I never imagined that I might write copy that would appear on the front page of the New York Times, but it was there in the print edition, reproduced in a screenshot from the signup pages my team produced.
My client NARAL Pro-Choice America ran into a bit of a problem with Verizon over the text messaging program I helped them put together. It smacked of censorship, so they went public with the issue and got a reversal from the CEO of Verizon within an hour. Still, the potential for this to happen to others is still very real. I’m not quoted in the article, and wasn’t directly involved in getting it published, but congratulations to the savvy folks at NARAL Pro-Choice America who turned this problem into an opportunity and stood up for us all. Fighting the carriers publicly isn’t usually an option for most working with mobile, but the alternatives leave much to be desired.
Even without taking into account free speech issues, the current US shortcode process is overly expensive and difficult. Many choose established shared-shortcodes to avoid as much of it as possible. I’ve helped bring live dozens of shortcodes, and have seen first-hand how good programs are frequently delayed or denied for trivial and/or arbitrary reasons. As a consumer, though, I’ve tried mobile programs which should never have been allowed to go live, violating rules that do protect the interest of consumer and carrier alike.
I’d love the carriers to agree to a uniform set of rules and to delegate program approval and certification to a single body (or trusted aggregators), leaving each carrier to handle technical provisioning only. This would help the whole industry by creating more consistency for protections to the consumer and would reduce costs to carriers and to those who build SMS programs by cutting redundancies and the arbitrary differences of multiple standards as well as regulating the updates to those standards. As it stands now, it is difficult for even the most diligent experts to keep up with all the rules and how they are interpreted — imagine having to file your income tax with five different governments that each have differing rules that are updated quarterly!
As to the free speech issue, I was heartened to read Nancy Keenan and Roberta Combs in the Washington Post. Right on! When the presidents of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Christian Coalition of America agree on something, we should all stand up and take notice. As power shifts, corporate censorship may be a more important issue in this century than government censorship has been in the past.