United States of America
Federal Communications Commission
In the Matter of
Rules and Policies Regarding CC Docket No. 91-281
Calling Number Identification Service—Caller ID
Petition for Reconsideration filed by
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)
P.O. Box 717
Palo Alto, CA 94301
P.O. Box 4332
Portland OR 97208
Table Of Contents.
1. Introduction. 1
2. Free Per Line Blocking Balances Rights of Residential Customers and Business Interests. 1
2.1 The 1.2 Billion Dollar Value of Unlisted Numbers 2
2.2 The Mediocre Value of ÒCaller IDÓ That Does Not Identify Callers 2
2.3 The Failure of Per Call Blocking. 3
2.3.1 Per Call Blocking Cannot Protect Confidentiality of Unlisted Numbers. 3
2.3.2 Automatic Per Call Blocking CPE Unreliable andDiscriminatory 3
2.4 CNID Can be Valuable to Some Businesses Yet Be Detrimental to Residential Customers. 4
2.5 Some Telephone Users Require Line Blocking 5
2.6 Arguments Against Line Blocking Flawed 5
2.7 It’s Too Late to Turn the Clock Back On Privacy. 6
3 Interstate Call Trace Should Be Federally Standardized and Mandated. 7
4 Reliable Call Blocking Should be Required by the Order. 7
5 ANI & 800 and 900 number recording limitations. 8
The commission proceeded with clear-cut priorities. Issues of life and death or law and order were given less weight than incremental improvements in the profitability of the direct marketing industry.
The commission made its decision without the broad based grassroots input available to the state regulatory bodies and as a result drafted an order that endangers public safety and destroys the substantial financial investment the public has made in unlisted numbers and per line blocking in more than half of the states.
The most beneficial new CLASS service, Call Trace, was ignored completely by this order despite the fact that some interstate standardization is needed.
Call Blocking was mandated, but successful call blocking was undefined.
The use of ANI by 800 and 900 number subscribers to gather blocked numbers was not discontinued, and ineffective measures were instituted to limit the commercial distribution of the numbers gathered in that fashion. The commission should set a date by which time all ANI services to 800 and 900 number subscribers will be withdrawn.
2. Free Per Line Blocking Balances Rights of Residential Customers and Business Interests.
The Missouri Council states that the absence of free per line blocking effectively eliminates the protection that unlisted numbers provide. Indeed this fact has been noted elsewhere. The following quote, by James Cartini in the May 1991 "Industry Forum" column of Telecommunications illustrates how some telecommunications industry insiders view the issue.
"Maybe Caller ID should have been quietly been put into place as an overall network upgrade and Call Blocking should have become the hot new residential feature. Then, if customers still wanted to preserve confidentiality, they would have to subscribe to Call Blocking at $6.50 a month. Call blocking would then be the new residential revenue generator pinpointing a quick 25-30 percent residential penetration that the operating companies were looking for, not Caller ID.
Does this sound far fetched? Not when you take a look at the amount of people who already pay for an unlisted number. In metropolitan Chicago alone, about one third of the subscriber do not want their phone numbers published. (In Los Angeles, this number approaches 50 percent), They will pay for anonymity and confidentiality." Since the number of people who choose unlisted numbers is more than four (4) times the usual rate of CNID penetration, this service could be valuable and deserve protection. We must consider the value of unlisted number in comparison to CNID.
2.1 The 1.2 Billion Dollar Value of Unlisted Numbers
A bedside telephone is the crucial link that friends and family use in emergency situations that demand immediate attention. A bedside phone must remain silent most of the night so that people can sleep. Many people have a great deal of trouble establishing and maintaining this lifeline, due to their notoriety. Hollywood actors and actresses, cabinet secretaries, leaders of minority groups, health professionals, entertainers, and athletes who have managed to alienate or attract large numbers of the public can possess a direct bedside telephone only if they manage to keep its number confidential. (Note that using CNID to screen calls is no help at all since it fails to keep the phone from ringing. The fact that it displays the callers number is no consolation at 4:00 AM).
If the ability to keep a number confidential is compromised by a reckless implementation of CNID without line-blocking, it will have a chilling effect on free speech. The danger of annoying large groups with unpopular opinions would inevitably lead to angry calls at all hours of the night.
We must consider the direct financial damage that would be caused by an implementation of interstate CNID that causes many confidential unlisted numbers to be lost. Assume that 20% of Americans have unlisted numbers, and they have been paying $4.00 per month for the service for 10 years on average, and that half of these will be compromised in the first year. That adds up to the loss of an investment of $1.2 billion in one year. (*These figures are rough reasonable estimates. Accurate current figures are rarely released by the carriers as they are considered confidential competitive information.) The actual loss is far greater because victims will be forced to spend time and money educating friends and family about their new unlisted number each time it needs to be replaced.
