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16 posts categorized "Politics"

November 19, 2013

Mobile Marketing Tactics Made for Millennials

Depositphotos_33497065_xs

Generation Y, also referred to as the Millennials, comprises the largest demographic in the United States, according to USA Today. Ranging in age from early teens to early 30’s, Millenials make up almost 90 million Americans, and to marketers this market is crucial to keep in mind when developing brand awareness. They must consider the ease and speed of information to which these young consumers are accustomed, the plethora of brands that are competing for their attention, and of course young people’s increasing inclination and ability to avoid traditional advertising ploys.

So, how best can advertisers communicate with this tech-savvy market? An emerging understanding, illuminated by Inc Magazine, is that Millennials are not as driven by money as their predecessors were but rather by purpose and mission. Hence, young people must believe in and trust the brands they engage with, and they must feel a sense of significance in such engagement. This is affecting consumer trends and marketing tactics, as traditional mediums just aren’t working the way they did for Baby-Boomers and Gen X’ers.

Marketing strategies like Direct Mail, Email marketing, TV and Radio, and others simply aren’t making an impact in brand development for Millennials. Young people don’t pay attention to superfluous snail mail, and their email inboxes have too strong of SPAM filters and are too inundated with non-personalized advertising to take effect. And with the advent of music, radio, and TV on demand, skipping commercials is easy. Hence, most advertisers are transitioning their marketing strategies to engage in more fun, interesting, and tech-relevant ways.

One of the most important new ways of communicating with and monetizing this demographic is through mobile marketing. Millennials utilize mobile technology more than any other medium to socialize, purchase, and search. Utilizing mobile marketing strategies such as text marketing, voicemail broadcasting, mobile app advertising, mobile search marketing, and other creative mobile marketing ideas is becoming increasingly more important in the race to gain Millennials’ attention. Mobile is perhaps the most used and certainly the most intimate way of building trust and loyalty among this young demographic. Any brand interested in obtaining and sustaining Millennials’ attention must get creative and go mobile!

August 16, 2012

Last Word On Text-2-Donate For Political Campaigns In US?

Text-2-donate-votingWe've written in the past about the prospect of text-2-donate campaigns for this year's Federal elections in the US - back in June the FEC (Federal Election Commission) approved of the plan, but then a few weeks later that decision was thrown into doubt. Although the FEC had given the green light, the nation's major wireless carriers balked. As we noted then:

But the wireless carriers who would oversee the donations-by-text service - including the four U.S. giants Sprint Nextel Corp, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA - have yet to get on board with the plan.

The carriers - who account for about 90 percent of the more than 330 million wireless subscriptions in the United States - are worried about an array of liability and regulatory issues they could face in handling contributions to presidential and congressional candidates.

The carriers are asking the FEC for more guidance on how they should implement a donations-by-text program, according to four industry sources.

One sticking point is that the carriers want to make sure they will not be held liable for determining donors' eligibility to contribute to a campaign, industry sources said.

Reuters now has word that the FEC has assuaged the carriers - so it looks like the program is a go:

Americans moved a step closer to being able to make campaign contributions by text message on Wednesday when the Federal Election Commission approved protections sought by wireless carriers over fraud and profitability.

The FEC ruled that wireless carriers would have no responsibility for possible fraudulent campaign donations and could refuse text-donation services to campaigns if they are not deemed commercially viable.

"Barring some unforeseen issue I think this increases the likelihood that text donations in some form will be used this year," said Jan Baran, a prominent campaign finance lawyer representing carriers.

Read more over @ Reuters.

July 31, 2012

Political Apps: Obama For America & Mitt's VP

Back in 2008, the Obama campaign sent one of the most famous text messages of all time, announcing Joe Biden as his VP to millions of supporters; this year Mitt Romney is also taking a mobile approach:

The Romney app, which is available on both iOS and Android, is called “Mitt’s VP.” Users can sign in with their Facebook or “MyMitt” accounts. The app asks users to enter in personal info and activate push notifications. Once the campaign makes a VP choice, it’ll blast the message to all users who have done so.

