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I’m hoping this is not true.

T-Mobile Shuts Down Twitter Service for Good?

Would T-Mobile block Twitter users, even if they’re paying for unlimited messaging? I’ve read numerous reports like this of Twitter users missing out on messages from their Twittering friends.

Dozens of people on Satisfaction have been wondering why Twitter was down for them and fuming about the state of Twitter and T-Mobile.

The rhetoric is heating up, and the facts are not all in. But, based on a provocative and sharply worded e-mail response from a T-Mobile representative, things do not look good for Twitter or its enthusiasts:

“...Twitter is not an authorized third-party service provider, and therefore you are not able to utilize service from this provider any longer.... T-Mobile is not in violation of any agreement by not providing service to Twitter. T-Mobile regrets any inconvenience, however please note that if you remain under contract and choose to cancel service, you will be responsible for the $200 early termination fee that would be assessed to the account at cancellation.”


If legitimate, this e-mail, from Marianne Maestas, of the Executive Customer Relations department at T-Mobile, is striking. First and foremost, it positions T-Mobile as against innovation and against small businesses. What do small businesses have to do to comply with these new rules? What has changed in the past few days that warrants this kind of restriction? Closing systems like this brings to mind the e-mail wars between CompuServe and AOL. Haven’t we learned since then that open standards leads to more innovation and wealth? Besides, it’s services like Twitter that make T-Mobile’s product more valuable and more essential to users. It’s short-sighted at best to try to cut off this usage.

On top of that, it’s just plain mean-spirited. Not only are we not going to let you communicate with your friends via Twitter, T-Mobile is saying, we’re going to charge you as much money as possible if you disagree with our position and try to switch to a new service provider. So there.

Telecom providers cling to technologies like SMS and MMS because they control all the traffic on them. This gives them the ability to coerce companies that want access into their network into shelling out cash for exclusivity. It also allows them to set very high toll prices on the simple use of these low-bandwidth services. Companies like T-Mobile have numerous provisions in their terms of use that seriously constrain what users can do with SMS. For instance, T-Mobile expressly forbids the use of URLs inside text messages, presumably because this could lead to communications that don't use the high-tariff services it controls.

It all sounds shocking, and I hope that in truth this is actually a misunderstanding. I wonder if there is an opportunity to get to the truth of the matter and have T-Mobile clarify so that the thousands of Twitter-using T-Mobile customers (and potential customers) can rest assured that the substantial amount of money they pay to telecom companies to stay connected is worth it.

Thoughts? Ideas? Can anyone else confirm this distressing news — or put it to rest? Can anyone from T-Mobile stand up and speak on this issue?

You can also call T-Mobile at (800) 937-8997 or e-mail T-Mobile’s CEO at rdotson@t-mobile.com.
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  • I’m confused
    18
    Hey folks. T-Mobile has definitely turned us off without notification. At Twitter we make great effort to be in compliance with all the carrier "playbooks." We're still trying to find out why T-Mobile has taken this action—as soon as we find out, we'll let you know.
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  • I’m grim
    This is a really big mistake on T-Mobile's part! Good luck getting it sorted out with them
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  • I’m disgusted
    This message from T-Mobile is shocking, but perhaps not surprising given the reputation of telecoms for sleazy business practices. This is the behavior of a monopolist--and as the #4 telecom provider T-Mobile really can't afford to position itself as the company least concerned with customer satisfaction. Come on, T-Mobile, step up and explain yourself! Are you really going to degrade yourself by picking on a startup with passionate users?
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  • I’m ready to switch carriers!
    I am experiencing the same problem...we need to unite and voice our concern collectively to T-Mobile....I've been with them since 1997 (Omnipoint days).....and if they are willing to be uncooperative over this, who know what else they will do?
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  • I’m disgusted
    I am not under contract with them and up until now I've been a big fan. I will have to call customer service, and investigate this. I may be forced to switch, which I do not want to do!
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  • I’m pretty hacked off!
    How can a T-Mobile sign on with Google's open Android platform and block third party services? Obviously they don't support open use so my excitement level for Android on T-Mobile has considerably diminished.
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  • I’m cautiously optimistic
    Hey all, we still don't know the what's and why's. But reports are coming in that T-Mobile has been resolving the problem.

