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Wyden wants text messages protected from blocking, discrimination


Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the Federal Communications Commission Friday to classify text messaging as a telecommunications service.

During its open meeting on Wednesday, the FCC will vote on a proposed declaratory ruling classifying text messaging as an information service, which Wyden said would permit telephone carriers to block text messages to favor their own texting services and stifle free speech.

In 2007, Verizon Wireless blocked mass text messages from Naral Pro-Choice America, an advocacy group supporting women’s reproductive rights. Verizon argued it had the right to censor this content, deeming the messages “controversial and unsavory.”

In recent years, several petitioners have submitted filings to the FCC detailing a series of incidents in which carriers try to force texters to pay for more expensive short code system or enterprise text messaging to reach their audience, rather than by traditional text messages.

“In the 21st century, text messaging is as essential as telephone service, facilitating trillions of messages between senders and receivers each year – from businesses and customers, from organizations and supporters, from parents and teachers, and from doctors and patients,” Wyden and nine other senators wrote in Friday’s letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“Should text messaging be classified as an information service, telephone carriers would be free to block any text message they wish,” they wrote. “We urge you to right this wrong and classify text messaging as a telecommunications service, affording this vital means of communications protections that promote innovation and support freedom of speech.”

Joining Wyden in signing the letter are Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), 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 (I-Vt.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

A copy of the letter is available here.

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