T-Mobile banning Twitter makes no business sense

twitter
If you don’t understand it, don’t allow it.

That could be the thinking behind why mobile operator T-Mobile has begun blocking Twitter usage in the US, and opening up a customer service debacle, not to mention a public relations one.

After contacting T-Mobile’s customer support, some bloggers are quoting responses where T-Mobile simply cites their terms of service, saying that Twitter isn’t an authorized third-party service and so won’t be allowed.

In fact, Twitter itself has a caution about using the service on a mobile phone:

[…] Consult your service provider to ensure that your text plan covers your Twitter usage. Give your provider the Twitter phone number you’ll be using to see if you’ll incur extra charges.

They might need to edit that text to add something like "…or to see if your provider won’t allow usage."

In any event, while T-Mobile may well be within their rights to enable a service block like this, the way in which they’ve gone about it is not smart at all.

There’s a lot of confusion as some people can receive messages from Twitter but not send them; others have no idea why messages aren’t getting through.

What I fail to understand is why any mobile operator would want to prohibit use of a service over its network where using it costs the customer money.

You pay to send a Twitter message if it goes by SMS, just like any other text message.

Maybe T-Mobile is concerned about heavy usage by people who Twitter a lot and get message notifications sent to their mobile phone. Yet isn’t it the case that, typically, you pay to receive text messages in the US as well as send them?

Not only that, more tools are available that make it so easy to use Twitter from a mobile phone. Twitter has a site specifically formatted for mobiles. And if you use a Blackberry, you can now Twitter from one of those.

No, T-Mobile’s action makes little sense to me.

All that’s happening at the moment is an increasing number of angry bloggers who are T-Mobile customers are writing lots of negative commentary about T-Mobile. It won’t be long before this is picked up by mainstream media.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Shel Holtz

    Absurd of T*Mobile to dictate where people can send SMS messages, but there are probably ways around this. First, use the m.twitter.com web interface, so messages go directly to twitter without using SMS. Second, set up a Jott.com account, call the number, then direct your message to Twitter. Both methods will probably work just fine despite the ban.

  2. Stuart Bruce

    A very strange move and hopefully not one it will try in the UK. My contract is with T-mobile and I’m very happy with it – better customer service than O2 or Vodafone who I’ve tried in the past.

  3. chrispian

    This is a move not unlike ISPs in the early days who offered “unlimited” accounts, as well as web hosts who offer “unlimited” bandwidth. What they both say in their fine print is, as long as you don’t use TOO much. ISPs and web hosts would often cut people off who were using a huge chunk of their pipes every month.

    T-Mobile offers Unlimited Text Messages and it seems that by unlimited they mean more than the usual limit but less than you might actually need. But instead of kicking off the people using it the most like ISPs and web hosts, they decided to block the source! That’s my theory. So many people on T-Mobile have unlimited text and use it to not only send tweets but get their updates to their phone that T-Mobile was seeing huge usage on their end. They want someone to pay for it. They’ve already duped users into paying $20 extra dollars a month for unlimited text so now they need Twitter to pay.

    That’s my guess.

  4. neville

    That’s not a bad theory, chrispian. And I agree with Shel and Stuart: absurd and strange.

    It looks like T-Mobile USA has right on their side, according to their terms of service. Yet what price ‘right’ when invoking those T&C to justify this action just doesn’t make good business sense?

    Reading a ZDNet post where Net Neutrality is now being linked in.

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/ip-telephony/?p=2877

    And look at this comment in Bibleboy’s blog (the blogger who first posted about this), from a fireman talking about the L.A. fire dept’s use of Twitter:

    We’ll be watching this closely, as our agency uses Twitter and other tools for the common good of those we proudly serve.

    I don’t see how T-Mobile will come out of this a winner. Right isn’t right in this case.

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