10DLC is a simple way to send mass text messages with less risk of being blocked, filtered, or mislabeled as spam. The mobile carrier industry is tightening the rules on sending messages this way, but it's not a killer blow. You simply need to use services that comply with the new rules and pay attention to special exemptions for some political communication.
The Basics Of 10DLC
10DLC stands for "10 digit long code": in other words, a number in the familiar telephone line format. It's the key to the recently-developed A2P 10DLC technology. A2P stands for Application-to-Person and refers to messages by software rather than an individual.
A2P 10DLC aims to solve problems with business communication such as mass messaging. Traditionally such messages come from a special short code number, often shared with other businesses (because there are inherently fewer available short numbers.) This sharing increases the risk of spam and a lack of accountability from senders, leading to a greater risk of carriers and recipients filtering out such messages.
However, 10DLC numbers historically didn't work well with mass messaging thanks to a lack of security and limited throughput (the number of messages you can send in a given time.) That's because the underlying technology was designed with individual consumers as the main user base.
A2P 10DLC numbers are specifically designed and authorized by carriers for business messaging, offering a more reliable way to reach the public. Used correctly, they carry less risk of throttling or blocking by carriers, or of filtering by users sick of spam. They should also be much quicker to set up and get messaging.
There's some scope for confusion as traditionally the marketing industry uses the term "peer-to-peer" to mean sending individual messages to individual recipients and "broadcast" to mean one message going to multiple recipients at once. Contrastingly, carriers use "peer-to-peer" to mean consumers messaging other consumers and "Application-to-person" to mean organizations messaging others.
To add to the confusion, both marketers and carriers tend to use "A2P 10DLC" and "10DLC" interchangeably. What really matters is that both terms refer to the carriers' service and associated rules for a specific type of message, namely one sent:
- from an organization, business or other entity;
- to a consumer (individual);
- by text message (whether manually or automatically "dialed");
- from a 10-digit code "phone number".
Short Codes and Toll-Free Numbers
Several carriers are phasing out shared short code messaging services. That means if you want to use a short code, you'll need to pay for a dedicated code, which carries higher monthly costs. It may still be a viable option for big businesses, but political organizations will likely find A2P 10DLC a better option.
Although they have 10 digits, toll-free numbers don't appear to be covered by the carrier rules on A2P 10DLC.
The A2P 10DLC Verification Process
To some extent, A2P 10DLC is a trade-off between mobile carriers and businesses that want to send messages. In return for making it easier to send messages from "traditional" numbers, carriers want to be certain they know who is sending messages and can hold them accountable for any abuse of the system.
Each carrier uses slightly different approaches, but as a general rule they've tightened restrictions over the past few years while tweaking some of the verification processes after learning more about what does and doesn't work well in practice. Simply put, carriers want to know who you are and what type of message you are sending.
The first step is verification. The main way to do this is through The Campaign Registry, an independent industry body. It carries out the business equivalent of an identity check. (Originally, the Campaign Registry issued a "Trust Score" for the organization, but has now dropped this approach.) Note that some messaging providers such as Twilio have integrated with The Campaign Registry so you can get verified through the provider.
Once your brand is verified, you need to register each individual messaging campaign. The definition here may be a little different from how you use the term. It doesn't necessarily mean messages sent in one batch or time period: a single "campaign" could involve different messages sent at different times. Instead, for registration purposes, a "campaign" is messages sent for a particular reason. For example, sending codes to confirm supporters have registered successfully counts as one (ongoing) campaign, while a fundraising drive would be a separate campaign.
Based on your organization and the individual campaign, T-Mobile and AT&T will assign you both a maximum number of messages to send each day and a maximum throughput. This will largely depend on whether your organization is listed in the Russell 3000 Index. (At the moment, Verizon isn't using the verification status but instead using its own measures to allocate throughput and then filtering for potential spam.)
The Vetting Option
If you don't want to use The Campaign Registry, or you're unhappy with its verification, you can instead use a "self-service" vetting option. Despite the name, it's best to do this through a specialist service provider.
When you use the vetting option, you'll get a score out of 100 that takes into account both your brand and the specific type of campaign you are running. For example, you may get a higher score for a campaign where you are responding to text "conversations" initiated by a user contacting you. The higher your score, the bigger quota of messages you can send each day and the higher your maximum throughput.
All the carrier rules on A2P 10DLC require consent from the recipient to receive messages. If you don't have consent, the message does not qualify for the services. The consent must specifically cover getting messages from you, so you can't simply buy a list of targeted voter numbers and send out a message. Neither can you rely on the fact a supporter has provided a phone number: you need their specific consent to send the relevant messages.
Note that the carrier industry set these consent rules. They don't affect previous court rulings that said some peer-to-peer texting software doesn't require opt-in consent. Just because such messaging is technically legal doesn't affect the fact that carriers are refusing to allow it on their networks.
Deadlines and Consequences
At the moment, it's voluntary to register with the Campaign registry. This changes on 1 October 2021, when it will become mandatory to register before sending more than 3,000 messages a day in the US or using more than five different 10DLC numbers to send messages in the US.
If you fail to register, carriers may filter your messages (even if they are "legitimate" marketing), causing delivery delays or failures. Carriers may also deliver the messages but impose penalties in the form of higher delivery fees. These may be as little as a tenth of a cent higher per message, but that will soon mount up for large campaigns.
T-Mobile has discussed going a step further and suggested an outright fine of $10 per recipient for unauthorized messages. It remains to be seen if it will follow through on that threat.
Special Rules For Political Messaging
The good news is that political 10DLC messaging may qualify for special treatment. The precise effects vary between carriers, but the principle is that some types of messaging fall into a "Special Use Cases" category. Such messages can have a higher throughput (more messages per second) than business messaging, attract lower carrier fees, or both.
The precise implementation of these rules is still a little unclear, but in principle:
501(c)(4), 501(c)(5) and 501(c)(6) organizations can already register political messaging campaigns under the "Political" Special User Case.
527 organizations will soon qualify, though they'll need to register with an organization called Campaign Verify and get a special token (code) to use when setting up A2P DLC messaging.
The Bottom Line
A2P 10DLC comes with a fair bit of bureaucracy, but that's nothing to fear if your marketing campaigns are legitimate and not spam-like. The extra administration is well worth it to get the benefits of more reliable delivery and the prestige of messages coming from a full-length phone number.
Even better, specialist service providers can take care of much of the extra administration for you, helping you carry out affordable, effective messaging campaigns.
Signup with RoboCent today to try our Self-Service Texting Platform and know that we have your 10DLC requirements taken care of!