In a complaint filed in federal district court in New York, EZ Texting alleges that it learned on Sept. 9 that certain wireless providers objected to a short code user's Web site -- www.legalmarijuanadispensary.com -- which offered information about obtaining medical marijuana in California and other states.
"The website advertised that users who sought relevant information could receive such information by using EZ Texting's short codes," the company alleges. "Because medical marijuana is legal in California and the other states identified on the website, and the website did not advocate illegal drug use or medical marijuana use in places where it was not legal, there is nothing illegal or objectionable about this website using text message calls to communicate."
EZ Texting says it ended its relationship with the site, but the next day, Sept. 10, T-Mobile allegedly began blocking EZ Texting's short code. T-Mobile also allegedly said at the time that it didn't approve of shared short codes.
EZ Texting says that it is in danger of going under, unless T-Mobile stops blocking the short code. The mobile marketing company is asking for an injunction ordering T-Mobile to restore short code service.
There might be more to the story than EZ Texting's papers indicate. T-Mobile says it doesn't comment on pending litigation, so it's hard to know exactly why the carrier took action.
But, based on the allegations in the lawsuit, T-Mobile's actions appear to be similar to those taken in 2007 by Verizon Wireless, which briefly refused to allow abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice to use a short code to reach members who had signed up for text messages. Verizon Wireless reversed its decision the same day that a front-page story about the matter appeared in The New York Times.
That incident prompted advocacy groups Public Knowledge and Free Press to ask the Federal Communications Commission to rule that carriers can't block short codes based on content. Today, Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge president and co-founder, reiterated that request. "The FCC should put a fast end to this blocking by issuing the ruling we asked them for three years ago," Sohn said in a statement. "EZ Texting and other companies should be able to focus on growing their business rather than filing lawsuits to prevent blocking."