Friday, December 14, 2007

Yes, customer pressure CAN cause a carrier to reverse an SMS code blocking policy (Verizon and NARAL)

While researching T-Mobile's blocking of Twitter SMS codes (see previous post), I uncovered a story from a few months ago in which another carrier tried to block a particular SMS code, but was forced to change its tune due to customer pressure.

This story about Verizon and NARAL SMS code blocking comes from Ars Technica.

Verizon Wireless found itself in a boiling pot of water after the company decided it would not allow a pro-choice abortion group named NARAL to use its mobile network to distribute opt-in SMS news alerts to its subscribers. Verizon Wireless said that company policy prohibits "highly controversial" and potentially "unsavory" messages from being distributed on its network, which is why they turned down the political organization.

This morning, the company reversed its decision in the face of outcry from pro-choice supporters and anti-censorship complaints from all corners of the country....

[T]he abortion rights group had hoped to establish a "short code" service (e.g., "text 55555"), which would need to be supported by each mobile operator to be effective on all networks. While their request was approved by other carriers, Verizon Wireless initially said "no."...

When first reported by the New York Times last night, the issue was tied to "net neutrality," but this is really a red herring. Laws prevent Verizon from censoring voice calls or even individual emails, but there are no prohibitions on censoring SMS messages sent over that network. Verizon Wireless does not censor Internet content or services, even though it currently reserves the right to do so for short code messaging services. However, public outcry changed Verizon Wireless' tune in less than 24 hours....

"The decision not to allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident," said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson in a press statement.

So, could a similar outcry cause T-Mobile to reverse their Twitter SMS code blocking policy? Perhaps it could, if Twitter users @barackobama and @ronpaul2008 have something to say about it. Wonder if they know that T-Mobile isn't letting SMS coded messages get to their accounts.

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