AT&T: Up to 30% of OTT messaging is mobile spam

Mobile spam remains a serious problem, AT&T (NYSE: T) told the FCC in a lengthy report, due primarily to the emergence of OTT messaging providers such as Twilio, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

In a report filed with the Commission this week, the carrier said it began to bring SMS spam under control in late 2012 with improved defenses such as automatically detecting and shutting down spammers. But OTT messaging companies that use web-based platforms rather than traditional cellular channels see spam rates of between 2 percent and 30 percent, according to AT&T's report, while less than 0.1 percent of SMS messages are spam.

The report comes amid a battle between the U.S. cellular industry and third-party mobile messaging companies over efforts to impose common carrier regulations on mobile messaging services. Twilio, a web-based messaging provider, has asked the FCC to make SMS services subject to Title II regulations, and CTIA responded in December, claiming such a move "would open the floodgates to unwanted and unlawful mass messages."

CTIA has also said that because text messaging involves the storing, retrieval and transformation of information, it is an information service rather than a telecommunications service. Therefore, according to the cellular-industry group, "there is no legal basis whatsoever for imposing a Title II framework."

Verizon (NYSE: VZ), AT&T and CTIA each made similar arguments in separate FCC filings last in November.

Those moves came in response to Twilio's August claim that carriers had blocked its business customers' messages. Twilio's service enables those businesses to send and receive texts using the same phone number they use to field voice calls from consumers. Twilio, which uses Amazon Web Services to send SMS missives to phones, said the carriers had begun to route its messages through a third-party messaging aggregator who demanded Twilio sign a contract to get those communications through. The carriers made that move, Twilio implied, because the messaging aggregator presumably shared those revenues with carriers.

The consumer-advocacy groups Common Cause, Free Press and Public Knowledge backed Twilio's position in an FCC filing of their own last month.

The FCC in February approved net neutrality rules for wireless carriers, essentially forbidding them to block messages sent over the web. But whether text messages can be blocked under net neutrality rules is still undetermined.

"To be clear, the wireless industry is committed to enhancing messaging offerings," according to this week's filing from the CTIA, which noted it is overseeing "an ecosystem-wide, multistakeholder process designed to enable hybrid traffic to reach those who wish to receive it while continuing to protect consumers from unwanted and unlawful traffic."

"This process is already working to address issues raised in the record and promote continued growth of messaging services," the filing continued. "Twilio's requested relief, in contrast, would undermine rather than promote consumer interests."

For more:
- see this AT&T report

Related articles:
CTIA punches back against Twilio in Title II tussle over the fate of SMS in net neutrality
Court doesn't tip its hand in FCC net neutrality case
FCC approves net neutrality rules for wireless, putting future zero-rating plans on notice