The ongoing uncertainty over major carriers’ handling of political texting may be holding back investment in the space.
Practitioners are waiting to see what impact AT&T and T-Mobile’s introduction of a new regime governing Application-to-Person (A2P) messaging sent via standard 10-digit long code (10DLC) phone numbers has on political texting.
T-Mobile, which practitioners see as the carrier moving most aggressively on this issue, recently “announced carrier fees will be applied to both unregistered and registered traffic starting June 1, 2021,” according to Twilio, a texting platform used by many political vendors.
In the meantime, the murky regulatory picture is already having an effect.
“Definitely folks are not investing [in] the P2P space as much as they otherwise would,” Yoni Landau, CEO of Movement Labs, told C&E.
Still, at least on the Democratic side, practitioners continue to organize themselves on Twitter under the hashtag #Stop10DLC and on “big tent” conference calls with vendors, organizers, consultants and progressive organization staff every other Friday.
“Vendors are rightly letting the righteous organizations lead,” said Landau, a call organizer. “A coalition of non-partisan groups engaging marginalized communities is stepping up to lead the work. This is how it should be — the communities that use this technology to make sure their people are registered and know how to vote are leading. State Voices, MoveOn and TMC are the anchors.”
He added: “There is different information being given to different parties — nothing has really moved yet though and T-Mobile, whose thought of as the most aggressive, has pushed back the roll out date.”
Despite the uncertainty, not all vendors in the space are in a wait-and-see posture. Hustle last month launched Hustle Studio, which allows users to create and distribute videos via text message.
The feature was unveiled following the company’s acquisition of Tape, a mobile video stories platform, earlier this year. D’Shawna Bernard, Hustle’s director of political partners, said the company is monitoring the 10DLC developments. “Hustle is able to pivot as needed,” Bernard said. “There are a lot of loopholes in what has been proposed thus far.”
Bernard expects the service to be an alternative to other video distribution channels, like Instagram Stories or YouTube.
“It’s widening the tent in a lot of way,” she said. “Now you’re not limited to just social media platforms, or email campaigns, but you can meet the people who don’t have social media and meet them where they are.”
Clients pay to access Hustle Studio, and the video texting service is then available through two different plans: one that bills per message sent and other per content uploaded.