While they're clearly doing this to gather more data (The information collected by the app, such as users’ location, could potentially be used by the Romney campaign in the future for targeted messaging, particularly in crucial swing states.), this doesn't strike us as the most intelligent move. Obama already proved that the fast, succinct text message was the ideal medium to deliver a tiny bit of information to millions of people. And, given that the Romney Campaign already has a general app 'With Mitt,' this is somewhat of a head-scratcher.

Romney-app

As for the mobile-savvy Obama campaign, they aren't resting on the laurels of their 2008 success. They announced a new app today as well:

Obama’s app, named “Obama for America,” is a full-fledged political organizing tool that lives on a user’s phone. The app delivers news about the Obama campaign, lets supporters locate and sign up for nearby campaign events (such as voter registration drives), allows users an easy way to donate to the campaign and includes a “Get Out the Vote” section featuring information about each state’s voter registration policies and the location of nearby polling places.

Obama-app

Read more @ Mashable or read our previous mobile politics coverage.

July 09, 2012

ON HOLD: Text-2-Donate For Political Campaigns In US

Text-2-donate-fecAbout a month ago word came down from the Federal Election Committee that popular text-2-donate campaigns could be used for Federal and State elections - a potential fund-raising gamechanger for the 2012 Presidential & Congressional races. The FEC decision seemed to some of us at Ez Texting as coming out of nowhere - and it turns out that was the case for the carriers too. Why? Text-2-Donate seems simple to consumers. You text a keyword to a short code and 5 or 10 dollars are added to your phone bill. In reality, there's a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. When you add in Federal election laws, well, it gets a lot more complicated:

But the wireless carriers who would oversee the donations-by-text service - including the four U.S. giants Sprint Nextel Corp, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA - have yet to get on board with the plan.

The carriers - who account for about 90 percent of the more than 330 million wireless subscriptions in the United States - are worried about an array of liability and regulatory issues they could face in handling contributions to presidential and congressional candidates.

The carriers are asking the FEC for more guidance on how they should implement a donations-by-text program, according to four industry sources.

One sticking point is that the carriers want to make sure they will not be held liable for determining donors' eligibility to contribute to a campaign, industry sources said.

But wait, there's even more:

Text donations, capped at $10 per text and $50 a month, according to the FEC ruling, would allow givers to remain anonymous, although campaigns would have access to the donors' phone numbers. Donations by text messages also would be limited to a total of $200 per phone number to avoid triggering a federal requirement for disclosure of that donor's identity and address.

Donating to political campaigns by text would be similar to giving to charity: A donor would send a message to a text code and then confirm his or her intention and eligibility. But in this case, carriers and aggregators processing the payment would take a significant cut from each transaction as they do with other non-charitable transactions, such as purchases of ring tones.

That cut appears to be part of the reason for tension that carriers are feeling over text donations to campaigns. The fee could reach 30 percent to 50 percent of each donation, according to FEC documents, putting wireless carriers in a potentially uncomfortable position of doing business with campaigns and their fundraising efforts.

Discounts on fees for a political campaign risk qualifying as an in-kind donation to the campaign from the wireless carrier, analysts said, a scenario that carriers want to avoid.

Head over to Reuters for the full exclusive. However this plays out, fundraising in 2012 with Super PACs, the Internet (social too!), and possibly text-2-donate will certainly make for unique races.

June 14, 2012

Text-2-Donate For Political Campaigns In US Approved

Earlier this week the Federal Election Commission (FEC) approved text-to-donate for political campaigns. Politico reports:

The Federal Election Commission on Monday night unanimously voted to allow Americans to make political donations via text message, making Androids, iPhones and BlackBerrys the newest weapon in the battle to raise unprecedented amounts of money.

The decision will take effect immediately, although it may be days or weeks before the system is fully functional. Individual phone numbers will be capped at $50 worth of donations per billing cycle per political candidate or committee.

Texting a political donation will be akin to what many charities already do in asking people to text a short message to a five-digit number in support of a cause.

