Blown To Bits

Verizon to Would-Be DSL Customer: Change Your Name First

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008 by Harry Lewis

One of the points of contention in a variety of ongoing controversies about regulation of Internet Service Providers is whether they would ever abuse the power they hold over who sees what. In Blown to Bits we talk about the case of Verizon denying text messaging service to Naral, a pro-choice group, because it considered Naral’s agenda “controversial.”

Today we have a silly example, but one that drives home the point that ISPs have arbitrary and unlimited authority, and where there is little or no competition in broadband services, they have the power to control what the public knows. Verizon told one Dr. Libshitz, a retired radiologist of unquestioned reputation, that he could not have DSL service because he wanted to use an identifier — his name — that contained a word on Verizon’s no-no list. A helpful employee suggested to Dr. Libshitz that he change the spelling of his name to accommodate Verizon’s decency standards. After several more telephone calls, Dr. Libshitz got his DSL connection — but only after Verizon tracked down the guy in India who could override the automated name filters.

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