A group of 10 Senate Democrats have sent a letters to Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, urging the agency not to re-classify text messages as information services instead of an information service, a decision it is expected to consider at a meeting on Wednesday.
“Should text messaging be classified as an information service, carriers would be free to block any text message they wish,” the Senators wrote in their letter, which was delivered to Pay on Friday.
The FCC announced the day before Thanksgiving that it will consider a proposal to create a reassigned number database and to re-classify text messages as information services, with the intention of giving telephone carriers more power to block messages deemed to be from spammers or robo-texters.
There is no need to re-classify text messages as information services, the Senators argued, because text messages are covered under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which means anyone sending a text message must obtain consent from the recipient prior to initiating a conversation. “In recent years, the FCC confirmed that telephone carriers can stop unwanted robotexts or spam without classifying texts as an information service,” wrote the group, which included Sens. Edward Markey [D-Mass.], Ron Wyden [D-Ore.], Kirsten Gillibrand [D-N.Y.], Tammy Baldwin [D-Wisc.], Richard Blumenthal [D-Conn.], Tina Smith [D-Minn.], Ben Cardin [D-Md.], Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.], Bernie Sanders [D-Vt.], and Dianne Feinstein [D-Calif.]. “Text messaging is an essential telecommunications service that should receive all of the pro-consumer, pro-competition protections afforded under Title II of the Communications Act. That means no blocking or discrimination of lawful content.”
Companies in the ARM industry have been dealing with carriers who are either blocking legitimate calls from being placed or giving individuals the opportunity to label legitimate calls as spam. These false-positive robocalls have drastically reduced connection rates for collection agencies. Putting more power into the hands of the carriers could mean even lower contact rates for collection agencies moving forward.
The re-classification would “prevent a flood of spam robotexts from clogging Americans’ phones,” Pai said in a statement announcing the proposals last month. “Americans rely on and trust text messaging. That’s why we need to act to prevent a deluge of spam texts and scam messages.”