Imagine this: You're at work one day and you see colleagues gathered around a monitor, watching breaking news. The day’s storm has required the local school to close early and you are seeing live news footage of parents picking up their kids. But you’re still at the office because you didn’t get the notification. You were in meetings all day and not able to check your email or voicemail. You’re frustrated because the school didn’t send you a text message which you could have looked at while you were in your meetings. Later you learn the school actually had sent you a text message with instructions about an early pickup -- on the same platform it uses for other important parent notifications -- but you didn’t get the message this time. Why not?
You might be surprised to learn that you didn’t receive this critical message because your wireless carrier blocked it without informing you and without asking for your permission. It unilaterally denied you this vital message without regard to who sent it, the message’s content, or even that you specifically chose to get it. What will the next message be that you don’t get?
This scenario is real and prevents consumers from receiving tens of millions of messages every year. Importantly, it previews a world without net neutrality. Because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just rolled back net neutrality protections, the status quo with text messaging - where carriers decide unilaterally what organizations are allowed to text with you - could spread to everything you do on the Internet. You might not have access to some websites due to indiscriminate blocking by your internet provider, and some other websites might work so slowly that they don’t function correctly or allow you to view videos or other content.
Text messages were not protected by net neutrality rules that protected voice and broadband communications. Because of this, wireless carriers have been free to block messages that consumers have actively opted in to receive, and expect to receive, from schools, non-profit organizations, government organizations, and businesses -- without explanation.
Wireless carriers say message blocking protects consumers by preventing spam and fraud. That’s an important issue to tackle, but the carriers are not providing any transparency into how they decide which messages to block and they are not alerting the senders (or receivers) that those messages were blocked. The industry needs to work together to address spam, but do so without blocking legitimate messages that consumers have opted in to receive.
While they say eliminating spam is their objective, wireless carriers are offering senders an option that costs 500x more to guarantee delivery or offering a competing service. This isn’t just about protecting consumers, this is anti-competitive behavior.
Innovative services that enable schools to communicate with parents and students via text message - are already impacted, and parents could be denied critical messages without any explanation or notification from their wireless carrier.