Public Knowledge, joined by a prominent state legislator as well as consumer and public interest groups, told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that regulators act to protect the rights of consumers to use text messaging without undue interference from wireless companies. The FCC should also protect some wireless carriers from the anticompetitive behavior of others, Public Knowledge and groups filing with it said.
In addition, groups representing advocacy organizations and the disability community agreed that their access to texting remains in jeopardy unless the FCC acts.
Public Knowledge attorney Jef Pearlman, said, “The problem is real and current; carriers are discriminating against competitors and claiming the right to exert broad editorial control over text messages, especially those addressed to or from short codes. As has been demonstrated with new communications media in the past, empowering consumers and ensuring the inability of the carriers to discriminate based on content is the best way to protect users both from unwanted communications and from the control of a small set of corporate interests.”
New York Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, (D-Westchester) Chairman of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, said, “If mobile carriers can dictate the content of text messages on reproductive freedoms, as Verizon attempted to do with NARAL, they can do so on any other matter, and our ability to talk with one another, to campaign, to challenge orthodoxy, to bring new and unpopular ideas to public attention, to protect minority views, all these will be subject to the ultimate control of Verizon, or Cablevision, or any of the few national corporations that dominate telecommunications.”
Comments by the American Foundation for the Blind on the petition address a crucial issue: text messaging, an increasingly significant communications mode that is not generally accessible to people with vision loss, said Foundation Vice President Paul Schroeder. “The classification of these services matters a great deal. If defined as telecommunications services, mobile phone providers could be required to ensure conversion of these inherently visual messages to another form, providing people with various types of disabilities an equal opportunity to use this important communications tool,” he said.
Communication Service for the Deaf is concerned about making sure that text messaging is covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act, explained Karen Peltz Strauss, legal consultant for CSD. “Just as other forms of text-based services, including faxes and TTY transmissions provided over wireline and wireless networks must be accessible by people with disabilities under this section of the Act, we want to make sure that text messaging remains accessible to and usable by people with disabilities in the coming years.” Strauss said.
Laura Scher, CEO of Credo Mobile, said, “The fact that Verizon believes it can reject or block politically motivated messages should leave us all very worried. How would you feel if Verizon decided to drop your phone calls the minute you started discussing a “controversial” issue like reproductive freedom?”
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