Stupid Spin

Tom Pullar-Strecker writes in the Dom Post:

People might be forgiven for taking a joint media statement issued by Parents Inc and Youthline on Wednesday at face value. The charities said they were concerned the Commerce Commission’s proposal to regulate mobile termination charges might have a ”negative impact”.

Why would they be getting involved in this issue?

Vodafone’s charitable arm, the Vodafone Foundation, awarded Youthline $200,000 to build a centre in Papatoetoe in March and has also paid the salary of a Youthline counsellor. Parents Inc announced a three year partnership with Vodafone in June.

And their arguments:

Both Parents Inc. and Youthline are concerned about the other unintended consequences of regulation, such as the potential for an increase in text spam and text bullying. When a service is very cheap or free, it increases the risk of abuse.

They’re arguing that a reduction in the cost to phone or text someone is a bad thing as it may lead to text spamming and worst of all child abuse by text bullying.

That is like arguing we should introduce a charge to send e-mails, to reduce e-mail spam and e-mail flame wars. Absolute throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Yes it is possible more companies may try to send text spam, if sending texts is cheaper. However commercial text spamming is against the law, and further the telcos have a code of practice that bans it from their networks.

Pilbrow says, “One of the issues with young people and parents is that the technology is growing so fast we have not had time to put boundaries around it. Parents struggle with it, and when spam and other areas of abuse are factored in, the issues for parents increase immensely.”

So lowering the mobile termination rate will add to family stress for parents. I can not believe anyone in their right mind allowed this press release to go out with such vapid and stupid arguments – obviously motivated by a desire to please their funder.

Youthline CEO Stephen Bell is particularly concerned about text bullying. “The mobile is such a personal communications device, and teenagers in particular rush to read and respond to a text message as soon as they hear the phone beep. Texts can easily be anonymous, which emboldens bullies and intimidates victims. Anything that makes it easier for bullies is of grave concern and we should take it very seriously.”

Again this is just an outrageous argument. It is like arguing that lowering the price of petrol makes it easier for drunk drivers, or that lowering the price of newspapers make it easier for arsonists!

Incidentially Curia, which I own did some market research for Exceltium for their Lower the Rate, Mate campaign. This was well publicised at the time. My views on mobile termination rates pre-date that arrangement, and my response to these press release is entirely my own initiative fueled by outrage at the arguments used. No-one at all pointed the article out to me, suggested I should blog on it, or even knows I was going to blog on it.

There are valid arguments for and against mobile termination rate regulation. However scaremongering about text bullying and spam are not amongst them, and shame on whomever put these groups up to making such ludicrous assertions.

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