Upon doing so, a donor has a fixed amount of money — often $10, sometimes more — charged to his or her account. The process takes a matter of seconds in contrast to comparatively clunkier methods, such as writing a paper check or using a credit card after filling out an online donation form.

The result? A win for democracy:

Both parties, as well as campaign finance reform advocates, say the move will allow Americans of modest means to play a greater role in a democratic process dominated this election cycle by billionaires and multimillionaires and political organizations such as super PACs that may raise and spend money without restriction.

Learn more at Politico.

 

April 23, 2012

SMS Text Messaging on the Campaign Trail

Entry By Jason Brick

Every four years, the U.S. gets exciting. In just 12 months' time, we get Leap Day, the Summer Olympics and a Presidential Election. Things get kind of crazy. Marketing experts have advised -- and learned from -- Presidential campaigns for decades. This time around, mobile marketers get to do the same thing. Check out these brilliant, interesting and amusing examples of text messaging campaigns at all levels of government.

Sms-on-the-campaign-trail

During the 2008 Obama campaign, the announcement of Joe Biden as running mate didn't come from a press release; it came via text message. It reached 10 million recipients, from key media figures to campaign supporters.

From the President to the Tea Party to grassroots activists, text and SMS communication has been key in creating "flash mobs" and organizing demonstrations and public events.

Bill Dudley, a group director for mobile powerhouse Sybase365, went public chiding both parties for still using robocalls instead of text-based campaigns, calling the older method "so 1990s."

Michele Bachmann was the first candidate of 2012 to use an active SMS campaign. Though she was far from the front runner, her efforts included the foresight to include among keywords all the common misspellings of her name.

Microtargeting -- sending niche messages to subsets of supporters -- has been part of election strategy for Democrats, Republicans and minor parties for decades. Text message has become part of this strategy since the 2004 election. 

Younger voters, those in the 18 to 30 year range, are particular targets of SMS campaigns by the major parties. It's seen as a way to involve a group that's often considered less politically engaged than older voters. 

In Jefferson City, Missouri, Senate Candidate Robin Carnahan used small, graffiti-like signs in bathrooms to collect opt-ins for her 2010 text campaign. "Text FLUSH to Robin" is an example. 

California gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman offered a free hat to anybody who could text in the answer to "Which California team has won the most College World Series?"

As of this spring, analysts note that the presidential campaigns are strong on social networking and web presence, but haven't yet capitalized on the full potential of SMS. Don't make that mistake with your own marketing plan.

October 14, 2011

CTIA’s Illegal Short Code Auditing. A Playbook To Kill America’s Wireless Innovators.

Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.
-       Franz Kafka


Abstract: CTIA, an industry body, acting on behalf of the American wireless carriers recently implemented a new ‘auditing’ process that seeks to monitor, regulate and issue penalties to businesses which violate their ambiguous, contradictory and illegal rules and guidelines. Ez Texting is calling upon the FCC and other businesses operating short codes to protest and block these actions to prevent CTIA’s illegal interference in their operations.

Last week, CTIA, the Wireless Industry Association, reported that America’s wireless carriers counted more mobile subscribers than American citizens. This is a staggering statistic that tells you all you need to know about how thoroughly the wireless communications revolution has changed the lives of every American citizen.

At Ez Texting we help thousands of small businesses run SMS marketing campaigns using short codes, which are five or six digit phone numbers than can send and receive text messages. We provide services to small businesses because we believe that our nation’s millions of small businesses should be able to participate in the wireless revolution, just like the biggest of businesses. In difficult economic times small businesses need all the help they can get. Last week we were deeply troubled to receive the first results of the CTIA’s new ‘auditing’ process.

CTIA, acting on behalf of the carriers, has issued dozens of alleged violations against Ez Texting’s use of its short codes. Why? Violations by our clients of nonsensical, often contradictory and ever changing Consumer Best Practices promulgated by the Mobile Marketing Association. What sort of violations? Things as trivial as improperly advertising Keyword Calls To Action on abandoned MySpace pages. For example, publicizing a short code without mentioning specific phrasing such as Msg&Data Rates May Apply.

