Verizon Promises to #ReverseTheFee on Remind After Educators’ Outcry

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Verizon Promises to #ReverseTheFee on Remind After Educators’ Outcry

By Emily Tate Sullivan     Jan 16, 2019

Verizon Promises to #ReverseTheFee on Remind After Educators’ Outcry

This story has been updated with new statements from both companies.

After an outcry from educators on social media, along with countless phone calls to Verizon customer service, the telecommunications company says it will not enforce the 11-fold fee increase that was slated to hit Remind, a messaging service used widely by teachers and parents in the U.S., come February.

On Monday, Remind notified its users, 7 million of whom are Verizon Wireless customers, that with the new fee hike, it would no longer be able to absorb the cost of its users sending text messages on its platform.

Remind users weren’t going down without a fight. Thousands of them posted on Twitter with the hashtags #ReverseTheFee and #NotSpam. The latter refers to Verizon’s justification for these fees as a way to help the telecommunications company curb spam messages, which Remind inadvertently got clumped into.

By Wednesday evening, Verizon made it clear that it was not going to stand in the way of students, parents and educators and a tool many consider essential to classroom communication today.

“We are dedicated to ensuring that our network is available and accessible to users who rely on us for important information like school closings, classroom activities and more,” wrote Rich Young, a Verizon spokesperson, in a statement to EdSurge. “So to ensure [Remind] can continue offering this service in an economically reasonable manner, we will not charge for delivering these messages.”

The telecoms giant never intended to levy prohibitive fees on an education service, an official said. The Verizon fee, which would cover the cost of the company’s new platform to protect against spam and fraud, was passed on to Twilio, a third-party company that Remind uses to deliver texts sent through its platform. Twilio chose not to incur those costs and instead pass them on to its own customers, Remind included.

At least a handful of other education companies, including Seesaw, ClassDojo and TalkingPoints, mention using Twilio’s services on their websites. Since they will be hit with the same Verizon surcharge, EdSurge asked a few of them how it will affect their businesses.

For Remind, the fees would have been substantial, increasing what it currently pays in Verizon customers’ messaging fees from about $360,000 to nearly $4 million per year.

Officials at Remind are not celebrating the Verizon news just yet, noting that they’d been in talks with the company for months without reaching a resolution. In a statement to EdSurge Wednesday night, a Remind spokesperson said: “It’s reassuring to hear that Verizon doesn’t want to drive profits on the backs of students, families, and educators. … [But] Verizon has not signed any agreement with Remind to ensure that fees will be waived for all users of our free service. When we’re assured that a long-term deal is in place to guarantee that all the educators, parents and students currently using our free service can use SMS on the Verizon network without fees, we will be thrilled to continue our service without disruption.”

Then on Thursday, Verizon published a press release about the conflict, reiterating that it is committed to keeping Remind’s services free to K-12 educators and families. But Remind remains unsatisfied with this offer, according to a blog post published Thursday on the company’s website, because it does not account for its college and preschool users, among others.

Verizon’s Young said the telecoms company is done negotiating.

“We’ve said to them all week, ‘We will swallow the costs for your tech service to K-12 schools,’” Young explained during a phone call Thursday. “Now Remind is asking for colleges and preschools. What’s next, the local car wash or pet store?”

He added: “Colleges and universities are essentially businesses, as are preschools. There’s no reason our business needs to subsidize another one. That makes no sense.”

Remind has encouraged educators to keep making noise about this issue until Verizon offers the same assurances for all of its users.

Remind also faces 25-fold fee increases from two Canadian carriers, Rogers and Bell, which would affect a significant portion of the company’s 1 million users in Canada. It’s unclear whether the telecoms companies will stay the course or follow Verizon.

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