T-Mobile Ticks Off Business Texters, in Yet Another Case of Carrier Greed

Last Updated Sep 17, 2010 7:55 PM EDT

As data use has become big on wireless phones, there's been an inevitable clash of carriers and the rest of the world. T-Mobile will hike prices for messaging aggregators in another example of the colliding interests of telecom companies and the industries that have found the Internet, wired or wireless, to be a great tool.

The growing animosity between the two camps has been obvious since the clash over net neutrality and the resulting secret talks among a small group of companies led by telecoms and cable service providers.

There are two reasons that both boil down to money, except on two different sides of the equation. The first is that the carriers are sure that they have the inalienable right to make money anytime anyone does anything with a telephone. That's why Verizon (VZ) wants its own Android marketplace, whether or not Google (GOOG) already has one.

The other side is that of cost. Carriers apparently feel that everyone wants to make a buck and treat telephone and data connectivity as something by right they have for free. There is a little something in this argument. How many Internet companies expect communications networks to remain robust enough to allow users to find their services? It is a bit presumptuous because under this approach, companies expect telecoms to keep funding capital improvements to their equipment so the Internet companies can continue to make money.

However, there is a slight flaw: Both companies and consumers pay on their ends for traffic. The carriers already get a cut of the action and presumably cover their costs through the money they charge for connectivity. Apparently they want to take the money while limiting capital expenses. (And, to be far, to some degree wireless expansion means navigating permission from communities that often want better service but don't want cell towers in their back yards.)

That's how the T-Mobile issue has come about. Originally companies thought that the carrier would impose additional charges on companies that sent texts over its network. Oh no, no, said T-Mobile. Apparently only messaging aggregators, which send messages without using a cell phone on behalf of companies, are the ones ripe for the taxing. Yeah, as if they won't pass the costs on to their customers.

Again we have this weird stance by a telecom. Presumably it charges consumers for the privilege of getting text messages on their cell phones. And, presumably, it charges the aggregators, who then charge the businesses, for the texts sent out. No matter in what network the SMS message originates or ends, the carriers involved are already getting paid. So what's the problem? Why, there's more gold in them thar hills.

Expect to see a lot more of this over time. It shows why net neutrality will be vital to wireless data communications. Give the carriers a way to charge more money, and they will, no matter how many people have already paid them.

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Image: RGBStock.com user xymonau, site standard license.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.