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  1. #1
    The Magnificent Bastard

    Wireless Carriers Try to Get the 411
    411. Online directories. The plain old phone book.

    By Griff Witte, Washington Post Staff Writer

    There are lots of ways to find out someone's number if that person's
    phone happens to be tied to a traditional land line. But if you need
    to reach someone on a cell phone and you've misplaced the digits,
    you're out of luck.

    Starting next year, that may change.

    In an initiative that is testing the balance between convenience and
    privacy, the nation's major wireless (news - web sites) carriers are
    teaming up to put together a directory of wireless phone numbers that
    would allow customers to call 411 and connect to mobile phones, not
    just phones that plug into a wall.

    For the carriers, it's a chance to make people more comfortable
    "cutting the cord" -- using wireless phones as their primary phones,
    content in the knowledge that people who need to reach them can. It's
    also an opportunity for the cellular companies to tap into what could
    be a multibillion-dollar listing business.

    But at the same time, the carriers risk alienating their customers,
    many of whom worry that a central database of cell-phone numbers has
    the potential to spoil their one oasis from spam, junk mail and

    "It's the last bastion of privacy, the cell phone," said Frank Kenney,
    a 57-year-old D.C. resident who uses his wireless phone only for
    emergencies and would like to keep it that way. Kenney said he fears
    that a database would allow people he doesn't know to bother him on
    his cell phone. "I'd resent that, just like I resent it with the
    regular phones," he said.

    Kenney is not the only one who's concerned. Several members of
    Congress have recently raised questions about exactly how consumers
    would be protected if a wireless directory assistance program were
    initiated. "I don't want my phone number put on a list somewhere for
    the world to see," said Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.), who is gathering
    support for hearings on the matter. "Privacy of cell phones is
    extremely important."

    The trade group spearheading the effort, the Cellular
    Telecommunications and Internet Association, maintains that no
    directory assistance program will be launched without multiple
    safeguards to ensure that the nation's 150 million wireless customers
    aren't deluged with unwanted calls.

    "The industry has been protective of consumers' privacy. And we do
    that because it's good for business," said Travis Larson, spokesman
    for the CTIA. "If customers get calls they don't want, they'll
    probably turn off their phones."

    In a letter to Pitts and four other members of Congress in August,
    CTIA president and chief executive Thomas E. Wheeler wrote that
    concerns that telemarketers will abuse the wireless-number database
    are "groundless."

    "The privacy and integrity of the master database is of great
    importance to wireless carriers," he wrote.

    It's not hard to understand why. A cell phone that's plagued by
    unwanted calls isn't a product that consumers are likely to keep.

    "If you started to have unsolicited commercial calls on cell phones,
    that disruption would be even more of a constant problem than on your
    land line because it's always with you," said Susan Grant, vice
    president for public policy at the National Consumers League.

    In addition, with cell phones, the recipient of a call shares the
    burden of paying along with the caller, she said.

    To be sure the wireless 411 program doesn't backfire, the carriers are
    contemplating a variety of mechanisms to keep customers in control of
    who can reach them. For instance, instead of giving out numbers,
    operators might instead connect the call directly. Another way to
    protect customers might be to send them a text message when someone is
    trying to contact them through directory assistance, at which point
    they could decide whether to accept the call, reject it or send it to
    voice mail.

    Finally, customers will be given the option to not be listed in the
    database. The carriers are still deciding if they should assume
    customers want to be part of the database unless they indicate
    otherwise or if customers should have to actively volunteer to be

    In the former case, customers might find themselves on the list
    without knowing they've consented. In the latter, not enough might
    sign up to make the service useful.

    Another unresolved issue is whether customers who choose to remain
    unlisted will have to pay to do so, as is the case with land-line
    phones. Larson said that decision will be left up to the individual

    Wireless directory assistance should be available next year, Larson
    said. Before that can happen, however, all the major carriers have to
    agree on how the service will work, which hasn't been easy given the
    competition in the industry. "There has been some significant friction
    and dissension," said Kathleen Pierz, an analyst with the Pierz Group,
    a research and consulting firm that specializes in directory

    But she said wireless 411 could be a windfall for all the carriers, if
    they do it right. A survey conducted by the San Francisco-based Zelos
    Group Inc. consulting firm showed that allowing customers to access
    cell-phone numbers through 411 could bring the wireless industry $3
    billion a year through user fees and the additional minutes that
    callers would spend on the network.

    That's true despite the fact that consumer interest in the service is
    tepid at best. For a separate report, Zelos surveyed more than 1,200
    mobile phone users, and approximately half said keeping their numbers
    unlisted was their top choice. Fewer than 10 percent said they wanted
    to see their cell numbers listed in the same way as their business or
    residential numbers. A larger percentage approved of listing if they
    could control who had access to the numbers.

    The survey showed one major bright spot for the industry: "If you do
    this right, there's high interest among younger users," said Mark
    Plakias, a Zelos Group senior analyst.

    Juanita Cooksey, 18, of Woodbridge is a case in point. She welcomes
    wireless 411 and would use it to get in touch with friends when she
    knows their home numbers but not their mobile numbers. "We need that,"
    she said.

    Cooksey said the extra convenience the service would bring outweighs
    any irritation from getting an unwanted call every now and then: "If
    it's somebody I don't know, I'd just say, 'You've got the wrong
    number.' "

    See More: Cellular Numbers To Be Listed

  2. #2

    Re: Cellular Numbers To Be Listed

    No f-ing way do I want mine listed! Tell me how to get a class action

  3. #3

    Re: Cellular Numbers To Be Listed

    No f-ing way do I want mine listed! Tell me how to get a class action

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