2.2 The Mediocre Value of ÒCaller IDÓ That Does Not Identify Callers
Despite the inaccurate marketing name ÒCaller IDÓ, CNID is not a digital signature that would identify the caller. It merely identifies the billing number and name which may not even correspond to a particular individual or even a particular phone. A minimal Caller ID system should allow the caller to possess her own identity no matter what phone they are using. A Caller ID system should not force a woman to use her husband’s name when she calls the a store.
The CNID service by itself does not provide solitude, which is freedom from unwanted callers. Telephone solitude can be obtained by using tools like Selective Call Acceptance, Selective Call Rejection, Anonymous Call Rejection, CPE password devices, and best of all, a closely held unlisted number. Caller ID gives you some control on who you choose to speak with once they call, but doesn’t reduce the number of people who can disturb the household. An unlisted number which keeps the riff-raff at bay with no supervision provides solitude. CNID is equivalent to a hazy peep-hole. You can sometimes see who’s phone is calling you, but whoever it is can just keep on ringing.
Consumer enthusiasm for CNID service has been muted. Many people observe that an answering machine screens calls almost as well, and can also take messages, and Call Trace handles threatening or abusive callers far better than CNID.
2.3 The Failure of Per Call Blocking.
2.3.1 Per Call Blocking Cannot Protect Confidentiality of Unlisted Numbers.
Per call blocking blocks a single call but is not useful for keeping an unlisted number confidential for an average household. It is possible for one member of a family to have the diligence to dial *67 before every call, but the rest of the family, the kids and their friends, and baby-sitters won’t do it reliably. Once a single call to a business that gathers marketing data is made, even if that call was due to a dialing error and was unanswered, the unlisted number will be out on the information super-highway where all kinds of undesirable callers will have access to it. Only line blocking can reliably protect a family’s unlisted number.
An individual who doesn’t allow anyone else to use their phone still faces an unreasonable burden when they try to protect their unlisted number using per-call blocking. Although the carriers have claimed that the relevant burden is the physical one of pressing three keys, anyone who knows anything about interactive system design knows that the important burden is the mental one: having to remember to punch the keys. The three keys aren’t the issue. The issues are: how easy is it to forget, and what are the consequences of forgetting?
2.3.2 Automatic Per Call Blocking CPE Unreliable and Discriminatory
Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) cannot be relied upon to provide reliable per-line blocking that can be switched on and off, as the commission states. (p. 48) These devices attempt to implement per line blocking by auto-dialing *67 before each call. Not all of the devices will have a convenient on/off switch, and equipment that does can be left off by mistake. Once such equipment is installed, temporarily unblocking the phone for a call could require rewiring the junction box. These cheap CPE devices could also silently fail to block calls, they may be incompatible with other CPE devices such as modems, fax-machines, two-line phones. Most don’t even work, or work slowly, when only rotary dial service is available. CPE devices may in fact be impossible to install in apartment buildings where the telephone junction boxes are inaccessible to residents. Batteries die and lightning bolts strike, disabling CPE devices. Unreliable CPE blocking is an undue burden on phone subscribers when the same service can be provided with legendary reliability by the carrier at absolutely no cost to anyone.
The Commission lauds the $40.00 estimated price of such a CPE device as an effective disincentive to help encourage people to think before choosing line blocking. Public policy should not be based upon CPE hardware prices that are not uniformly available to all citizens, since prices vary from time to time and from place to place. Not all citizens are equally adept at choosing and installing such CPE devices, Yet their privacy needs are independent of their financial strength or skills as electrical technicians. Battered women fleeing their batterers often don’t have access to $40.00 to buy a phone gadget, but do need to call home regularly to check on the kids.
2.4 CNID Can be Valuable to Some Businesses Yet Be Detrimental to
Without line blocking a single dialing mistake can direct your number to a CNID device possessed by a business or individual that gathers and distributes such information. In the age of the information super-highway, your number can be in the hands of national Òdata harvestersÓ who specialize in selling information on individuals such as unlisted numbers, personal profiles, and supposed interest in various products. This can increase the amount of unsolicited advertising one receives.
Surreptitious data gathering.
Information lines can be offered on a variety of topics, and can gather the identity of the caller and their interests. For example a number advertised as an abortion hotline need not even answer the incoming calls to forward numbers, names and addresses to anti-abortion protesters.
Differential Service or Redlining.
It is nice that large pizza delivery companies can use CNID to direct callers calls automatically to the franchise nearest their home. Unfortunately the same simple technique, looking at the first 3 digits of the incoming number, can be applied to other businesses as well, sometimes with dangerous consequences.
