Text messaging services, including the message and any short codes used to allow messages to be sent, should be protected from discrimination under the Communications Act, Public Knowledge said today. Short codes are five or six-digit phone numbers that organizations from political campaigns to TV shows use when sending or receiving text messages to and from wireless phone users.
In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Public Knowledge said: “Text messaging services fall squarely within the definition of telecommunications (common carrier) services. The provisioning of short codes is an integral component of common carrier text messaging services in the same way that the provisioning of phone numbers is integral to voice services. Therefore, in order to promote innovation and uphold the law while protecting consumers, the Commission must act to halt the open discrimination in which carriers currently engage.”
Public Knowledge noted in its filing that, “It does not appear that Commission has ever felt it necessary to point out that provisioning phone numbers is a part of the underlying Title II service.” However, cellular companies and their allies “have given no legal justification for separating the two,” PK said, adding: “But because carriers have begun discriminating in text messaging, the Commission must now make it explicit that short codes, like phone numbers, are part and parcel of a Title II service. To say otherwise is to say that while § 202 prohibits carriers from discriminating in connecting customers’ phone calls, they can discriminate all they want in actually offering those customers phone service.”
Gigi B. Sohn, Public Knowledge president and co-founder, said, “The Commission should act to grant our petition. There is little doubt that short codes and text messages should be protected by the Communications Act, and every indication that cell companies are taking advantage of the regulatory uncertainty. The Commission still has time to act to protect consumers.”
A copy of PK’s filing is here.
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