Teacher-texting service launches campaign against Rogers, Bell over service charges

A teacher-oriented messaging service that says it’s being targeted by Rogers and Bell, is calling for support from nearly one million Canadian users so its texting service isn’t disrupted.

Remind.com is a San Francisco-based two-way messaging service that is used by students, teachers, and parents. The service can be accessed through the company’s mobile app, web app, email and through texting.

The service overall connects 31 million customers, many of whom are primarily based in the U.S. The company was founded in 2012. In 2014, it raised $65 million in venture funding to further build out its platform.

Remind CEO Brian Grey said in a phone interview with MobileSyrup on January 10th, 2019 that the service helps those who don’t have access to a smartphone.

“Almost 20 percent might not have a smartphone and so they can’t use our app. They rely on SMS and text messaging as a way to stay connected,” Grey said.

On January 28th, 2019, Remind will disable the texting functionality of its service, according to Grey. He added that Rogers and Bell, two of Canada’s biggest telecom service providers, are planning to charge 25x in order for Remind to access their networks.

A notice on the Remind’s website says, “Rogers and Bell are charging us additional fees intended for companies that send spam over their networks.”

The notice adds that the company’s messages are not “spam, but that hasn’t helped us resolve the issue with Rogers and Bell.”

Grey says that students could get important messages about bus cancellations, homework information, or give teachers access to parents without using their personal phone numbers.

“All of our usage in Canada and the delivery of our service in Canada is 100 percent free,” Grey said.

“We incur a cost to deliver the SMS or text message already in Canada. Right now on annual basis for each carrier, it results in…[paying] tens of thousands of dollars a year. With the increase that they are now pushing through to us, it will take us to nearly hundreds of thousands of dollars per year that we would be forced to pay.”

Currently, Grey said that it only charges schools in the U.S. to use a special student package that delivers extra features apart from its free service. This service was launched two years ago and has not yet made its way to Canada, Grey said, but added that the service hopes to launch it in the future.

It’s important to note that Remind uses a service called Twilio, a cloud communications platform that helps software developers to programmatically make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages and perform other communications functions using its web service.

Twilio essentially sits between the carriers and companies to be able to deliver these types of services. Twilio is also able to perform in Canada with the help of Syniverse.

Both Rogers and Bell work with Syniverse, an aggregator that operates inter-carrier text messaging.

Grey added that the company pays Twilio to provide the SMS/texting service.

He noted that Remind was notified via Twilio sometime in the middle of 2018 that Rogers would increase the cost associated with accessing its network and was notified in October from Bell. Bell indicated that there would be a nominal fee increase starting December 1st, 2018.

Grey made it clear that the service charges are not coming from Twilio but from the carriers.

Rogers noted that it did try to negotiate a deal with Remind last summer so that the service could access Rogers’ network.

“We know how important it is for educators and parents to stay connected and while we do not have a direct relationship with the company, last year we reached out and made every effort to work out a more than fair agreement with them that would have met their SMS needs on our network. Unfortunately, they were not satisfied,” a Rogers spokesperson said.

Though Grey said that with respect to Rogers the deal was not acceptable.

“Their proposal offer was basically along the lines of to give [Remind] some credit or some kind of offset for the fee in exchange for exclusive marketing and promotion of Rogers,” Grey said, adding that it was against the company’s policy to do any promotion or advertising on its platform.

“We do not provide advertising and sponsorship to third parties,” Grey said.

Bell said in a statement that it doesn’t charge Remind to send or receive text messages from the app and added that it works with Syniverse.

It noted in the statement to MobileSyrup that some companies have connected onto its network through the aggregator to send spam messages.

“One of the ways we’re protecting the platform from unauthorized use while supporting the growing volume of legitimate third-party services like Remind is to charge the aggregator a very nominal fee for each message delivered over our network,” the Bell spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that Bell was only in touch with Remind for the first time “only a short time ago” and that the two companies have been “talking

Grey added that to try and get support from customers, the company is asking they contact their province’s minister of education and to contact carriers to make the case that the service is vital and helpful.