I received a press release from the Mobile Internet Content Coalition (MICC) today about the new Sprint SMS messaging content restrictions, which I think could have devastating ramifications for mobile marketing in the future. Sprint has started to censor what its customers are able to receive on their mobile phones. I realize this is on April Fool’s Day, but this is no joke. Sprint wants to restrict its customers from the following:
- No more web links. Sprint doesn’t want its customers receiving web links and connecting to the mobile web from a text message.
- No more promotions, coupons, discounts, specials, etc. Sprint customers will now have to rely on paper coupons while their friends on other networks will have the ease and simplicity of using their phones to present text message coupons.
- Text messages in general. Sprint has also increased their text messaging rates so that now groups, organizations, and businesses either have to pay increased fees or they can just turn off access to Sprint customers.
Sprint’s SMS messaging restrictions are expected to go into effect on April 1, 2011.
The MICC press release is below for you to read.
WASHINGTON, DC – March 31, 2011 – In the wake of a recent announcement that Sprint intends to restrict the content that consumers can receive in text messages from businesses and nonprofits, the Mobile Internet Content Coalition (“MICC”) has called upon the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to take prompt action so that “text messages can flow without interference.”
According to information obtained by the 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.
In a filing with the FCC today, the MICC asked the Commission to make clear that wireless carriers cannot arbitrarily and discriminatorily restrict text messages from reaching consumers. The group notes that Sprint’s latest efforts are a continuation of a long history of abuse by Sprint. For example, following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which left 1.3 million people homeless and without food and water, Sprint prevented the Catholic Relief Services from accepting donations through mobile text messages. The MICC said that the FCC can and should take prompt action.
The filing submitted to the FCC by Arent Fox LLP, counsel to the MICC, is available here.