TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Service Providers Recycling Phone Numbers

Re: Service Providers Recycling Phone Numbers

George Berger (
Tue, 21 Feb 2006 19:43:08 -0500

It happened several years ago, but it still torques my shorts.

We signed up with AT&T for a cell phone, to be used for emergencies
only, (the $29.95 per month stuff).

We never gave anyone the cell phone number, and we keep the cell phone
in the car -- period. We haven't used it, since 2001, for anything
other than one emergency call. We just keep the battery charged up and
the phone in the console between the front seats.

Anyway, a couple of months after signing up with AT&T, we received a
significant bill for "incoming calls" that we never received, as we
still don't know how to use the Nokia except to call out ... It took
over four months, and a lawyer, to get AT&T to admit that the phone
number we had been assigned was earlier used by a lobbyist.

The lawyer's bill was more than the AT&T bill, but it was worth it to
get AT&T to admit error.

I guess I'm an imbecile -- but, with our POTS phone, we do not have to
pat for someone calling us. Why -- if you have a cell phone -- do you
have to pay if someone calls you?

Seems like a first class racket, worthy of Al Capone and the Mafia.

George (The Old Fud)

I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am
not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
-- Robert McCloskey, State Department spokesman (attributed)

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The reason you have to pay for incoming
calls is because (they say) the radio transmitter _on your end_ has
to be used also. Eons ago, when Bell was in business, they had a
division of that erstwhile company known as Separations and
Settlements. S&S (to oversimplify it a little) was a bunch of people
who sat around a large table with adding machines and other such tools
and huge mounds of operator toll tickets which they would toss back
and forth into each other's piles of work. In New York at a payphone I
called a number in California; my call had to go in transit through a
pair of wires belonging to a telco in Indiana and also in Colorado
before eventually reaching Los Angeles. Clerk # 1 said to Clerk # 2,
"here is a thousand dollars (in the form of a couple dozen) worth of
credits to Illinois Bell from New York Telephone, and toss his stack
of tickets to the next clerk. Then maybe he had five hundred dollars
in tickets from New England Telephone to Southwestern Bell all
bundled together and tossed that stack at another clerk somewhere. Ditto
with a stack of tickets from Florida to a telco in Michigan, and some
from Bell outbound to GTE. Each clerk would parse out his area of
interest: payphones in New York City, switchboards in California, etc.
Parse our his area of interest, add up the batch of tickets again
rebundle them a thousand or so at a time, and toss the new bundle to
the next clerk to work on. And eventually, that 'average' toll ticket,
which they said was $6.59 in the 1960's had been thumbed through and
worked over so that the $6.59 had been divided, or 'separated' about
25 different ways: a nickle for you, thirty cents for the next guy,
etc. More or less once per year, and a few zillion paper toll tickets
later, it would all be summarized: Southwestern Bell 'owed' some
amount of money to New York Telephone, and New York Tel 'owed' some
amount of money to GTE, etc. Everyone got horrible headaches. Imagine
for example, a ticket that a customer disputed, some service rep
somewhere wrote it off rather than investigate it further; the
entire process would then go in reverse; I take back my nickle from
you, and my thirty cents from the next guy. GTE would pay back the
amount it 'owed' to New York Tel, etc. But Separations and Settlements
saw to it that ONE person paid for the call, and the recipient paid
NOTHING. It was an extremely technical bookeeping process, but part
of what made the 'System' work so well.

Then Bell went out of business, none of the greedy telcos around
after that saw any reason to show the end-user (the customer, their
rationale for being in business) any courtesy. Each man for himself.
If a customer somewhere used a transmitter, then YOU make him pay for
his part of it. Oversimplified a little, yes, but a sign of the times
in telephony these days. Only Settle and Separate to the extent the
court requires of you. Thanks again, Judge Greene, for your well
thought out plan of divestiture. PAT]

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