    How about you? Is your T-Mobile phone working with Twitter now?
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  • What exactly does this prevent T-mobile users from doing?
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  • I’m sadly familiar with this situation
    12
    This is totally par for the course in dealing with carriers. I've heard stories of them doing this sort of thing before beginning negotiations for "official service" status to make it clear who has the upper hand. Sort of like the Myspace/Photobucket war earlier this year. (Not that Twitter has any plans to sell to T-Mobile, hopefully.)

    I can think of a few reasons they might turn off the service. All fall within the "be evil" policy of mobile companies.

    1. T-Mobile is preparing to launch/support a rival service.
    Without any hard facts I'd put my money on this one. With all the Twitter clones out there why wouldn't T-Mo just license one of them, white label it, and replace Twitter with something they own? Remember how the TV networks left all those clips on YouTube until they launched their own video sites? Same deal here -- let a startup prove the market then unplug them and offer your own thing. Of course, you lose the whole community thing, but most companies aren't so smart about that stuff when it conflicts with quarterly profits.

    2. They're not making enough money
    On Twitter's side it would be good to look at the message numbers and try to see things from T-Mobile's financial perspective. Check the number of Mobile Originated (MO's) messages, on which T-Mo earns money, against the Mobile Terminated (MT's) messages, on which they sort of lose money. If there is one MO for every thousand MT's they are probably losing money by supporting your service, at least in their short-sighted view. If there is one MO per 10 MT's they likely make money on your service, and it's in their interest to give Twitter some of the money to keep the service going. That's where the bare-knuckle negotiations come in.

    3. Twitter is a pawn in a larger war.
    Maybe T-Mo is in the middle of some fight with Twitter's SMS aggregator (the company that transfers the message from the internet to the mobile network). They could turn off Twitter as a way of hurting the aggregator and strengthening their negotiation position. It's likely that Twitter violates some part of some contract, since all the contracts are lopsided and unfair, so they can basically turn off any service at will.

    4. Twitter was too much of a load on the network.
    I doubt this one, since even a very popular service doesn't generate enough messages to cause trouble on such a large network. But perhaps there was some load issue and somebody wanted a quick way to lower SMS volume during the holidays. Hey, let's turn off this web thing, I doubt anyone will notice...

    5. Some T-Mobile VP just now heard about Twitter.
    It's possible that some clueless executive found out that a startup was allowing free text messages and ordered someone to shut down the service. Hopefully this isn't the case, because if it took them this long to hear about Twitter just imagine the wait before they realize all their best customers are gone.

    --

    My advice to Twitter: contact T-Mobile as if this were a technical error and play nice. At the same time contact every friend you have in the mobile industry, especially those who make $$ on you (like your aggregator and your ad company) and ask them to contact T-Mobile and advocate for you. This decision probably comes down to a product manager or VP's strategy opinion, so friendly encouragement and the promise of high revenues can go a long way.
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  • I’m not a tmobile customer thankfully
    I have a feeling that this won't last long. Between Twitter contacting them and tons of tmobile customers complaining I foresee twitter becoming unblocked. Probably the most popular add on is getting unlimited texting. Twitter is a service that makes you get the unlimited texting. It helps people decide to get unlimited.
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  • I’m irritated
    I just sent the VP an email - I hope something is done about this soon. I upgraded to unlimited text messaging when I started using Twitter, so they will definitely be losing that monthly bit of money. Now might be a good time to look at the iPhone...
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  • I’m eager to find the details
    9
    Needless to say, we'll be watching this one closely, as our agency uses Twitter and other tools for the common good of those we proudly serve.

    Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

    Brian Humphrey
    Firefighter/Specialist
    Public Service Officer
    Los Angeles Fire Department
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  • I’m discovering something new!
    2
    Brian: I am blown away because I had not even considered that firefighters might be harnessing Twitter to help with instantaneous messages, but it makes complete sense now that you've opened my eyes to it. Please, if you have any time, feel free to add your station to Satisfaction. I am excited by the idea of public agencies on Satisfaction. We have a few already, but no firefighters, and I can't think of a better addition to our site. Thank you for this very interesting new idea!
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  • I’m humbled by your kind words
    Eric, thanks for the invite and your kind words... I actually registered our agency at getsatisfaction.com/LAFD earlier this evening!

