September 28th, 2011
05:36 AM GMT
New Delhi (CNN) - Every morning for almost four years I have been serenaded by the sounds of annoying beeps emanating from my phone. Once started, it continued sporadically through the day and increased as it got dark. Of course you are probably familiar with the sound I’m referring to: The pinging tones of a cell phone’s short message service (otherwise known as an SMS, or text).
In my case on my phone it isn’t an urgent message from the office, friends or family (sigh): instead they are a multitude of solicitations trying to help me speak to “d” public or “increase my height” with new “Japanese technology” now available in India. Never mind those companies are marketing to the wrong person: I’m close to 6-feet tall and I speak to the public all the time as a part of my work as a correspondent.
There were many others that are too boring to mention, but suffice it to say none of them were even remotely useful. I wouldn’t take what they were offering even if it was free so there was no way they were going to find a customer in me. I counted the number of unwanted SMS solicitations for a week and it came to an average of 12 per day. That does not include the unwanted solicitation calls I get.
Now I know what you are thinking: I should just turn the sound off. But in my line of work I cannot afford to do that. Here in India, just about everyone communicates through SMS as much as they do anything else. I didn’t want to miss an important text or call from a source, so the sound stays on. But I spend too much time each day trying to delete the texts I don’t want and keep the ones I need.
To be fair a lot of people must find these solicitations useful; India’s bulk message market is estimated to be worth about $68 million annually, according to the Press Trust of India. There are a lot of customers to solicit in India, which now has an estimated 850 million-plus mobile phone subscribers. Imagine the possibilities.
But today - September 27, 2011 – was a good day for those of us who don't want to be bothered.
Why? Because today is supposed to be D-day for mobile phone solicitors in India – the day when unsolicited texts and phone calls all over India are supposed to stop if you are registered with the government’s National Do Not Call registry. I registered, and I’m not alone – more than 130 million people have signed up.
Telemarketing companies that break the rules can be fined up to $5000 or be shut down if they are repeat offenders. I know the companies know this because at 9:39 p.m. on September 26 I received an SMS titled Brkgnews (short for breaking news) that read: “We Cant SMS you from 27 Sep. Please Save Our No. In Ph. Book.” It was from a company selling real estate in a city where I am never planning to live. I deleted it with a smile.
Now it turns out we SMS users have to take a bit of pain with our pudding.
From now on, regular customers can only send 100 texts per day from a single SIM card in India (it is a move to try and keep unscrupulous companies from using unregistered phones to send bulk messages).
It is a price I am more than willing to pay for a little peace and quiet, at least from my mobile phone. I hope this new rule works.
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