We take these matters seriously, but after reviewing these alleged violations we firmly believe that the CTIA is acting in a way that harms small businesses and consumers – and in doing so breaking the law. Further, we believe that the auditing process itself is highly inconsistent. Large brands and businesses repeatedly commit egregious, high profile violations yet are rarely held accountable. At the same CTIA expects small businesses like Ez Texting to submit to ongoing audits according to these arcane, constantly changing and illegal rules. We have provided an appendix below highlighting how Twitter, operator of one of the highest volume text messaging programs in the world does not and could not comply with these guidelines. This is not to single out Twitter; rather it is to show how the largest businesses operate beyond the dictatorial whims of the carriers.  

The CTIA is an advocacy organization led by the major wireless carriers, along with global handset manufacturers. Although a visit to their website reveals a vision of ‘Expanding The Wireless Frontier’ they are, in the case of the short code based text messaging ecosystem, a mere front for carrier interests (see their board/leadership). CTIA and the carriers claim to be acting on behalf of consumers; this is a laughable proposition. One merely needs to browse their press releases to read hundreds of examples of whose interests they are looking out for. 

Auditing and Violations: A Broken Process.

CTIA recently launched a new short code auditing process, outsourced to a multinational firm called WMC Global. WMC Global trolls the Internet, looking for violations of the ‘CTIA Playbook.’ The Playbook is a twenty-one page document containing hundreds of voluntary regulations that carry no legal backing. The Playbook itself relies upon the MMA ‘Consumer Best Practices’, a 165 page set of ever-changing rules and regulations issued by the nation’s major wireless carriers. These rules carry no legal backing and are not designed to protect consumers; they are the simply the rules carriers throw up so they may pick and choose who can send text messages to their subscribers via short codes. The FCC and various Federal courts have ruled that text messages are telephone calls (see references below), making this action illegal as telephone calls are Title II Common Carrier services. The only reason the CTIA has even attempted to implement these clearly illegal measures is because the FCC had deferred ruling on whether text messages are specifically afforded ‘Common Carrier’ protections. You can read more about the FCC and Common Carrier protections at Public Knowledge. Given that they have already declared that text messages are phone calls it would be contradictory for the FCC to rule against this petition.

What did CTIA’s audit reveal? Ez Texting allows any business to create a Keyword that consumers can text to our short codes. Some of these businesses are advertising their Keywords on their websites and social media pages and profiles in ways that do not comply with these guidelines in inconsequential ways that would not confuse any consumer. Further, many of these businesses created advertisements for these Keywords that were in full compliance with the guidelines – but then the guidelines changed. CTIA, highlighting the absurdity of this whole byzantine undertaking, has declared these alleged violations to be high priority, requiring two-day resolution.

What are these high priority violations?

  • Not mentioning that ‘Msg&Data Rates May Apply’ in marketing materials.
  • Not displaying prominent links to Privacy Policies
  • Not displaying ‘Opt Out’ instructions
  • Not displaying message frequency information – i.e. how often you will receive messages.

First, many of these alleged violation notices we received were not violations at all. Either WMG Global is using some sort of automated web scraper or the staff performing these audits is doing so carelessly despite the serious regard CTIA claims to afford to this process. As the entire process is opaque, we can only wonder. Second, many of those advertisements are for businesses that no longer exist, or ex-customers who have not updated their websites. It is preposterous to expect any text messaging provider to remedy such a situation. Third, the Opt-Out instructions are required and automatically inserted by our service in all Opt-In Confirmation messages that consumers receive upon texting a business’ Keyword. This display requirement is unnecessary and would be viewed in other contexts as simply absurd.

Is a business required to display alongside its ten-digit phone number a formal description of what will happen when you call that number, that you might incur standard usage charges for calling that phone number (we are not talking about premium short codes or ‘900’ numbers as an analog in this context), and provide instructions on how to formally request that the business never call you again? Moreover, it would be considered absurd for you to be held responsible for others who may display your phone number (such as the Yellow Pages) on their websites.  Short codes are merely five to six digit phone numbers. Removing a few digits does not give CTIA carte blanche to violate the law.

