Verizon’s TOS kind of suck

I was looking at the Verizon TOS for some reason today, I suppose to psych myself up further about my forthcoming FiOS installation, and I noticed that there are some ridiculously vague (and therefore massively prohibitive) clauses in the agreement.

For example, according to the FiOS Acceptable Use Policy, customers are not allowed to,

post off-topic information on message boards, chat rooms or social networking sites

generate excessive amounts of email or other Internet traffic

use the service in any fashion for the transmission or dissemination of images containing child pornography or in a manner that is obscene, sexually explicit, cruel or racist in nature or which espouses, promotes or incites bigotry, hatred or racism

I agree with some of the terms of that last one. Specifically, I agree that the customer ought to be required to agree not to use the Service to engage in activities of any nature at all that violate a federal, state or local law (but the customer is already made to agree not to violate the law in a different clause, so the child pornography part should have been covered by that). However, most of those things aren’t illegal. In fact, Verizon specifically states in the same agreement that the customer must agree essentially to not be a prude and blame Verizon if they accidentally come across something on the Internet or via FiOS TV that they find offensive:

You acknowledge that the Service will allow access to information which may be sexually explicit, obscene or offensive, or otherwise unsuitable for children. You agree…that Verizon is not responsible for access by you or any other users to objectionable or offensive content.

So it seems like a clear contradiction, if you ask me. On the one hand, you must acknowledge that the Service gives you access to materials that may be “obscene” to some people (which cannot be legally determined until someone actually asserts that something is “obscene”, since something is not “obscene” until it is subjected to the Miller Test, which cannot be done without a jury). Yet on the other hand, you’re not allowed to transmit “obscene” materials. In fact, the TOS are impossible to agree to, since if I agree that the Service gives me access to obscene materials, I cannot also agree that I will not “transmit” any of the “obscene” materials that the Service is giving me access to.

I think FiOS TV has the Playboy Channel if you pay extra for it. If you had a jury full of puritanical zealots from Evangelicalville, TX then I think there’s a pretty good chance they’d call it “obscene” on all three prongs of the Miller Test. They’d consider “community standards” to refer the community standards of Evangelicalville, TX, so of course it violates those. As for depicting sexual conduct in a “patently offensive” way, they’d almost certainly agree that it does (again, since they can be assumed to be a bunch of prudes). Finally, they would most likely quickly agree that it has no artistic merit. Hell, I think that under that last prong at least, most shotacon would stand a better chance than Playboy.

The “excessive amounts of email or other Internet traffic” thing is also irritating. It’s only irritating though because Verizon has this big sparkly announcement on their FiOS front page about how, unlike their nasty competitors, they don’t throttle their customers.
fios home page
But if they reserve the right to arbitrarily impose bandwidth caps on their customers without prior notification, that’s equivalent, abstractly speaking at least, to what their competitors do. At least it’s with the same intention in mind. It wouldn’t be annoying at all if Verizon would come off their high horse and be honest about it. In fact, I would even respect them quite a bit if they came right out on their TV commercials and said, “We currently offer FTTH with no throttling or bandwidth caps so you should sign up today. Be aware though that if you sign up today, we may introduce a 1GB per month transfer cap tomorrow. Then again, we may not. It’s your gamble”.

I guess the lesson here is that TOS are better left unread. Now I know that not only can I not generate “excessive traffic”, download pornography or watch it on TV, post off-topic messages on forums or message boards, or do anything, “harmful to the…Internet generally or other Internet users”, but I’m also not allowed to

exceed the bandwidth usage limitations that Verizon may establish from time to time for the Service, or use the Service to host any type of server. Violation of this section may result in bandwidth restrictions on your Service or suspension or termination of your Service.

How frightening. If I exceed my bandwidth limit the punishment is the imposition of a bandwidth limit!

In all seriousness though, I can’t fucking wait until the installation is complete. This will be one of the best days of my life.

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