Ambiguity Over SMS Regulation At The Heart Of T-Mobile, EZ Texting Lawsuit

More information about the T-Mobile/EZ Texting lawsuit filed last Friday is emerging after T-Mobile had its say in a court briefing on Wednesday. T-Mobile argues that text-messaging services are not subject to the same regulations as voice services, therefore it has full discretion over what it can block and for what reasons.  The carrier said it blocked EZ …   Read More

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More information about the T-Mobile/EZ Texting lawsuit filed last Friday is emerging after T-Mobile had its say in a court briefing on Wednesday.

T-Mobile argues that text-messaging services are not subject to the same regulations as voice services, therefore it has full discretion over what it can block and for what reasons.  The carrier said it blocked EZ Texting’s short code because it was supposed to get prior approval for all marketing campaigns run over its network, as specified in its agreement, yet in addition to Weedmaps.com, EZ Texting also failed to get approval for two other services involving party rentals and church services.

EZ Texting said T-Mobile had no right to block its short code based solely on the fact that it disagreed with the content of one particular campaign; weedmaps.com, but T-Mobile responded by saying it has the right to block EZ Texting’s short code because no law prohibits it.  T-Mobile adds that it had good reason to take action, alleging that EZ Texting applied for a short code for a text messaging campaign that would inform people about events at bars, but then used the short code for a different campaign.

“EZ Texting never submitted that new campaign for T-Mobile’s prior review and approval, even though prior approval is required for all short code messaging campaigns provisioned by T-Mobile, and by every other carrier that provides such services, as recommended by the industry trade group, Mobile Marketing Association,” said T-Mobile during the briefing.  “On that basis, T-Mobile unilaterally decided to terminate network access.”

In the end it still comes down to ambiguity over SMS regulation.  Because the FCC hasn’t classified text messaging services as either “telecommunications services” or “information services,” text messaging is in a state of “legal limbo,” says Chris Riley, policy counsel at the advocacy group Free Press.  As such, SMS isn’t necessarily subject to common carrier rules, and the ball remains in the court of the carriers regarding their discretion over particular campaigns.

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