Public Knowledge and Free Press: Sprint Shutdown of Haiti Relief Effort Shows FCC Needs to Protect Text Messaging

For Immediate Release

Public Knowledge and Free Press
Contact: 

Liz Rose, Communications Director, Free Press, 202-265-1490 x32

Public Knowledge and Free Press: Sprint Shutdown of Haiti Relief Effort Shows FCC Needs to Protect Text Messaging

WASHINGTON - Two leading public interest groups today renewed their call for the
Federal Communications Commission to safeguard text messaging after
they revealed that Sprint will shut down a fundraising campaign aimed
at helping earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Public Knowledge and Free Press said this new
incident provided fresh evidence that the FCC needs to act to prevent
telephone companies from having unlimited power to shut down
text-messaging campaigns they may not like for whatever reason. A
petition filed by those two groups and others asking the FCC to protect
text messaging from the whims of big telephone companies has been
pending at the FCC since Dec. 11, 2007, after Verizon arbitrarily
denied NARAL Pro-Choice America a short code for text messages to be
sent to that group's members.

The current Haiti campaign, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services
(CRS), was structured to raise more money than the standard $10
donation limit imposed by carriers; instead, it raised an average
donation many times higher before Sprint ordered a stop to the
campaign. Unlike other campaigns, in which donations were made by
responding to a text message from a mobile phone, the CRS campaign
allowed prospective donors to make a phone call to the relief agency
and to speak with a person at the agency. Jed Alpert, founder of Mobile
Commons, the company providing the text-messaging service to CRS, said
in a filing with the FCC that Sprint has yet to explain why it is
arbitrarily terminating the program.

"The implications of this case go well beyond the growing number of
anecdotal cases so far documented in the record," the filing stated.
Furthermore, "The Commission has an opportunity to establish the rule
of law with regard to text messaging and short codes. It can require
that carriers deal fairly, and that non-profits and commercial
enterprises have the necessary stability and legal protection from
unjust and unreasonable discrimination to innovate and explore new ways
to use this communications technology. But if the Commission once again
turns a blind eye to carrier discrimination by letting the Petition
continue to languish, this too will send a message to both carriers and
users of short codes, and we can expect such arbitrary discrimination
to continue to increase."

M. Chris Riley, policy counsel for Free Press,
said, "Text messaging users, and businesses using short codes for
innovative forms of outreach, cannot be left in the lurch of loopholes.
The FCC must be the cop on the beat, providing regulatory oversight to
protect against gatekeeper abuse in these services."

Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge,
said, "The Commission has had it within its power to stop big telephone
companies from acting like medieval barons exercising justice over
their serfs. It's time for that sad state of affairs to stop. The
Commission has to put an end to the arbitrary treatment of text
messaging from carriers and to require carriers to deal fairly and
consistently with those companies offering exciting and innovative
services. If the Commission doesn't act, the excitement and innovation
will disappear in short order."

View the documents filed with the FCC:

www.freepress.net/files/CRS_FCC_Letter.pdf


www.freepress.net/files/Alpert_Statement_signed.pdf

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Public Knowledge is a Washington, D.C.- based public interest group working to defend consumer rights in the emerging digital culture. More information is available at www.publicknowledge.org

Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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