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Verizon Wireless blocks 4Info flagship SMS short code

Verizon Wireless? decision to block SMS search and alert service 4Info?s flagship common short code on Friday, Dec. 4 was allegedly due to a dust-up over following industry guidelines.

The Basking Ridge, NJ-based wireless carrier made the move after supposedly hearing from customers having issues with several short codes, one of them being 44636, which spells 4Info. The spat has affected 4Info?s ability to use that short code to send free ad-supported search and alert text messages to Verizon Wireless customers.

?This is something we don?t take lightly,? said Jeffrey Nelson, spokesman for Verizon Wireless. ?This is a last resort.

?This is not an arbitrary decision,? he said. ?This all based on MMA guidelines. There are a number of things that they didn?t do, issues of advertising and double opt-ins.?

Mr. Nelson said these ?outstanding issues? between Verizon Wireless and 4Info ?were not getting addressed.?

Shorted code
Based in San Mateo, CA, 4Info offers free SMS search and alert services to millions of people daily as part of its mobile media platform. Cofounder/CEO Zaw Thet defended his company?s practices.

?We are strong advocates for consumer choice, so it?s disappointing that Verizon customers were suddenly not allowed on Friday to access our free ad-supported search and alert services on 44636,? Mr. Thet said.

?This situation is also preventing Verizon customers from accessing great publisher content provided through the 44636 short code, such as the NBA, USA Today and the Green Bay Packers,? he said.

Several opted-in Verizon Wireless customers also missed their 4Info-supplied sports score alerts this past weekend.

?4Info believes that we complied with all Verizon requests regarding our SMS advertising on 44636 in a timely manner,? Mr. Thet said.

?However, on Friday, Verizon unilaterally elected to block the 4Info-branded 44636 service and partner content,? he said.

Can you hear me now?
Market researcher Nielsen has ranked 4Info as the largest provider of free, standard-rate, ad-supported SMS messages.

?We believe millions of consumers and hundreds of publishers have selected 4Info to provide their SMS information because of the solid emphasis we place on creating a positive and safe customer experience,? Mr. Thet said.

?We believe consumers should be able to choose the services they get to use on their phone,? he said.

As one of the leading carriers, Verizon Wireless works with many SMS services using thousands of short codes to reach its subscribers. But the carrier is known for its cautious approach to commercial communications with its customers.

In fact, while other carriers tout their mobile phones and technology, Verizon Wireless consistently holds up its network performance as a key reason for subscriber loyalty.

Though the carrier has differed with the mobile marketing industry in the past ? over a supposed SMS fee hike for commercial SMS messages, a move that generated widespread backlash last year ? this is the first time Verizon Wireless has turned its network off to such a major short code.

On the phone
The good news is that both parties are talking.

?We?re communicating with them,? Verizon Wireless? Mr. Nelson said. ?In the next week or two we hope they get their practices right.

?They acknowledge that they?ve been having problems for some time now,? he said. ?We?re hopeful that they get their practices in a place where they?re not having our customers complain.? 

4Info?s Mr. Thet too sounded a conciliatory note.

?4Info will continue to work with Verizon to resolve this dispute and restore services on the 44636 short code to Verizon customers,? Mr. Thet said.

?We are fortunate that our SMS ad network and mobile media business is much larger than just our search and alert services on 44636,? he said. ?This allows us to continue serving our publishing and brand partners? Verizon customers on our other short codes without interruption.

?We value offering full consumer access to all mobile services, so we will continue to pursue a resolution to this situation.?