Cellular Directory or Telemarketing Directory?
Talks of a cellular directory have raised more than eyebrows and controversy over the years than almost anything else in the telecommunications industry.
Those against its formation, often argue one of three points:
- They do not want telemarketers to have access to this information.
- Since some service plans levy a fee to receive calls just as they do to place them there is concern this may increase the cost of a consumer's wireless phone bill.
- Then there is the privacy concern that some consumers have about their personal information being made public in any form.
As for the first point, this concern is based on an bad foundation. The fear is that a cellular directory would result in telemarketers calling your cell phone, thereby raising your bill (if you were to answer), annoying you, interrupting your day, and filling your voicemail box. A quick look at recent laws governing the telemarketing industry in the US will tell you there is little danger of this happening.
It is currently illegal for a telemarketer to make a telemarketing call to a cell phone number via an automated dialer. Since most telemarketing companies use automatic-dialers to cut labor cost and increase efficiency, even if they had your number, calling it is not an option because of the systems or because doing so would decrease profit margins. The two laws ensuring your mobile phone's safety and privacy are as follows:
- The Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud Abuse Prevention Act, overseen by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). (15 USC 6101-6108; 16 CFR 310).
- The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) focuses on the uses of telephone lines, and is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (47 USC 227; 47 CFR 64.1200).
Understanding how these laws work for the population should set consumer's minds at ease. The impact of a national directory would be minimal, functioning as a resource for directory assistance only.
The concern regarding the cost to receive new calls is certainly a valid one. Unlike landline phones, incoming calls are not always free and, until they are, there will always be people who do not want their information made public in a directory.
That said, proponents of a directory will argue that nothing forces an owner to answer the incoming calls. If the calls are not answered, no additional money is spent by the consumer. Voicemail in most cases is free or can be free if you check it from a landline phone.
The final concern has to do with privacy. For me this is a little silly. For decades the telecommunications industry provided their customers with residential phone books, that included a customer's name, phone number, and even addresses. Those customers that wished to pay to be "unlisted" could do so and I am assuming a cellular directory would be no different.
Even if we were able to solve everyone's concerns about the directory today, there are certainly a few logistical issues that would need to be sorted out before such a directory is built. For example, there are about a half a dozen or so major wireless service providers in the US. How do we get them to share information and compile it in one place? Or is this even needed? The exchange information in a phone number can help determine what network a phone number is provided on. What is preventing or discouraging each service provider from making a directory of just the cell phones in their network?
Certainly one theory behind why this is not done is the phone carriers are concerned that if they make their numbers public, given another carrier does not; the carrier may lose customers who prefer to keep their numbers anonymous.
It seems the cellular directory debate will continue, at least for now. One thing is for sure, with more and more people using their cell phones as their primary number and even dropping their home phone line, the controversy surrounding building a directory or not will only continue to grow.