The Trump administration just made it a lot easier for big wireless providers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile to interfere with texting, all in the name of protecting consumers from spam, according Democrats and digital rights groups.
Have you ever signed up to receive text blasts from an activist campaign? Does your doctor’s office text you reminders about upcoming appointments?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted along party lines on Wednesday to classify SMS and MMS text messaging as a Title I “information service” rather than a Title II “telecommunications service” under federal law, a move that congressional Democrats and digital rights groups say will give wireless providers the power to block and censor text messages and widen the digital divide.
The decision applies to standard texting — the text messaging service that comes with your cell phone plan — rather than apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger that require data or a wi-fi connection.
The move follows a long list of deregulatory decisions by the FCC under President Trump, who installed a Republican majority on the commission after taking office. The FCC also reclassified the internet as a light-regulated “information service” in order to ditch popular net neutrality rules aimed at preventing telecom companies from blocking or playing favorites with legal web content.
Jessica Rosenworcel, the lone sitting Democrat at the FCC, noted in her dissenting statement that the vote to classify text messaging comes on the one-year anniversary of the net neutrality decision, and she is “not celebrating.”
“That means your carrier now has the legal right to block your text messages and censor the very content of your messages,” Rosenworcel said on Wednesday. “If that sounds familiar, it should. This agency did the same thing with Internet service last year.”
Ajit Pai, the Republican FCC chairman appointed by…