Reports have been coming in about cell phone providers effecting mass notification systems at colleges and universities. Major cell phone carriers such as Sprint and Verizon are marking mass notification messages as spam. They are disabling or denying such messages to some of their customers.
This is a controversial move on the part of the cell phone carriers. One on hand, they are possibly working to protect their consumers, but the consumers want to access these mass notifications. Companies are establishing a “fine line” between helping their customers, and denying them of services that they are actually paying for. This interference occurs because the internal system of the carrier senses a large number of messages coming from one source and automatically flags the message.
Why is this important? Colleges and universities are required to maintain some sort of mass notification plan in case of emergency due to the Higher Education Act of 2008, so when the carriers block these messages, the university systems can fall out of compliance. This action is also important because there may be other motives at play. Burns goes on to explain that financial reasons may be behind the interference. Carriers can charge extra fees to automatically pass these mass notifications without concerns of blocking or impeding on the messages. This is contradictory to what the providers promised when the Higher Education Act of 2008 was passed with its emergency management stipulations. The providers said that they were going to cooperate with this system, and have since fallen out of line in one way or another.
So, what are we, as consumers, to do? Some sort of legislative action might need to happen that makes these blockages by the carriers illegal. Also, institutions’ reliance on one single source of communication to express emergencies may be flawed. Instead, if colleges and universities maintained multiple avenues of communication, they may be creating a safer environment for their campuses.