    I'm hoping that Biz won't hesitate to give me a call if he needs support in helping T-Mobile understand the wake of their decision.
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  • Is it possible to send a message out via @twitter_status regarding the fact that T-Mobile has blocked Twitter? I'm sure there are still people out there that aren't watching these sites and are thinking Twitter is the ones with problems.... we need to get the word out so more people can voice their opinion to T-Mobile that Twitter does matter.
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  • I’m out of contract, and ready for an iPhone!
    I am especially bothered that the return message received by T-Mobile customers is coming from 40404, and states:

    "Service is temporarily down. Please, try again later."

    This led me to believe that the problem was with Twitter, not T-Mobile. I had no idea about the block till I was tipped off by a fellow Twitter user- which I recevied via my Sidekick!
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  • twitter_status posted about it last night.

    Initially, I thought that the problem was with Twitter and not T-Mobile too. Maybe they could post something to their blog as well?
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  • It was posted that they were working on an issue. It would be nice to update that with the fact that T-Mobile is, in fact, blocking twitter.
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  • I’m pissed
    i called t-mobile last night. they said it was twitter's problem and to contact them. obviously not the case.

    the message i am getting from my sidekick says:

    "Service temporarily down. Please, try again later."

    how can we escalate this when we call customer service?
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  • I’m waiting for T-Mobile to respond here
    Tim O'Reilly, in today's NYTimes, explains why cell phone companies are being incredibly self-destructive when they pursue closed, anti-competitive systems like T-Mobile is doing here. He also expresses why there is so much to gain by an embrace of openness in its network. Here's a relevant excerpt:

    And what if this phone company opened up its databases to developers of software applications? ... Consumers would flock to the best software, made by independent developers that a cellular network would enable by building a true Internet-style open platform. Goodbye to user-unfriendly service contracts as a way to keep customers captive. Who would switch carriers when so much knowledge about your social network resided on your phone company’s servers?

    In short, the race is on for competitive advantage in the truly open cellular phone network of the future. Verizon hasn’t moved far enough — yet. If the cellular carriers don’t act, Google and its partners will beat them to the prize.


    Tim is talking about market leader Verizon. But if T-Mobile wants to survive it better stop trying to emulate these cruel anti-customer tactics and start creating network value for its users. The full article here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/15/opi...
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  • I’m still pissed
    I just sent the CEO an email, and I posted the letter on my blog.
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  • I’m disloyal and fickle
    damn, straight! iphone here i come!
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  • I’m frustrated by the control wireless operators want
    2
    Did you see this from Bob Mertz? T-Mobile does seem to be blocking. Outrageous that they would say it is Twitter's problem!

    Dear Mr. Mertz:

    My name is Marianne Maestas and I am with the Executive Customer Relations department of T-Mobile. I am contacting you on behalf of Mr. Robert Dotson in regards to the email that you sent him yesterday evening.

    In your email, you express concerns, as you are not able to use your service for Twitter. As you have been advised, Twitter is not an authorized third-party service provider, and therefore you are not able to utilize service from this provide any longer. You indicate your feeling that this is a violation of the Net Neutrality.

    T-Mobile would like to bring to your attention that the Terms and Conditions of service, to which you agreed at activation, indicate "... some Services are not available on third-party networks or while roaming. We may impose credit, usage, or other limits to Service, cancel or suspend Service, or block certain types of calls, messages, or sessions (such as international, 900, or 976 calls) at our discretion." Therefore, T-Mobile is not in violation of any agreement by not providing service to Twitter. T-Mobile regrets any inconvenience, however please note that if you remain under contract and choose to cancel service, you will be responsible for the $200 early termination fee that would be assessed to the account at cancellation.

    Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Customer Care at 800-937-8997. Thank you,

    Marianne Maestas,
    Executive Customer Relations Specialist,
    Office of the President,
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  • I’m looking forward to my new phone!
    Exactly. My T-Mobile contract just expired, so they won't get a $200 cancellation fee from me. Goodbye, Dash, hello iPhone!
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  • I’m MAD!
    Tmobile sucks! I already have close to no coverage in or around my home-and now this! I initially was just mad about the twit alert service, but now that i read about the actual problem, im soo frustrated! T mobile is scandalous-I can't wait to get off contract. Spead the word people!
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  • I’m waiting for t-mo to do something
    This is identical to the response I received when I wrote to the Executive Customer Relations at T-mo (only mine was from a Barbara McGuire) - and I emphasized that I have a business acct with them (5 lines) for 5+ years. They clearly do NOT care.

    Here are some other links to blogs that are addressing these issues:
    http://blog.bibleboy.org/2007/12/resp...
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/14/...
    http://getsatisfaction.com/tmobile/to...
    http://getsatisfaction.com/twitter/to...?

    Anyone who has this problem & wishes to write to T-mo, send to:
    ExecutiveResponse@T-mobile.com

    I included "Voice Forum ID 0623630" in the subject, as they have opened a ticket under this number.

    -JD
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  • I’m impatient for T-Mobile to start acting human
    In my opinion it's not enough for T-Mobile to simply capitulate and turn back on Twitter. They need to answer for the cold, antagonistic tone they're setting with customers. Ms. Marianne Maestas, as the public T-Mobile representative handling this, I don't blame you personally. However, your name is on this correspondence that is notable for its unfriendly, defensive tone. I'd encourage T-Mobile to let you to respond directly here to show that it is committed to cultivating honest human conversations with its community. It would also allow you, Ms. Maestas, to minimize your personal association with this policy and the botched way it was handled by the company.

    All business is personal, Ms. Maestas. Just try Googling your name [http://www.google.com/search?q=Marian...] and you'll see what I mean.
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  • I’m unsurprised by network stupidity, and not convinced that the iPhone operators will be any better.
    At the time of writing, this doesn't seem to extend to T-Mobile in the UK.
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  • 8
    All,

    We've determined that this is an issue between T-mobile and our aggregator, not an intentional block. The service is working intermittently and T-mobile is working to resolve the issue ASAP.

    Thanks for your patience!
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  • I’m hoping for the best
    3
    I am glad to hear word that this may be, as hoped, a misunderstanding. I think this is an excellent opportunity for T-Mobile to state their official policy, examine the tone of all e-mail correspondence that their representatives send out, and have an open conversation with their customers. I'm sure we can all agree that this kind of conversation would be rewarding for everyone involved.
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  • I’m wondering if t-mobile will evolve its approach to the market
    I am glad to hear that Twitter has worked hard to sort out the problem. But I'd call attention to two aspects of this event that companies like T-Mobile should pay attention to -- 1) their own customer service was woefully unprepared to deal with this issue and, at least according to reports, treated their own paying customers in a hostile fashion and 2) they were completely absent from the forums and the blogs as this story evolved.
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  • I am again having trouble sending SMS to 40404. Just happened now (at 1:05AM EST). I thought everything was fixed?
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  • I’m waiting
    Ted this tends to be the Fad with the Nuevo Rich...Companies.

    It sort of reminds me of Ford, Alcoa, Dow Chemical, and GE how they dealt with the public in the 80s and early 90s. Now a days the Blue boys doing it with some care and gentle aproach, but the Newbies, are Gone Mad...

    Their lesson awaits them, and unfortuanitly it is not going to be a Gentle One.

    Here Comes Another Bubble by Here Comes Another Bubble - The Richter Scales

    This infamous video has recently been Banned by the Google Police while Racist Videos are condoned and promoted, without any inhabition what so ever!

