For those of you with short memories there was a point last year when Twitter had to cut off SMS service to Canada because it was costing them too much money. Granted those with smartphones or the overly inflated iPhone could still use the Twitter page itself but for those with regular cellphones – well we were shit out of luck.
Then on February 20th there was this exciting announcement on the Twitter blog about how they had just signed a deal with Bell Canada to bring back the SMS service (emphasis mine)
Today we're super excited to be activating full, two-way SMS service for Canadian Twitter-ers who are also customers of Bell Mobility. If you're a Bell Mobility customer, you can update Twitter via SMS and receive updates from Twitter via SMS. There are no limits and no added fees (beyond your normal texting plan). If you haven't already, you can activate your phone to Twitter over SMS. Special thanks to Bell's enthusiasm and eagerness to make this happen.
So you would think everyone would be happy eh?
Guess again because it turns out that little bit of emphasized text in the quote above is a load of bullshit. It turns out that Bell is going to be charging 15 cents for messages sent and received because they say that Twitter is a premium service and therefore isn't covered by normal company texting plans. Oh by the way this is an exclusive deal – meaning that only Bell can offer Twitter in Canada for the length of the agreement. So screw Rogers, Telus or Fido users – you get no Twitter.
This first broke via The Montreal Gazette and then followed up by The Toronto Star and has now spread to Twitter itself using the hashtag of #belltwit. From The Gazette we get the following
Three months after scrapping its mobile service in Canada, Twitter, a popular microblogging service, inked an exclusive deal with Bell to let its wireless customers "tweet" from their handsets using text messages.
But it will cost users 15 cents per message sent or received - even if the user has an unlimited text-messaging plan.
A spokesperson for Bell said Twitter is considered a "premium" third-party service, and so it's not covered under text plans.
However, Twitter's Canadian users were dealt a blow last year after part of the service was discontinued because of the high cost of sending and receiving text messages in Canada. Twitter had apparently been footing the bill for its Canadian subscribers' incoming text messages.
"We can't afford to support this service given our current arrangement with our providers (where costs have been doubling for the past several months)," according to a Twitter blog posting from November.
Now, the costs will be borne by the users themselves.
Carmi Levy, the senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications Inc., said his Twitter use was unaffected by last year's SMS blackout because he uses a smartphone version of the service that is supported by his monthly data plan.
But he said that Twitter subscribers who don't own iPhones or BlackBerry-type devices can expect some hefty monthly bills depending on how many other Twitter users they are following.
"It can be dozens or even hundreds of messages (per day)," Levy said. "I sent out just one question earlier this afternoon and I got 15 responses."
As a Canadian and knowing how badly we get screwed by our telephone/internet companies this news really doesn't surprise me that much at all. However I have to wonder if Twitter knew that there would indeed be charges and if so how much of a cut are they going to be getting of that money.
Apparently they haven't responded to any questions from the newspapers.