Stop the Text Tax

Two pieces of news this week confirm that T-Mobile is doing its best to overtake Verizon as the least consumer-friendly wireless carrier in the US.

First, a text-messaging company called EZ Texting sued T-Mobile, claiming that the carrier stopped the company from sending texts on behalf of clients because it didn't approve of texts from WeedMaps.com, a website that provides maps of legal medical marijuana fields.

It goes without saying that if companies are promoting legal activity – and WeedMaps.com qualifies as legal — then the carriers have no business blocking their texts.

Second, T-Mobile announced it is changing the fees for services using short codes over its network, services often used by small businesses and other enterprises. The fee: an additional one-quarter of one cent on each text message (consumers won't be hit by the tax — directly).

This may sound like small change, but consider the case of the questions-and-answers site ChaCha. According to CEO Scott Jones, ChaCha answers two million questions a day, mostly via text. This tax would then cost the service nearly $5,000 extra per day. Undoubtedly, this tax would get passed on to users in the form of higher costs or lack of access.

For Jones, it's the latter: "Because this charge will be passed along to ChaCha, amounting to a 600% price increase on October 1st, we have no choice but to drop T-Mobile customers from our SMS service, unless something changes."

This is essentially triple billing. Companies pay to send a message, pay again via a tax to have that message routed, and customers pay to receive them too.

The carriers have been free to set whatever outrageous prices they can concoct for this service. Now, not only are most carriers charging customers 20 cents for each message sent and received (that's about 60 times the cost of actually sending a message), but they're taxing the marketing companies to eek out just little bit more of a gouge.

This kind of price gouging needs to be rooted out from the start, before the other carriers take hold. You know they're salivating at the idea.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good