What would stop an unscrupulous competitor from inappropriately advertising a Keyword that exists or does not even exist on another company’s short code? Nothing. And there would be nothing the harmed company could do to force the removal of the offending advertisement. Want to see how that works?

Text Promo To 676767, It’s Free!

That short code belongs to Neustar, which has been contracted by the CTIA to operate USShortCodes.com – a software portal where you can license and manage short codes. We expect that CTIA’s audit team will be contacting them any moment now to ask them to arrange for this improper advertisement to be removed from the web.

What happens if you do not comply with CTIA’s audit demands? Guidelines and best practices are fine to suggest to text messaging providers. Unfortunately CTIA and the carriers act as if these guidelines are based on law, are mandatory, and non-compliance with them can result in severe consequences. If CTIA deems you in violation and you do not respond to an audit to their satisfaction, as part of their enforcement, they will lock you out of the USShortCodes.com portal. Any provider who operates multiple short codes would lose the ability to maintain, add and remove other short codes that have no alleged violations. This would be a devastating intrusion into the operations of an affected business.

How has Ez Texting responded to CTIA’s audit? Although we believe CTIA is acting illegally, prejudicially and in an opaque manner, we have acted in good faith. Yet there is only so much any business can do in the face of an unresponsive bureaucracy that has the interest of other, far larger parties in mind. In response to these alleged violations we asked the CTIA audit team what happens if we cannot spur clients and former clients to act upon these demands. They instructed us to incur significant costs by sending cease and desist letters to websites displaying our short code. What happens if the content is not removed or fixed? We were told to continue to send monthly cease and desist orders. Are those cease and desist orders even mentioned in the CTIA Playbook. Of course not.  We asked the CTIA audit team for examples of actual consumer complaints regarding the phrasing or absence of various advertising display requirements. We have yet to receive an answer.

Perhaps we should have expected this given CTIA’s description of their ‘Q&A Service’ offered in the Playbook:

Aggregators and content providers should appreciate that Q&A is a courtesy extended to them solely for the purpose of entertaining good faith questions and helping them understand how they may bring their advertising into compliance.

Asking about the number or status of a content provider’s violations monthly count also is inappropriate; therefore, questions of this nature will not be addressed. As often as not, careful reading of this entire document, including the relevant CTIA audit standards in the appendices, should suffice. 

And what about the appeal process? The condescending language in the following excerpt from the Playbook is indicative of CTIA’s attitude toward anyone who is not a wireless carrier:

Appeals must be directed at the application of violations to the specific audit in question; the legitimacy of the audit standards themselves is not open for debate. Although content providers are encouraged to include all details relevant to the appeal, this presentation should be a straightforward account of the facts with evidence. A multiple-page thesis is an inappropriate format in which to couch an appeal.

 

What should happen? We believe one of the following outcomes would be appropriate. 1) CTIA and the carriers should immediately abandon these illegal efforts or 2) The FCC should do their job and rule on the petition regarding text messaging’s common-carrier status, which would make this entire issue moot. The small businesses and entrepreneurs struggling to compete, innovate, and launch new businesses should be protected from the oligarchic whims of the carrier cartel. We call upon other short code marketers, aggregators and operators to stand up for their legal rights. Rights are not handed to you. If you believe in what you do you need to fight for these rights – otherwise CTIA will continue to break the law in a way that harms your businesses.

...

Twitter – A Case Study in a Prejudicial CTIA Short Code Auditing Process.

Any Twitter user can encourage people to text follow their_username to 40404 on the web, in print, even over a Tweet. Twitter does not comply with the advertising and opt-in guidelines on their own website. A quick Google search reveals countless examples of websites and social media pages, profiles and updates that do not comply in any way with the aforementioned guidelines. Twitter, just like anyone else operating a shared short code, cannot possibly be expected to be responsible every time one of their customers advertisers what is essentially their Keyword on Twitter’s short code.

