Fool Me Once...

February 13, 2008
Greg Spector is head of corporate communications at Rebtel. And he feels like he’s been had.
Writing on the Rebtel blog a few days ago, Spector is angry with himself for believing Goliath's (Verizon's) promises.
Stupid Rebtel. We should have known better.
I’m reposting the rest of Spector’s complaint below. But first a comment: I love a good “David versus Goliath” brawl as much as the next guy, but in the spirit of open-mindedness, let’s assume that the good business folks at Verizon simply got too busy to close the loop with Rebtel. Maybe they were too busy chasing down a loose patent or something? In any event, I’m sure that once the good people at Verizon get wind of the fact that Rebtel is once again turning up the volume to be heard, they’ll remember, and they’ll discover that the order enabling the free exchange of SMS got stuck to the bottom of some file folder on someone’s desk in Marketing. Or Legal. Or maybe even in the Executive Suite.
After all, if Verizon promised Rebtel they would allow it, they wouldn’t just go back on their word, would they?
Would they?
And now, (as promised…) the rest of Greg Spector’s blog:
Soon after Public Knowledge, Free Press and others filed a petition asking the FCC to rule that text messaging and related short codes are protected from “unjust and unreasonable discrimination,” Rebtel – which was named in the petition – received some attention in the press, and Verizon was none too happy about it.
I’m talking about the Verizon that reported $1 billion in earning last quarter while adding 2 million wireless customers to bring its total to 65.7 million. 
The Verizon that went to Capitol Hill recently as part of the CTIA to ask that they be spared from the indignities of “burdensome regulation” on their text-messaging services and short-code offerings.
The same Verizon that told BusinessWeek that Rebtel can “still text-message our customers to offer their service.”
And the very same Verizon that is now preventing its customers from sending standard SMS – text messages – to themselves and their friends if they contain local phone numbers issued by Rebtel.
Goliath didn’t like the negative attention it received in the press regarding its treatment of little David. It doesn’t want people — especially people at the FCC — to know that Verizon violates their customers’ freedom of speech every day.
So they contacted Rebtel just before the New Year and told us that they would stop blocking their customers’ SMS — IF — Rebtel would shut down all PR on the short code issue and send a letter to the FCC in praise of Verizon and its new openness and cooperation with Rebtel.
Being the trusting souls that we are, we complied. We stopped talking to the press. And when the press called during January we explained that Verizon had seen the light — that we were talking with Verizon and expected to have an announcement from the two companies shortly.
At first Verizon complained because there were some straggler stories appearing on the Web. And then there was silence. No response to our mail. Return phone calls came to a halt. Nothing.
It took as a week or two but we finally realized that we had been tricked. Verizon had tricked us into silence. Well, shame on us! We should have known better. And now we do.
But the true shame — the real crime — is that Verizon customers are being prevented from sending SMS messages to themselves and their friends from the Rebtel Web site.
We’re not asking for special access or treatment. We just want Verizon customers to be able to send standard text messages to themselves and their friends regardless of the content. That’s what free speech is all about. But Verizon thinks differently.
Because it doesn’t like what’s in those SMS — local phone numbers that will connect Verizon customers to their friends and family abroad for just pennies per minute instead of the highway robbery charged by Verizon for the same call — and because they don’t like the viral nature of the Rebtel service, Verizon shuts them down. It turns off their customers’ right to send SMS.
Well, live and learn, as they say. But I promise, this one ain’t over! This David, for one, is pissed.

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