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The CTIA And Double-Standards On Text Messaging

Amazing, the comments I posted to this post on the CTIA blog got posted! One of them even got responded to. Someone must be asleep at the switch. :)

Carriers don’t block text messages between users, they say. They probably mean individual customers texting each other. Fine with me. However, by exercising editorial control over who gets common short codes allocated on their network, they actually are. They aren’t blocking text messages, but they are effectively making it impossible for some organizations to receive text messages by refusing to enable their short code on the network.

Let’s assume that NAMBLA applied for both an 800 number and an SMS short code. For all I know, one already exists. If a mobile network operator tried to prevent their subscribers from calling this 800 number, it’d be illegal–at least as I understand the law. If an MNO refuses to implement the short code on their network, that’s perfectly acceptable, according to the CTIA.

Now granted, I think it’s fair to say that many people probably disagree with what NAMBLA is trying to do–myself included. But let’s take a more tame example: Rebtel, which did in fact, apply for a short code and had it rejected by a number of carriers. Rebtel gives people a way to avoid usurious international long distance charges by giving both sides a “local” number they can call to connect with one another.

Rebtel is viewed as a “competitor” to the carriers, which is the reason many of the carriers denied access. Isn’t that a bit like saying that as an AT&T customer you can’t call a Verizon customer?

Mobile network operators are common carriers. This means they must take all comers and allow communication to all comers. When it comes to voice, the laws are pretty clear on the subject. There are no laws when it comes to SMS that I’m aware of, but why should one standard apply to voice and a second to SMS?

By taking this stand against certain short codes, U.S. carriers are balkanizing the SMS network. They spent years making it so you could text between carriers–something that wasn’t universally possible until a few years ago. These actions are undoing all that work, as far as I’m concerned.

Is there something I’m missing here? Let me know what you think.


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