "information service" responsible for those messages even those created by third-parties.

Members of the Klu Klux Klan buy wireless phone service and send standard SMS messages to each other; but none of the wireless phone companies will operate SMS short code campaigns on behalf of the Klu Klux Klan.

For example, consider this link to Google's content policy for Google Adwords, which is different than the content policy for Google's basic search index. https://adwords.google.com/select/contentpolicy.html

Here is a link to several SMS carrier policies for SMS short code campaigns, as opposed to standard user-to-user SMS.

Update (2007-09-27): According to this article, Verizon reversed its policy (as I expected they would). Still, from their perspective, I believe that the damage is already done.

1 comment:

Luai Hasnawi said...

It is a broad debate about whither wireless companies have the right to filter our content or not. Before arguing about this topic lets first make things clear.
What type of content that should be blocked and what should not? What is the definition of inappropriate content?
For example, here in the United States there is something called “Sexual Harassment” but what does that mean? No one has an answer. It could be very small thing or very big thing (let’s ignore giving examples). Lots of people have got sued because of this word. Some of them are guilty and others are not. Why is that? Because the term is very broad and not well defined.
Back to our topic, what is the inappropriate text message that should be blocked? I agree with Verizon if there were a suspected text message that might threat the national security of the country to be blocked. Otherwise, if someone is making fun of a politician or spreading his opinions to his friend about any topic, what is wrong with that? If this is the case, then no one would subscribe in FIOS TV serves because David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jone Stewart and may more are making fun of Bush and his friends 24/7 and their programs will be blocked by Verizon!
In the case of Multimedia Message Server (MMS), I totally agree with Verizon to monitor the MMS’s. Some people will use it in the appropriate way and other will misuse this serves. On the other hand, they cannot block a porn content while the streets are full of adult stores! Also, I think there should be some kind of parental control for this service, which will be a great idea. For example, I would like to prevent my kids from sharing adult contents with their friends. I can see this analogy is happening now between ISPs and parents and TV cable servers and parents. The parents just inform the ISP that he needs to block a certain type of content the IPS will charge him for this serves. In the case of cable TV, the parent could block any TV program by its rating using the remote control. Therefore, It would be nice to filter the MMS content if required. In addition, nowadays we have seen something worse than adult content. Movies, TV shows, video games, websites . . . etc. are full of violence, which is hard for the adults not only children to watch it. Such content is nice to be blocked.
Lets consider this example. Assuming that there are groups of people who are happy to share such “inappropriate content” but Verizon kept blocking their messages. Also, assume that those people can not switch to other networks for any reason such as bad credit history, coverage, budget . . . etc. Aren’t they going to find a way to prevent blocking their messages? In another word, they will try to build up a black market. Which is not good. I personally have experienced such analogy. My country uses proxy servers to provide the Internet service. That means they allow us to see what they want us to see. So, what happened next? Nowadays my country is full of hackers who can break their filter or find a way to go beyond this filter.
Last but not least, do they want to compete in the market? The market is full of competitors who will take the advantage of this filter to promote for their product. Also, a significant amount of ACTIVE users are youth users, which mean they would love to share “ inappropriate” content. Every one can see that nowadays in MySpace and Facebook.
I would like to conclude my response by saying that they should have defended the “inappropriate content” term very carefully first before publishing such news. Also, it is a good idea to filter the contents in some case and do not do so in the other. Also, flexibility is good. In another word, always there should be some exceptions.
Thank you