TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: The 411 on Directory Assistance

Re: The 411 on Directory Assistance

Steven Lichter (
Sat, 11 Mar 2006 01:48:49 GMT

Monty Solomon wrote:

> The New York Times
> March 9, 2006

> Calling 411 for directory assistance can be maddeningly expensive.
> Carriers like Sprint and Verizon charge more than $1 and sometimes as
> much as $2 a call from a cellphone..

> And much of that is profit. Directory assistance "truly is a cash
> cow," said Saroja Girishankar, a vice president at the Pelorus Group,
> a telecommunications market research firm based in Raritan, N.J. She
> and other industry analysts said that the carriers paid wholesalers --
> who actually provide the 411 service -- from 25 to 50 cents a call.

> Naturally, the wireless carriers and directory assistance companies
> want to keep the cash cow in their barn. But increasingly, customers
> have access to free alternatives to 411. And as cellphones become more
> sophisticated, the options for avoiding paid directory assistance are
> multiplying.

> Already, two new services -- 800-FREE-411 and 800-411-METRO -- offer
> directory assistance free of charge, though users have to listen to
> advertisements.

> Other companies, including Google, offer free directory assistance via
> text message. Soon, voice-activated search engines may make it
> possible to bypass directory assistance entirely. One contender, the
> Maestro system, a voice-activated search engine being developed at
> Ben-Gurion University in Israel, will allow users to surf the Web just
> by speaking and listening.

> To keep users calling their paid 411 services, the major wireless
> carriers have added features like horoscopes, sports scores and stock
> prices. As cellular bandwidth increases, those offerings will go from
> voice to text to multimedia, said Tom Moran, executive director of
> product management and development for Verizon LiveSource.
> (LiveSource, owned by Verizon Communications, handles about 1 billion
> 411 calls a year for customers not only of Verizon Wireless, but of
> T-Mobile, Cingular and Alltel.)


> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I do not understand why people and
> companies keep insisting on paying _obscenely high_ rates for DA when
> there are so many alternatives to xxx-555-1212 and 411. The Directory
> Assistance service this Digest recommends -- mainly because I do make
> a wee bit of profit on it -- is 877-EASY-411. The charge is all of
> *65 cents* for one or two inquiries, and it is billed your credit card
> more or less monthly. (The inquiries for the month accumulated). 65
> cents per inquiry (or two) still makes money for the people who
> operate the program and five or six cents for the Digest. So imagine,
> if you will, the $1.25 to $2.00 per call charged by Verizon, AT&T,
> SBC, Cingular Wireless and others, to picture the rip offs in this
> business.

> Now just as Divestiture allowed for '1010 calling' the '00' operator
> and the default long distance 1+ carriers to be chosen by consumers,
> it also allowed for '411' to be a consumer choice; but _just try_ to
> get your telco to agree to send _your_ 411 traffic to the bureau of
> your choice. They will not do it! They may, someday, if/when lawsuits
> force them to comply with this provision, but until then, telco
> continues to control the destiny of '411' itself; telco's own choice
> of overpriced bureau, etc. People who do not like it, have to work
> around it, just like years ago when we had to dial 950-whatever to
> use MCI/Sprint. The service which sponsors the Digest is one such
> example: You have to dial 1-877-327-9411, or 877-EASY-411.

> Some users have built that into speed dial buttons on their phones.
> Other users have added 'intercept boxes' (such as what Sandman offers)
> to listen on line for '411' and on hearing it, to drop the connection
> and immediatly dial 1-877-327-9411, at _65 cents per call_.

> How do they know who to bill? Well, you enroll for the service by
> going to to sign up. You provide up
> to five numbers you would ordinarily use to call Directry
> Assistance. You also provide it with the credit card number you wish
> to have billed at monthly more or less intervals. When one of those
> (up to five) phone lines dials into 877-327-9411 the 'caller ID' (or
> ANI) captured is recorded and you are put straight through to the
> _live, real-time_ directory assistance bureau and a live operator
> answers. No need for PINS, little or no chance of cheating on your
> credit card since presumably you control the (up to five) phone lines
> used. Maybe one or two for your office, one or two for your home
> numbers, one for your cell phone, etc. No need to 'login in', no need
> for 'passwords' etc. Just dial 877-327-9411 and pass your request when
> the operator answers. The ANI generated takes care of it all, and
> about once per month (because it is very unrealistic and impractical
> to submit a credit card charge for 65 cents each time an inquiry is
> made) they are all batched up and charged to your card. For your
> protection against abuse by others in your office, I think they will
> set monthly 'credit cut-off levels' if you ask, and they do provide a
> print out of your inquiries a few days before the credit card charge
> is put through if you request it. There is NO fee to sign up, NO
> monthly minimum usage, none of that stuff. Just 65 cents for one or
> two inquiries.

> If your computer has speakers/sound card you can hear a sample call to
> EASY411 on their web site. Consider using EASY411 as your directory
> assistance provider please. It is real time, as up to date as all such
> bureaus are (within a day or two?), and you will be helping this Digest.
> PAT]

I don't know how much of a profit it is since the DA from Cell phones
are handled by another company and the Telco contract with them.

The only good spammer is a dead one!! Have you hunted one down today?
(c) 2006 I Kill Spammers, Inc. A Rot in Hell Co.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Even from cell phones, you can and
should be using EASY-411. Just set up a speed dial button on your cell
phone; maybe '4' for example. Of course, first go onto and enroll that particular cellphone number, then
never again use your cellphone's directory service. PAT]

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