Last weekend, T-Mobile users who sent SMS updates to their Twitter feeds found that their messages were being blocked. Naturally, tempers flared. Many customers contacted T-Mobile to complain about the problem, but T-Mobile had no answer for the sudden blockage. (It turns out it was a technical glitch on Twitter’s end.) What’s interesting is that T-Mobile’s Executive Customer Relations rep responded to one user’s complaints with a hardcore reminder that when it comes to customer rights, his pretty much begin and end with being required to pay his bill on time. Nice PR work there, T-Mobile.
My name is Marianne Maestas and I am with the Executive Customer Relations department of T-Mobile. I am contacting you on behalf of Mr. Robert Dotson in regards to the email that you sent him yesterday evening.
In your email, you express concerns, as you are not able to use your service for Twitter. As you have been advised, Twitter is not an authorized third-party service provider, and therefore you are not able to utilize service from this provide any longer. You indicate your feeling that this is a violation of the Net Neutrality.
T-Mobile would like to bring to your attention that the Terms and Conditions of service, to which you agreed at activation, indicate “… some Services are not available on third-party networks or while roaming. We may impose credit, usage, or other limits to Service, cancel or suspend Service, or block certain types of calls, messages, or sessions (such as international, 900, or 976 calls) at our discretion.” Therefore, T-Mobile is not in violation of any agreement by not providing service to Twitter. T-Mobile regrets any inconvenience, however please note that if you remain under contract and choose to cancel service, you will be responsible for the $200 early termination fee that would be assessed to the account at cancellation.
To switch topics a bit and look at the Net Neutrality argument, a poster on this Twitter blog points out that while cell phone service is clearly not part of the official argument for Net Neutrality, many of the principles are the same, and that no carrier should be able to block short codes. On the Wired blog, a reader argues that cell phone users should shut up and deal with it, because short codes are in no way protected:
The arguments are relevant to the issue at hand, because text messaging is not the Internet. Until your communication hits the TPC/IP layer, it’s subject to all the corporate crap that phone messages are. The phone companies are more balkanized than you realize, clearly. Specifically, phone service providers are allowed to block any short code they want. Read the policies for using a short code to provide service.
T-Mobile already has the contractual right to pick and choose which short codes it supports.
“Net Neutrality outrage: reports of T-Mobile blocking Twitter” [ZDNet]
“Twitter, Tweeters, And T-Mobile: Everyone Loses” [Silicon Alley Insider]
“T-Mobile Attacks Net Neutrality Unnecessarily: Twitter Problem Not Its Fault” [Wired]