The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, here in the United States, has voted to allow for carriers to block spam text messages. The vote came with one opposition vote amongst the commissioners. Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel voted against it fearing that it could be abused by the larger carriers.
The ruling has much of the same feel as the Net Neutrality issue from last year. Essentially it eliminates the common carrier regulations and gives carriers the right to block messages. To Miss Rosenworcel’s concern, it eliminates potential safeguards against abuse of the new rule.
There is little doubt however that spam text messages is a significant issue here in the United States.
Text messaging has become a critical communications option for consumers with 1.77 trillion messages exchanged in the United States in 2017. Wireless messaging has become a trusted form of communication for millions of Americans in large part because wireless providers have taken measures to prevent spam and other unwanted or malicious traffic from clogging consumers’ phones. As a result of these efforts, wireless messaging remains a relatively spam- free service, with the spam rate for Short Message Service (SMS) estimated at less than 3%.
In the ruling, the FCC ruled against “mass-texting companies” who would be subject to the new rules once they are applied by carriers. These companies argued that SMS and MMS were a communication service and therefore subject to the Communications Act. That would limit carriers ability to block any message, spam or not. Instead, the commission ruled that text messaging is an information service and not subject to the Communications Act.