Let’s look at the MMA Consumer Best Practices: 

Advertising

1.2-6 Web Advertising must include:

a) Additional carrier costs (Msg&Data Rates May Apply) – Not present, whatsoever.

b) A resource (such as a website or phone number) where subscribers can reference all terms and conditions. – Not present in any recognizable manner. First, you click the name of your Country, then a pop-up opens with a list of global short codes, then you click See SMS Short Codes For Other Countries, then click Back To Apps, SMS and Mobile. While there is a good bit of information here there are no Terms and Conditions.

c) The frequency of the messaging – Not present and cannot be present as described above.

d) Instructions for obtaining help (HELP) – Not present in any recognizable manner. First, you click the name of your Country, then a pop-up opens with a list of global short codes, then you click See SMS Short Codes For Other Countries, then click Back To Apps, SMS and Mobile, Then Click Twitter Commands.

e) If the program is recurring, instructions on cancelling or opting-out of the service must be included. If the program being advertised is nonrecurring, then STOP messaging is not requiredNot present in any recognizable manner. First, you click the name of your Country, then a pop-up opens with a list of global short codes, then you click See SMS Short Codes For Other Countries, then click Back To Apps, SMS and Mobile, Then Click Twitter Commands.

Improper Web Display Advertising

MMA Opt-In Guidelines:

1.5-7 After opt-in to a recurring program, a confirmation Mobile Terminating (MT) message must be sent to the subscriber containing, at minimum, the following information:

a) Service description – Twitter complies here!

b) Additional carrier costs (e.g. Msg&Data Rates May Apply) – Twitter has an outdated message. If one of the largest messaging users in the world cannot keep up to date with the MMA/CTIA/Carrier rules, who can? 

c) Frequency of messaging – This isn’t present because for Twitter it isn’t even possible. The same would apply to many other companies. Are they exempted by default from this rule? Is Twitter?

d) Customer support information (HELP) – The link on help to full info is a URL that doesn’t even work.

e) Opt-Out information (STOP) Not present, and when you reply HELP they instruct you to send the non-standard OFF. While STOP works, why don’t they have to say so?

 

Further, Twitter immediately sends you a message compelling you to start Tweeting if you are not a Twitter customer. While this service is related, it is not the same because it is not what a consumer has asked for. We wonder what other businesses could get away with this questionable practice.

Non-compliant opt-in confirmation:

Improper Messaging Flows


Improper Messaging Flows



Contact Us, The MICC & Join The Cause
Contact Shane Neman, CEO of Ez Texting to learn more and to share your stories about how CTIA is harming your businesses. Or, contact the Mobile Internet Content Coalition to join the cause.

Sign The Petition To Tell CTIA To Back Down!
Cease unfair and unbalanced auditing of short code listings on the web - sign the petition now.

About Ez Texting
Ez Texting provides web-based text messaging services to over 50,000 clients. Since 2006, Ez Texting’s do-it-yourself service has been used by clients ranging from small organizations to Fortune 500 firms. Text message marketing features like mobile coupons, keyword autoresponders, and efficient group messaging allow Ez Texting clients to reach their customers wherever they are, at anytime.

Ez Texting is available at www.EzTexting.com.

Follow us on Twitter at @EzTexting

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_code
http://www.ctia.org/
http://blog.twitter.com/2010/04/cloudhopping.html
http://www.ctia.org/aboutCTIA/board_of_directors/
http://www.ctia.org/media/press/
http://www.wmcglobal.com/
http://www.wmcglobal.com/images/CTIA_playbook.pdf
http://www.mmaglobal.com/bestpractices.pdf
http://www.publicknowledge.org/issues/freedom-text
http://www.usshortcodes.com/
http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1303
http://www.neustar.biz/

 

The Federal Communications Commission has held that a text message is a call. See e.g., Satterfield v. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 569 F.3d 946, 954 (9th Cir. 2009) (deferring to Federal Communications Commission's determination that a text message is a call for purposes of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227).

