Unapproved Short Code Can Either Delay or Prevent SMS Marketing Campaigns

Last month T-Mobile blocked all of EZ Texting clients because shadow campaigns were found under short code #313131, this is not best practice according to the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA).

When T-Mobile was contacted by CTIA – Wireless Associationregarding their short code #313131 logging WeedMaps.com, a medical marijuana marketing text messaging campaign, they then found out.  T-Mobile quickly learned that EZ Texting, who originally submitted a campaign for that short code for bar and nightclub alerts/deals, had violated its discretionary pre-approval.

Paul Faherty, CEO of Text2vip, a text message marketing company, has mentioned the multiple marketing campaigns on one short code as a shared short code.

“In our industry, the alternative to the “managed service model” is to lease out access to individual businesses around the country,” he said.  “When this is done, it’s considered a “shared short code.”

“The danger, and point of the blog actually, is that if your keyword is “Greg” and my business uses the same short code as you do, and if I violate the cell carrier’s agreement, I jeopardize the entire inhabitants of those on that code.”

EZ Texting may lease a short code from Neustar, a short code registry.  Once this short code is obtained the content provider must clearly state their specific marketing program to mobile carriers for approval.  EZ Texting had not.

T-Mobile has agreedto allow EZ Texting to stop blocking them as a whole, with no decision yet on the marijuana alerts.

T-Mobile felt that the Mobile Internet Content Coalition (MICC), based on EZ Texting, allegedly blocked content and selective companies using SMS services, so T-Mobile filed an ex parte letter to the FCC.

The T-Mobile ex parte letter brings up 3 major points.

  1. Alleged Content-Based Blocking.  Short codes are not being blocked based on content, rather EZ Texting’s entire 313131 short code has been blocked based on running new advertising programs on that same code without T-Mobile’s approval.  EZ Texting had been approved for promoting and advertising bars and clubs in 2009, but they never updated other campaigns on that same short code.
  2. Alleged Mobile Marketing Company Fee Increase.  T-Mobile does not “charge a per message fee to mobile marketing companies that use aggregators,” such as EZ-Texting.  T-Mobile contracts with, and charges fees to, content aggregators, which then contract with sub-aggregators and content providers.”
  3. Alleged Common Carrier Status and Obligations.  Text messaging is a communication service obtaining information from external sources and does not constitute a common carrier obligation subject to Title II of the Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS).  Thus, sending text messages to a short code is not a broadband Internet access service.  In regards to marketing services, T-Mobile believes the approval and oversight of short code campaign content involves no transmission and thus is not subject to the Communications Act of 1934.

In other words, mobile carriers should not have to learn from outside sources like the CTIA what content is being text to certain short codes for marketing campaigns and expects regulation on the rates charged to short code content providers.

ABOUT: EZ Texting, Inc. founded in 2006 and based in New York City, is a text message marketing company serving small businesses, religious groups, retail, nightlight-bars & nightclubs, restaurants, event marketers, traditional media, schools, social groups, real estate, and software developers using the short code 313131 (or 393939 in Canada).  Memberships: Mobile Marketing Association.

ABOUT: Text2VIP is a full service text message marketing provider to restaurants, bars, organizations and professional sports groups nationwide.  National brand clients include Dunkin Donuts, Chick-fil-A, Burger King and Subway.  Founded in 2008, Text2VIP is headquartered in Atlantic City  N.J.  They are responsible for SMS programming, offering a service where clients only pay for the actual number of participants who subscribe to receive text blasts.

FURTHER READING

Ex Parte Notice: T-Mobile Petition for Declaratory Ruling that Text Messages and Short Codes are Title II Services, WT Docket No. 08-7; Preserving Open Internet, GN Docket No. 09-191; Broadband Industry Practices, WC Docket No. 07-52”.  (PDF) Kathleen O’ Brien Ham, T-Mobile Internal Communications.  September 30, 2010.

Texting Censorship Flap Settled Out of Court”.  David Kravets, Wired.  October 2, 2010