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November 26, 2018

Protecting Consumers by Stopping Text Messaging Spam .

Protecting Consumers by Stopping Text Messaging Spam

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CTIA SVP Scott Bergmann
Scott Bergmann
Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs

From texting to app-based platforms, Americans have embraced messaging in all forms. Last year, we sent nearly a trillion texts, the equivalent of 28,000 messages every second of every day for an entire year. And that’s not counting the trillions of messages carried by app-based platforms.

We like messaging because it’s faster and easier than other ways to communicate. Consumers also—rightly, because it’s true—view messaging as a trusted communications medium, one not filled with a deluge of spam.

Wireless Messaging is a Trusted Communications Environment

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Wireless Messaging is a Trusted Communications Environment

Source: CTIA National Tracking Poll by Morning Consult, Nov. 15, 2016.

Thankfully, the FCC announced last week that it would preserve the wireless industry’s ability to protect consumers from unwanted spam in a competitive messaging environment. By affirming that classification of messaging services at the agency’s December meeting, the Commission will make clear that text messages are just like any other messaging app or service that we use.

That’s the right call and a big win for consumers. Let’s break down why that’s the case.

Wireless protects your text message experience. The wireless industry works tirelessly to protect consumers and competition throughout the messaging ecosystem, deploying measures—like filtering software—that stop unlawful and unwanted spam from reaching consumers.

Wireless providers have also adopted new technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to adjust and calibrate these spam filters in real-time to make sure that we’re getting the messages we do want to receive.

SMS & Email Spam Rates

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SMS & Email Spam Rates

Note: This chart is an illustrative representation of the Symantec, Kaspersky Lab, and Truecaller estimates of email and SMS spam rates in 2017-2018

These efforts have been remarkably successful. Today, less than three percent of SMS messages are spam, compared to the over half of all emails that are estimated to be spam.

The FCC’s action preserves the wireless industry’s ability to continue working to deliver the messages that consumers want to receive.

Potential Pandora’s Box of spam. Don’t just take our word for it. After a request that the FCC declare messaging a telecommunications service, over two dozen state Attorneys General, on a bipartisan basis, urged the agency to refrain from any change that “would open up the spam floodgates” and “make text messaging increasingly susceptible to the same unwanted incursions as email and telemarketing calls.”

If mobile messaging were treated just like telephone calls, your messaging experience would be significantly different because the wireless industry’s hands would be tied trying to prevent text spam from reaching you.

The result? You’d start to receive an avalanche of unwanted and illegal messages. And like today’s email experience, that would mean messaging becomes less trusted—and more harmful, as more messages seeking to defraud reach consumers.  That is what state AGs, the FCC, and the wireless industry are trying to prevent from happening.

The messaging marketplace is thriving and competitive. The success of provider-provisioned text messaging services has spurred the development of competing—and increasingly popular—messaging services.

Even as the overall messaging market continues to grow, traditional text messaging has yielded significant market share to messaging platforms and applications, like Facebook Messenger, What’s App, Signal, Slack, and Apple’s iMessage. Today, consumers send three messages on these apps for every sent SMS message, an amount that has increased by 50 percent in just the past two years.

Whether they’re using wireless provider-offered SMS or any of these messaging apps or platforms, consumers view these services similarly. Treating these services differently from a regulatory perspective would distort the dynamic, competitive messaging marketplace that has thrived and continues to evolve.

What does this mean in practice? If you use an iPhone, the government shouldn’t have different rules depending upon whether your message pops up as blue or green.

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The FCC is preserving the wireless industry’s ability to protect consumers, while fostering a competitive and innovative messaging ecosystem.  That’s the right result.

By allowing the continued use and evolution of consumer protection measures that support the success of the entire messaging ecosystem, we’ll keep millions of spam messages from popping up on our phones. That’s an outcome we should all be thankful for!

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