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Suit against T-Mobile for text blocking heads to federal court this week

A federal court will hear arguments this week on EZ Texting's suit against T-Mobile for for blocking cellphone text messages. The case has spurred debate over the government's role as a regulator of text-messaging communications on cellphones.

On Thursday, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York will conduct a hearing on allegations that T-Mobile stopped sending texts for EZ Texting's customer WeedMaps.com, a medical marijuana distribution Web site, because of the content of the site. EZ Texting said that T-Mobile's action stifled free speech and that rules to protect phone users from blocking should also be applied to texts.

T-Mobile disputes EZ Texting's claims in comments to the court, saying the New York-based messaging firm didn't comply by T-Mobile's best practices guidelines. EZ Texting was originally assigned the short code 313131 for cellphone users to call and receive text messages for promotions from bars and night clubs. When EZ Texting decided to add marketing alerts for WeedMaps.com, it didn't inform T-Mobile of the change. T-Mobile said it and the cellular industry require such notification from its short-code partners.

Last Friday, EZ Texting responded to the court that it believed that Weedmaps.com texts were blocked because of the site's content. Of T-Mobile's best practices guidelines, EZ Texting CEO Shane Neman said, "This is not common industry practice, and T-Mobile never enforced this purported requirement until it learned about the Web site at issue here.”

Neman said that 4INFO, the firm that gave EZ Texting its short code, learned that T-Mobile would be blocking EZ Texting because it was "considered inappropriate." An EZ Texting manager was given a similar message in a conversation with a T-Mobile employee, Neman said.

The case highlights a murky regulatory environment for one of the fastest-growing mediums of communications. Consumers sent 152 billion text messages last year, compared with 9 billion in 2005. The FCC doesn't regulate text messages, which is considered an information service like broadband Internet, in the same way that it does plain old phone service.

Public Knowledge, a media reform group, said the unfolding details support their push for the Federal Communications Commission to clearly assert its authority to regulate text messages as a common carriage service, like regular phones. The FCC prohibits calls from being blocked in a discriminating fashion, and the same rules should apply to texts, said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge.

"The additional details in this case again make it abundantly clear the Federal Communications Commission must act to protect the legal status of text messaging and short codes," she said.

By Cecilia Kang  | September 27, 2010; 9:47 AM ET
Categories:  Mobile, T-Mobile  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: FCC to take up bill shock, attempts to ad mobile services to phone fund at October meeting
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Posted by: strade34 | September 28, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

It just goes to show what a waste of time and money is gone through to criminalize marijuana. Look, it is readily obtained most places, and in some states, from certain stores. Legalize, regulate, and tax, to make sure consumers receive what they're paying for, and the government is spared the costs of incarcerating people and gets tax revenue into the bargain.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | September 28, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I find this very frightening. T-Mobile really thinks it has the right to regulate content??? Does that mean it is surreptitiously listening in on phone conversations, and will cut a customer's service if the customer happens to be talking about explicit sexual acts, or other content with which T-Mobile disagrees?

Posted by: bibleburner | September 28, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Wait a minute !
If they are going to ban ” WeedMaps ” than i have a suggestion that makes even more sense . Ban all stores from any form of advertising that sells or promotes the sale of alcohol , tobacco & pharmaceuticals .
Examples : Grocery stores ,Pharmacies , Restaurants , liquor stores and anyone that sells / pushes alcoholic beverages , drugs & cigarettes . After all there are
more murders ,DUI’S ,family & spousal abuse ,assaults , robberies and misc. crime in a single 48 hour period in just Los Angeles County alone by the sales of alcohol , legal drugs & tobacco than what would probally occur in 5 years in the entire State of Cali. from sells of Marijuana at these dispensaries .
Just after i moved out of Eureka in , Humboldt County there were two armed robberies at Pharmacies over Oxycotin ( See ; The Times standard ) yet these same Pharmacies sell a ” Marijuana drug testing Kit ” . Great deception , huh ?

dump
T - Mobile

Posted by: redants | October 2, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

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