October 04, 2011

Important Legal Reading From Arent Fox On SMS

Law firm Arent Fox has posted an important piece over at their corporate site regarding 'common carrier' status and how it relates to text messaging. Head over to their site to read the entire piece. The excerpt below is from an overview of a presentation they'll be giving about this topic at the Bisnow Growth Expo:

Can text messages save the economy? Maybe. But Arent Fox’s Mike Hazzard and Jason Koslofsky say the US will have to update common carriage principals and regulations first. Common carriage principals are applied to the Internet, allowing consumers and businesses to communicate with little interference from network operators. Giving them the freedom to do business, build business, and boost our economy. However, since the FCC has yet to clarify how text messaging (aka SMS) applies to common carriage, Luddite lawyers are seeking to have archaic regulations (like the 20-year-old regulations on “junk faxing”) applied to text messaging. This means carriers may block and censor texting at will, and charge any price they want (i.e. limited openness to do business). Find out how regulation updates for texting could boost our economy in Arent Fox’s latest legal alert here.

Don't miss the article here.

March 31, 2011

The MICC Asks The FCC To Stop Sprint From Imposing Content Restrictions on Text Messages

The Mobile Internet Content Coalition (the MICC) advocates for policies and provide educational opportunities that encourage all members of the mobile Internet ecosystem, regulators, and policymakers to adopt technology-neutral regulations that serve to empower consumer choice and provide a level playing field for all mobile content providers.

Today they're doing just that, in reaction to Sprint's move to restrict certain content in text messages:

According to information obtained by MICC, a trade association that advocates for policies ensuring the mobile Internet remains open, accessible and competitive, Sprint’s content restrictions are expected to go into effect on April 1, 2011.  Once implemented, the restrictions will prevent organizations, like newspapers, health care providers, and first responders, from sending web links and coupons to consumers over the Sprint network.  Sprint also intends to implement significant price increases for businesses using their network to send text messages. 

Sprint’s unilateral imposition of these content restrictions and price increases is the latest proof that the wireless marketplace in the United States lacks sufficient competition.  “It is ironic that just as Sprint is calling on the FCC to block the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile because of its fears regarding competition, it is simultaneously planning to abuse its market power by imposing unreasonable content restrictions and exorbitant fees on consumers,” said Amanda Antico-Majkowski, the Executive Director of the MICC.

Head over to the MICC website to read the full release and their filing with the FCC.

March 26, 2010

Public Knowledge Wants You To Tell The FCC To Protect Freedom To Text!

Public Knowledge is a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group working to defend citizens' rights in the emerging digital culture. They have filed an important petition with the FCC:

Text messaging is a part of everyday life for people—a fast and convenient form of communication useful in every situation. Because of its importance, in 2007 Public Knowledge and others filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking that it clarify that text messaging is subject to the same nondiscrimination rules as voice communications.

You can learn more about the petition (and sign on) @ http://www.publicknowledge.org/issues/text-message-petition

So why is this an issue? Let's look at an article in yesterday's New York Times:

When the earthquake devastated Haiti, Catholic Relief Services tried to gather contributions for its efforts using the hottest trend in giving: donations via cellphone.

But the charity wanted to try a twist on the technology: when people sent a text message to donate, they got a reply offering to connect them via phone to the charity’s call center. The group hoped that the calls could build a stronger bond with donors, and garner larger contributions as well.

But just three days into the effort after the Jan. 12 earthquake, the charity got word that Sprint Nextel was demanding that the “text-to-call” effort be shut down. The charity had 40 days to abandon the feature or lose access to millions of Sprint customers.

Sprint’s original motivations are murky; it said that an intermediary company had failed to properly fill out a form to verify that it was dealing with a legitimate charity.

The conflict underscores a problem that public interest groups asked the Federal Communications Commission to address more than two years ago: the hazy legal status of text messages, which are controlled by telephone companies without any real government oversight. The laws that prohibit phone companies from interfering with voice calls do not apply to text messages, a fast-growing medium.

“We should be able to communicate with people the way they want to be communicated with, not the way the phone company wants them to be communicated with,” said Jed Alpert, a founder of Mobile Commons, the company that connects Catholic Relief Services and 100 other nonprofit organizations with text messaging networks. 

Read more @ The New York Times.
Check out the petition here.