    Anyway as a VC, you will enjoy it, if you have not seen it yet..:)
    Memory lane of Nasdaq Crash 2001 - Rude Awakening, better be like Warren Buffett, and George Soros and guard your Eggs!
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  • Jonathan,
    I dig your reasoning. The core of T-Mobile's actions lies in a combination of reasons 1,2, and 3 of your post. Further, Twitter will do well to adopt your approach to resolution because sadly T-Mobile does have the upper hand for now--that is, until someone comes up with a way around these short sigthed Telcos.
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  • I just tested a SMS to 40404 Twitter and it worked.. I am in the Washington DC area
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  • I’m bitter
    absolutely. i'm on vacation, so can't go into a lot of detail.

    but, yesterday, i spent 30 min on the phone with a very polite, very circumloquitious and very clueless rep from the CEO's office.

    he kept insisting that t-mobile had the right to shut-down twitter, and was using a b.s. smokescreen argument that it was for customer's own good. right.

    i agree. this left a bitter taste in my mouth. (see emoticon below)
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  • I’m not satisfied with t-mobile
    1
    ~twitter~ is working for me in santa cruz. however, t-mobile's customer service still isn't working for me.

    if i want to be hated by my cell provider, i can get an iphone from at&t.
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  • I’m thankful
    Working in the extended metro DC area again!

    Something I find interesting... the same person that responded to me (Marianne Maestas) from the executive office apparently created another PR nightmare just a few months ago by rubbing people the wrong way and having them take it to small claims court, which T-Mobile lost. Apparently she isn't doing too much positive for them :)

    http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/messa...

    Thanks to not only the Twitter team but to all the loyal twitters... This is an amazing example of how a community of people that aren't affraid to stand up for something can really make a difference. I'm very anxious to see T-Mobile's response :)

    To all the T-Mobile subscribers: "What are you doing?" :)
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  • I’m thankful
    Excelent, it is nice to see customers organize together to deal with a common problem they have with a company.

    Even if customers are small they still have rights, and by bring the issue to the open the problem can be mitigated and resolved.

    An informed minority is more powerful than an ignorant majority!

    Keep doing the good work, standing up for your rights as a customer, user, and as a person.
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  • 2
    It is nice to see the problem had nothing to do with T-Mobile, although the clueless responses about them thinking it may have been their doing were odd. T-Mobile has been one of the few companies in the past 5 years that has provided me with nearly flawless customer service. They have solved every problem i have had and bent over backwards to go an extra mile. The only other option for my phone would have been to move to AT&T, which has miserable customer service and much more expensive rates.
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  • 2
    I agree with Vaderwal. The reason I've been a Tmobile customer for as long as I have been, even as other companies pull ahead in the technology race, is that T-Mobile's customer service has been awesome. Over the past couple years, I do feel that its quality has eroded a bit, but I still have much better time speaking with their reps than I do speaking to any other company's reps.
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  • I’m shocked
    While I agree and have for quite a while, this... well, I dont know if it made me laugh to hard or if it is just really scary..... I'll just let you read:

    http://blog.bibleboy.org/2007/12/omg-...
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  • I’m trying to figure out the truth
    2
    I sent an email to the VP Friday night, and I just now received this response from Ms. Maestas (author of the email to Bob Mertz). I have removed my last name from the email, but otherwise, this is exactly what she sent:

    Dear Ms. *****:

    My name is Marianne Maestas and I am with the Executive Customer Relations department of T-Mobile. I am contacting you on behalf of Mr. Robert Dotson in regards to the email that you sent him over the weekend.

    Twitter users are welcome to stay connected through T-Mobile service. Rumors that T-Mobile blocks the service are false. T-Mobile confirmed with Twitter that there was a technical issue between the two companies’ systems that temporarily prevented some customers from utilizing the service this past weekend. That issue has since been resolved and the companies are working to prevent such incidents from re-occurring.

    Should you have any further questions regarding this matter, please feel free to contact Customer Care at 800-937-8997. Thank you.

    Marianne Maestas,
    Executive Customer Relations Specialist,
    Office of the President


    What got me was this: "Rumors that T-Mobile blocks the service are false."

    She explicitly stated in her email to Mr. Mertz that "...Twitter is not an authorized third-party service provider, and therefore you are not able to utilize service from this provide any longer."

    Uh-huh.

    I've never had a problem with T-Mobile until now. When someone from the office of the company's president says one thing in one email and then turns around and sends something completely different after the situation has been resolved, it makes me edgy. Did T-Mobile block Twitter, then after much pressure and pushing from customers, un-block them? Or was there really a technical issue that has been repaired?

    I just want some honesty. I know that may be a bit too much to ask for.
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  • I just received the same email - see below. We must have posted at the same time. :)
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