Wireless Net Neutrality

On February 8th, Tim Wu wrote a blog entry about his beta draft of Wireless Net Neutrality. For a long time I’ve thought that the wireless industry in the United States was not operating in the best interest of consumers, that there actions are anti-competitive. I’ve been concerned about why Europe and the Far East is so far ahead of us in wireless innovation.

Yet most of the time, it hasn’t particularly affected me. Sure, the ridiculous pricing on text messaging discourages me from using text messaging as much as I would otherwise.

Then, this evening, I got an email that changed things. I often use Free Conference.com for conference calls. They sent out an email saying,

As of Friday, March 9, it's come to our attention that Cingular Wireless has begun blocking all conference calls made from Cingular handsets to selected conference numbers. If you call our service, you receive a recording that says, "This call is not allowed from this number. Please dial 611 for customer service".

Earlier this week, Sprint and Qwest joined in this action, blocking cellular and land line calls to these same numbers. This appears to be a coordinated effort to force you to use the paid services they provide, eliminating competition and blocking your right to use the conferencing services that work best for you.

Being the good investigative blogger that I am, I set up a conference call. I received the following email confirming the call:

Primary Dial-in Number: 1-641-297-5500 (Iowa)
Alternate Dial-in Numbers: As long as everyone participating in your conference enters the same Participant Access Code, they will be joined together.
1-641-297-5510 (Sprint, Qwest and Cingular Customers)

So, I called in from my landline. There were no problems getting in at the primary dial-in number. It is worth noting that my landline is served by the new AT&T (Cingular). I then tried calling the Primary Dial-in Number from Cingular cellphone. Sure enough, I received the message, "This call is not allowed from this number. Please dial 611 for customer service"

So, I called customer service. After several minutes on hold, I learned that Cingular is spending $18 million a day on customer service. Well, maybe they had better policies they wouldn’t need to spend as much on customer service.

After a few minutes waiting on hold, I spoke with a customer service representative. I described the problem. The first suggestion was to power off and power on the cellphone. I explained that the phone was working fine. I was calling from the phone.

She then tried to call the number and said she was getting a busy signal. I said that it worked from my landline, but not from by cellphone. I suggested that they write up a ticket about a problem with their system. She put me on hold and contacted technical support. Yet again, I heard about $18 million a day.

When she came back, she said that the number I was trying to call had been restricted by the fraud department. I asked her what was fraudulent about trying to call a number in Iowa. She said that people calling that number were being charged an excessive rate. I asked her how that could be, since Cingular is the company that is doing the billing. I asked how Cingular would charge different rates for different numbers in Iowa. She wasn’t sure and checked again. She then went on to say that it is some sort of temporary billing dispute between Cingular and the conference call company. She said that it should be resolved in a couple of days.

For some reason, I don’t trust Cingular. It may be that FreeConference is partly responsible as well. I don’t know. FreeConference suggested contacting the FCC and the state attorney general. Sounds like a good idea to me. They are probably much better at getting to the bottom of this than I am. When I finish putting this post up, I’ll contact the FCC and the state attorney general. Let’s see what they make of the situation.

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Thanks, and more details

Go To Webinar Troubles Tonight, 3/19/2007


cost. bottom line.

You're making my point


reply to jeremy

forgot something

Is anone in your conference using Verizon?