Suppose a bank did the same thing. Then callers from poor neighborhoods could all be routed to the only branch in their part of town. Poor neighborhoods have very few bank branches, despite a proportional need for bank services, so these branches can be understaffed and underfunded in order to focus the banks resources on providing superior service to more profitable neighborhoods. The invisible queues that customers wait in to get service could be made separate and unequal. While banks must obey anti-redlining laws it is not clear that using CNID in this way would violate any laws. Businesses other than banks would face no legal obstacles to providing differential service in this manner.
Until now, doing business by phone was mostly color-blind and equitable, but thanks to CNID you can be discriminated against before they even answer the telephone. CNID could thus be the enabling technology for invisible electronic racism.
2.5 Some Telephone Users Require Line Blocking
To Women’s Shelters and their volunteers, per-line blocking is a matter of life and death on a day-to-day basis. Because most counselors wear pagers and call their clients back on demand from wherever they happen to be, per-line blocking at their homes and per-call blocking every where else are needed. Shelters provide temporary housing for women and children some of whom don’t speak English well enough to be able to understand the need to dial *67 before calling home, in order to not reveal their location.
Parole officers, Police officers, and IRS employees all need to be able to call anonymously from time to time. Line blocking is the safe, free, reliable way to permit that.
Some CNID customers have noticed that calls from the National Security Agency bear no number and in place of the name say ÒHardware FailureÓ. The NSA has presumably found their own way to implement line blocking which is not provided for by tariff in Virginia. Does the FCC intend to preempt the NSA in this matter?
2.6 Arguments Against Line Blocking Flawed
The claim (in para. 42-43) that per-line blocking cannot be offered because it would erode the value of the unproved CNID service is highly ironic in light of the severe effect the absence of per-line blocking would have on the unlisted number service. Fortunately, this claim has been tested by Centel, and it turns out that the CNID service is not measurably less popular when line blocking is available, even though more people want line-blocking to protect themselves from CNID (9%) than want CNID (8%). Actually per line blocking has been available for years, and is now available in about 18 states. If there were any truth to this claim the carriers would have presented numerical evidence showing how their profits and their business customers profits have been constrained. But no such evidence was presented because the concern has been tested the last few years and proven baseless.
It is claimed that a shortage of two digit codes in the *XX format prevents the use of a number other than *67 for per call unblocking of the line blocking feature. Actually there are several numbers available that were assigned to features that turn out to be useless. For example two of these 100 numbers are assigned to turning the CNID delivery function on and off. This is not a blocking option- it would allow a CNID customer to turn on and off the ability to receive CNID signals. But the carriers want to turn CNID delivery on and off themselves when the appropriate service order is received, so these codes are unused and therefore available. The code *84 is also available for unblocking a line blocked call.
There is a fair way to encourage people not to block calls. If sales of numbers to CNID customers is really so lucrative, why not share the proceeds with the people whose numbers are sold? Instead of establishing a fee for blocking, a discount for not-blocking based on proceeds from the sale of the CNID service would provide customers a fair economic incentive to avoid call blocking.
2.7 It’s Too Late to Turn the Clock Back On Privacy.
After careful consideration and several years of public testimony and detailed analysis, the Oregon PUC among others drafted an order which provides for the safety and convenience of its citizens. Oregon encouraged grass-roots feedback and came to a balanced compromise which provides for line blocking for the benefit of citizens and law enforcement.
Prior to the introduction of CLASS services, everyone had service equivalent to per line blocking, and most people were very happy with it. Instituting a fee for line blocking constitutes a rate increase that must be justified by evidence of economic hardship to the utility. No such evidence has been presented.
During the year that line blocking has been in use in Oregon there have been no problems with it, nor has there been significant dissatisfaction with CNID due to blocked calls.
Line blocking is now an established, widely understood, choice Oregonians expect. Taking people’s line blocking choice away from them after they have paid for it and relied upon it, without very powerful and convincing reasons, will provoke a very unpleasant reaction from the public. Common Carriers and the FCC will be seen in a very negative light. Preempting per line blocking without any supporting evidence of actual harm caused by it will seem to be an arbitrary, capricious and tardy effort at federal over-regulation.
It is not just Oregonians that will feel cheated. Privacy protections will be preempted by this order in at least 30 states, so most Americans will loose under it. In particular the citizens of AZ, OC, CT, IA, ID, GA, MA, NC, NE, NH, NM, NV, NY, OH, SC, TX, WA, and WY will loose privacy protections.
3 Interstate Call Trace Should Be Federally Standardized and Mandated.
While CNID is the most controversial of the new CLASS services, it is far from the most important. That distinction belongs to the Call Trace feature. Sadly, the interstate use of interstate call trace faces several obstacles that the FCC could help to resolve.
