What Verizon’s Change on NARAL Text Ban Reveals

Text message from NARALIn an unbelievable move, last week Verizon briefly rejected a request from an abortion rights group to make its network available for a text message program. The timing couldn’t have been worse. It vividly demonstrated that online, cable and wireless services are immune from non-interference regulations that apply to phone services just as the national debate on net neutrality was center stage.

NARAL made its case to the New York Times, and the story quickly spread gaining perspective from bloggers. While Verizon was not legally compelled to change its policy for wireless use, it was politically compelled.

Reversing this decision allowed Verizon to avoid what would have been a thunderous regulatory response. As a Regional Bell Operating Company, Verizon’s operations, growth, and future mergers are highly political in nature.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have felt shut out of the media by their owners. Paul Starr points in MIT Tech Review that was this very type of behavior that caused government to create a public switched network in order to overcome Western Union’s manipulation of the political process by providing favorable pricing to those serving its interests.

Whether lawmakers agree with NARAL’s policies or not, they clearly are in no mood to have Verizon to become a communications gatekeeper. Or the next campaign that Verizon might refuse could be theirs.

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