In regards to why Verizon decided to block 4INFO text messages from one of its short codes, it’s come to light that the dispute is over ads being placed in 4INFO’s SMS messages, not per-message fees as we had previously speculated.
I had a chance to speak with Zaw Thet, CEO of 4INFO, who stated that Verizon had made requests prior to Friday’s blockage in regards to the advertising attached to 4INFO’s messages via its 44636 short code, and that he believed compliance with their terms had been met. Obviously, Verizon saw it otherwise.
“We can’t comment on any part of this dispute other than that we believe that we complied with the Verizon requests, regarding our SMS advertising on 44636, in a timely manner, explained Thet. “However, on Friday, Verizon unilaterally elected to block the 4INFO branded 44636 service and partner content.”
Verizon seems to only have a problem with 4INFO’s self-branded service and short code, while other offerings such as its white-label services have been so-far unaffected. Though Verizon reps have been unavailable for comment, Thet stated that the problem stems from Verizon’s policies regarding in-text ads. Interestingly enough, it looks as though no other text-based service, from 4INFO or any other provider, have been affected.
I asked Thet about the possibility that Verizon has a problem with the types of ads being attached to SMS messages, primarily media-centric ads as opposed to purely text-based ads usually associated with SMS, and while vague, his response was that “he didn’t believe that media-centric ads are a specific concern of Verizon’s at this time, especially given the introduction of web friendly devices, such as Droid, on the Verizon network.”
When asked what steps 4INFO is taking to restore access for Verizon users, Thet reassured that they’re still very much in talks with Verizon over the dispute, and that the company’s other 40+ short codes are still available to Verizon customers. “The company is working towards finding a solution to restore access to our and partner search and alert services to Verizon customers through other channels,” Thet explained.
It’s an unfortunate conclusion and decision on behalf of Verizon to outright block content from 4INFO over what seems to be a frivolous complaint. From what I can speculate, Verizon still holds a grudge in regards to not being able to implement its outrageous per-message fees, and is simply sending a message to SMS providers like 4INFO.
4INFO is the single largest provider of standard-rate (free) ad-supported text messages, and they provide valuable content to legions of customers who rely on their text alerts. Since Verizon’s decision on Friday to block access, Twitter has been buzzing with upset customers voicing their anger towards Verizon for such a blatant and unnecessary move.
Verizon is obviously sour over the realization that 4INFO has found a successful revenue model surrounding its text alerts, and is angry that revenue is going to providers like 4INFO instead of Verizon. Whatever the case may be, hopefully the dispute is resolved sooner rather than later. Stay tuned to MMW for updates.