The Call Trace feature corrects the most important problem facing common carriers today: how to control harassing and threatening callers. Prior to the availability of Call Trace it was almost impossible to identify and prosecute threatening and harassing callers. Call Trace is the service that helps customers gather the evidence needed to charge and convict the perpetrator.
Call Trace is simple to use, and requires no special CPE nor any prearrangement
with the carrier. After the customer hangs up on the offensive caller he or she
presses *57, which stores the information in a database available to the carrier’s
nuisance department. When the caller repeats the offensive contact, the police can
be brought in and they can gather the evidence from the telephone company. In
Oregon, call trace costs $1.00 per use. Since telephone harasses will choose to
block CNID, it is useless as a deterrent. Even where blocking is not allowed,
CNID doesn’t work because the numbers are stored in CPE subject to manipulation
by the owner which is not viable evidence in court.
The FCC could help by making sure that procedures for dealing with interstate Call Trace are consistent. Inconsistencies could hamper investigations that cross state lines, by denying access to out-of-state law enforcement officials or common carriers. The procedures must permit the signaling information to flow across state lines, and permit out of state law enforcement personnel to carry out investigations based on the information. The procedures must not allow the called party to know the number of the person who called them, to avoid the situation where call-trace is used as cheap, unblockable CNID.
Most importantly, call trace must be available for a very low price, such as Oregon’s rate of $1.00 per use, since it is often necessary to use it many times to kick off an investigation. This price may be lower than the incremental cost of service, but everyone benefits when telephone harasses get prosecuted.
To protect the privacy of callers, Call Trace should not make a caller’s number directly available to the called party. It should not appear on the next phone bill. In Oregon the number is placed in a database accessible only to the carrier’s designated employees and law enforcement personnel.
4 Reliable Call Blocking Should be Required by the Order.
Trust in the telephone network is a major accomplishment. To protect that trust, reliable call blocking must be provided.
Unreliable cheap CPE devices which try to dial *67 must not be used in place of line blocking.
For blocking to be reliable another code besides *67 should be available to unblock per line blocking for the duration of a call. This resolves the ambiguous situation a caller faces when they don’t know the blocking status of the telephone at hand.
The reliability of Òcall blockingÓ depends on its definition. Sadly, the commission does not define Òcall blockingÓ, so its meaning is up to interpretation by the utilities. Call Blocking should be defined as follows:
Call Block: When the caller blocks a call, the called party is not given their number or the ability to return the call.
This obvious simple definition needs to be a statutory requirement to preserve the Public’s trust in the network. Surprisingly, utilities and switch vendors have repeatedly failed to fulfill this basic requirement due to several problems:
- Most implementations of the Last Call Return feature violate this principle by returning blocked calls with disastrous results for women calling from women’s shelters.
- The numbers of blocked calls sometimes appear on the recipients phone bills, or are spoken out by automated systems such as the one which vocalizes the list of numbers currently on the customer’s Selective Call Rejection list.
- Blocked numbers must not appear on the called parties phone bill or any other report issued by the carrier.
- The Call Trace (*57) function must be implemented in a way that protects the caller from having the called party efficiently use it as a ruse to evade call blocking, and obtain hardware-free CNID service.
- Blocking must work when 800 and 900 numbers are called.
Only with trustworthy call blocking can the chilling effect on constitutionally protected free speech that unreliable call blocking creates be avoided.
5 ANI & 800 and 900 number recording limitations.
In paragraph 43, the FCC has banned the sale of numbers gathered by ANI subscribers, unless they obtain verbal consent. (Note that no rules prevent sale of numbers from the presumably blockable CNID system.) The problem is that the enforcement of the rule seems to be limited to the requirement that must be included in the fine print of the ANI sale contract between the common-carrier and the ANI subscriber. It would seem that the Commission expects to rely on the common-carrier to enforce a rule that is contrary to their financial interest.
Violating this rule on ANI number redistribution should result in fines and punitive damages, which are not specified in the current Order. Callers of 800 and 900 numbers are being exploited by members of the Direct Marketing Association who are ANI subscribers and sell mailing lists of the callers of various lines such as 462,000 people who called ÒFantasy Fun’s 900 NetworkÓ. (see Direct Marketing News, 12/23/91)
A change to the fine print of the contracts won’t help as much as some fines. Additionally, a person who suffers from publication or sale of their name or number in violation of this rule must be able to recover damages.
The availability of interstate CNID eliminates the last excuse for delivering ANI data to 800 and 900 number subscribers. The commission should set a date by which time all ANI services to 800 and 900 number subscribers will be withdrawn. The commission should immediately ban the sale of new ANI services to all but LECs and IXCs. Beneficial services currently offered can be provided using CNID.
Created before October 2004