Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project
NN :: Blocking or Discriminatory Examples Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

Carrier Policies

Different Rates for Different Customers


Disclosures / Transparency

Data Caps / Zero Rating

Equal Use

"The telegraph companies had an anti-monopoly regulation, that one party could not use the wires for more than ten minutes at a time. " 1840s [Branch p. 22]



Blocking Services

Virtual Private Networks VPN See Crypto

Domain Names

For a period in the 1990s, Network Solutions, the sole domain name registrar for dot com operating pursuant to US government contract, adopted a policy that certain words could not be registered as domain names. See DNS History. This resulted in some weird results where had been registered but could not be registered. Network Solutions also sought to implement a policy that would prevent the registration of domain names that might bother trademark owners.

Blocking / Discriminating Applications


"In 1908 AT&T gained control of Western Union. This proved beneficial to Western Union, because the companies were able to share lines when needed, and it became possible to order telegrams by telephone. However, it was only possible to order Western Union telegrams, and this hurt the business of Western Union's main competitor, the Postal Telegraph Company. In 1913, however, as part of a move to prevent the government from invoking antitrust laws, AT&T completely separated itself from Western Union."[Smithsonian]



Peer to Peer

Payment Systems

"Cingular blocked PayPal after contracting with another online payment service called Direct Bill. Cingular made its discriminatory motives apparent in a leaked memo that stated, “Please be aware that Cingular customers should always and only be offered the Direct Bill option for payment of content and/or services. Any programs that offer PayPal and/or credit card options to Cingular Wireless customers will be escalated and reviewed by Cingular Wireless for possible immediate shut off.”" ACLU Network Neutrality 101 2010 Citing Scott Smith, Cingular Playing Tough on Content Payments , The Mobile Weblog, July 7, 2006, .  



Blocking Devices / Attaching Equipment

Historically, the incumbent telephone companies refused to allow third parties to attach equipment to their networks. This equipment attached by the customer at home is known as Customer Premises Equipment. One fellow invented a little plastic scoop called a Hush-a-Phone, which attached to the handset of a phone, that would in effect make the conversation more private. AT&T said this piece of plastic would harm the network and in the 1940s sued. The DC Circuit Court rules that individuals AT&T could not prohibit Hush-a-Phone attachments. Hush-a-Phone was a non-electrical attachment to the network. In Carterfone, the FCC would conclude that AT&T could not discriminate against and prohibit the electrical attachments as well (this would come to be crucial for modems). See CPE page for greater detail.

A new discussion is forming over the ability to apply Carterphone to wireless devices; in other words, the ability to attach any device (hard or soft) at the end of the telecommunications line as authorized pursuant to Carterphone and Part 68.

Wifi Access Points

For a time, it appeared that the attachment of a WiFi Access Point to a network would violate that network's AUP.


Blocking Content

See network history of blocking content including Western Unions agreement with Associated Press to block any independent news services, it influence over the election of 1867, and its alliance with Lincoln's Republican Party.

Internet Filtering (for copyrighted material)

Content :: Advertisements


Telus v Voices for Change


FCC Commish Michael Copps on Pearl Jam
Segment of Concert Reported Censored

AT&T and PearlJam

BellSouth and MySpace

"In 2006, BellSouth blocked its customers in Florida and Tennessee from using MySpace and YouTube. Some suspected that BellSouth blocked the websites to test a tiered system of usage that would block certain websites if their administrators refused to pay for BellSouth’s quality of service package. BellsSouth’s Chief Technology Officer Bill Smith had openly supported the principle of tiered access for his company. The company issued a vague denial, and also argued that it provided warnings to its customers about potential Internet blocking." ACLU Network Neutrality 101 2010 citing Mark Hachman, BellSouth Says It’s Not Blocking MySpace, PCmagazine , June 2, 2006,

Content :: Blocking :: Messages


"Early in 2006, America On Line (AOL) began censoring e-mails that referenced a blog entry critical of AOL over an e-mail fee system the company had instituted. AOL’s blatant censorship impaired e-mail services to over 300 individuals, including customers and non-customers, who reported receiving an automated message saying their e-mail had “failed permanently.” An AOL spokesperson said that the automated messages were due to faulty software and that AOL had lifted its block of the e-mail protests.  " ACLU Network Neutrality 101 2010 citing Rob Malda, Pay-per-e-mail and the “Market Myth,” Slashdot, March 29, 2006; Timothy Karr, AOL Censors Internet Speech, FreePress, Apr. 13, 2006, .

NARAL v Verizon


Marconi Radio blocks Message from Prince Henry of Prussia to Pres. Roosevelt 1902

"Early in 1902 an incident occurred which caused the German Government to take official cognizance of the situation. Prince Henry of Prussia, brother of the German Kaiser, was returning to Germany, in the S.S. Deutschland , after a visit to the United States. Soon after sailing, he desired to send President Roosevelt a radio message thanking him for the numerous honors and courtesies which had been accorded him. The Deutschland transmitted this message to the Marconi station at Nantucket, but that station refused to accept it because the ship was fitted with Slaby-Arco radio equipment. The irate Prince brought the matter to the attention of his brother. Kaiser Wilhelm thereupon instructed his government to initiate action in an attempt to establish international control over radio communications. [Howeth] The US Navy, with jurisdiction over American radio at that time, adopted the policy of preventing the installation of radio stations which would block the receipt of messages.

Content :: Traffic Redirection

Content :: Filtering

Content :: SPAM

SPAM is a significant problem. Left unchecked, the email signal-to-noise ratio becomes so bad that a service can be rendered unusable. Most email services now are aggressively engaged in anti spam strategies for filtering out SPAM.

Content :: Imagine Compression

(finding image compression by mobile networks)

Content :: Inspection

See Deep Packet Inspection :: Wiretap :: Wiretap by network provider ::

"Hubbard's suggestion that Western Union's unique opportunity to get news of world commodity prices before anyone else presented a "temptation so strong few would have the strength to resist."" [Wolff 42]


Breaking Encryption

Differentiated Treatment of Internet Traffic BITAG Oct. 2015 “Some satellite and in-flight network operators have deployed proxy systems that allow differentiation of encrypted traffic. They do this by breaking the end-to-end encryption principle in favor of two encrypted segments, or in some cases with one segment being unencrypted entirely. Examples of these systems include: • Satellite operator ViaSat has developed a modified version of the Chrome browser that decrypts traffic inside their network, in order to optimize performance [122]. • To improve performance on retail in-flight WLAN network access, the networks provided by Gogo Inflight Internet, for a period of time, dynamically forged TLS certificates in order to shape traffic or block high-bandwidth uses such as video streaming (due to popular outcry, this practice was ceased shortly after discovery) [123]. In each of these cases, the network provider has made a decision to trade security for performance in order to differentiate between different data flows, and serve as a man-in-the-middle for an otherwise secure communication. .” 

Filtering Bad Traffic

Networks may seek to filter traffic that is either defective (i.e.., misconfigured routers, corrupt DNS or routing tables) or malicious (ie., a DOS attack, worm, spam, phishing).