Cingular, Qwest Shocked That People Don't Like It When They Arbitrarily Block Calls; Lift FreeConference Ban

from the about-time dept

Well, it only took plenty of publicity and a lawsuit, but is saying that Cingular and Qwest have backed down, and have started allowing calls to go through to their service again after being blocked for nearly a month. Apparently, a lot of customers complained (no surprise there) and the companies felt it was best to stop the blocks. Of course, the lawsuit probably had something to do with it as well — along with the fact that the FCC has finally realized that maybe it should be finding out what’s going on. Once again, though, it’s not as if and its Iowa telco partners come out of this looking good. They’re basically scamming a set of ridiculous regulations that allow them to overcharge telcos. Unfortunately, the small local Iowa telcos involved don’t realize that the more they complain about this, the more they’re only asking for trouble. We’d already noted that they were whining a little too loudly about how their big scam was protecting the little guy. Today, they’re back at it, spamming us with press releases about how, even though the services are working again, the “little guy” is still feeling the pain. The more these small telcos complain, the more attention they’re going to get — and sooner or later regulators are going to realize that they’re basically scamming a badly written law. So, whether or not it’s helping the little guy, don’t expect it to last very long.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Cingular, Qwest Shocked That People Don't Like It When They Arbitrarily Block Calls; Lift FreeConference Ban”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Jim says:

FCC Nears Decision on Iowa Telcos

Both sides in the dispute expect the FCC to issue an informal ruling this week on the matter. (Superior Telephone et al) v. ATT, Sprint (at al)

Last Tuesday an FCC spokesman made clear that blocking calls was forbidden, (calls are now flowing again) so it now comes down to the recip comp money, owed to the local companies, but not paid by the LD carriers.

It seems the Iowa companies have made a pretty strong case for getting paid for calls made to, and terminating in Iowa. (Conference Calling)

The made a weaker case when calls are routed thru the Iowa companies and then sent elsewhere (ie) free international calling.

If the Iowa telcos win at the FCC, they will press for immediate payment, plus fines, plus interest, plus attorney fees. If they lose, they probably will not appeal.

If ATT (et al) lose at the FCC they have an interesting decision to make.

IF, they appeal the decision to the Federal Court —and they lose there— (likely since the Federal Courts usually defer to the govt.) ATT (et al) would be stuck paying high recip comp rates permanently.

If so, look for hundreds of these services to sprout. A true nightmare for the major carriers.

Right now neither side is ready to blink, which is dangerous for both sides.

Both sides made offers to each other to settle the issue, but they were not even in the same “state” never mind the same “ball park”

Possible Solutions:
IF, the local telcos were to accept payment ONLY for calls that terminated in Iowa, and were not routed overseas, perhaps ATT (et al) would ante up the money they owe.

But if the local telcos insists on every last dime, ATT (et al) may just sit tight and try to wait them out.

Either way, the local telcos did nothing illegal.
They read the tariff and went about their business.

ATT (et al) never, in their wildest dreams thought a few local telcos in Iowa would beat the giant carriers.

And with first quarter profits collectively over several-BILLION dollars, its hard to feel empathy for the giant telcos.
The amount of money they owe the local telcos is probably the amount of money they spend on “entertainment expenses” every year.

Perhaps the BEST solution would be for the giant carriers to point out to their customers, that in their TOS, the giant carriers CAN BLOCK calls due to excessive use. (in unlimited plans only)

When a customer exceeds 6,000 minutes per month to a certain number, the carrier can block access to the number and/or cancel the account.

Of course it is far more expensive to block individual customers than to prevent ALL customers from dialing a specific phone number.

I would bet the FCC will choose this route as an interim solution, with an eye toward examining the entire recip comp structure at a future date.

The FCC chairman has made it clear reexamining this issue is a priority.

So for the Iowa telcos, “let the good times roll, while they last!”

yardape6 says:

Black & White

It seams all over the place because both sides are doing something wrong. Qwest and Cingular should not have blocked the calls. They would have been better served by just paying the bills and working to try and change the regulation, citing this case as a reason for the change. is abusing telco regulations to charge insane termination fees and basically scam the telcom providers. Its all shades of gray instead black and white. Why is that confusing.

Alex Cory says:

Re: Black & White

Please investigate the facts before you use the carriers hysterical language about fees. FreeConference is not abusing telco regulations. This is a legal and common practice that has been used by many carriers in addition to free conferencing companies for years and years. The termination fees charged by the rural telephone companies are not “insane”. The average about 4 cents per minute, which is about half of what these carriers are generating in long distance revenues. Since the conferencing calls would not occur without this service, these are new minutes that generate new revenues. And before you start talking about “free” calling plans, please do a little more investigation. Conferencing is an inherently business oriented activity that occurs primarily during the week and during business hours. Many participants on these calls are using cell phones, which are based on per minute plans (even if sold in flat priced blocks). At a minimum, these customers have to buy more minutes and also may risk the punitive rates charged by wireless carriers if they go over their current allotment. Yes, there are some termination fees that are high, but these are not used by conferencing services, which require absolute reliability to be able to compete in the business services market.

Sanguine Dream says:

We saw this coming

Someone finally figured out how to stick to the big telcos and the telcos are crying foul. Perhaps now that they are the victims of their own tactics the telcos will wake the hell up and do something about these regulations.

Problem is they won’t do that. They will just cry foul until that particular loophole (and any other that may benifit someone other than the telcos themselves) is closed and they can go back to setting up there monopolies, nickel and diming customers into oblivion, complaining that they need more money to better serve customers, and outperforming their “competition”.

Little Guy says:

little guy

Look at it this way.

Techdirt is a small news company (telco’s) that competes for business for people to view their sites rather than look at big press companies like Wall Street, New York Times (AT&T and Sprint). If the press companies chose to file a suit against you to wipe you out even though you are working within ever legal right to operate your press company, would you stand up and cry fowl? Or turn and run? I think that even that you would stand up and fight that is the honorable and correct thing to do. These companies are protecting their legal rights and deserve to win against monopoly companies.

Bob says:

Iowa Telcos Gain More Support

The Iowa Telcos are enlisting the aid of two very powerful Senators in their battle to make sure calls continue to be connected to their companies and they are paid the million dollars owed to them by AT&T and others.
Senators Grassley and Harkin, the two Senators from Iowa, have met with a delegation from the Iowa Telco group. The Senators no doubt realize the political clout and savvy the local phone companies have in Iowa, since most of the state is served by small independent phone companies.
(AT&T may have cash, but the local telcos have something more valuable—thousands of votes)
At the very least Grassley and Harkin will no doubt contact the F.C.C. demanding to know “what’s going on?”
Such contact will put pressure on the F.C.C. to act on the matter.
The local phone companies want an order from the F.C.C. requiring full payment of moneys owed and a fine for blocking calls.
There are hints the local telcos might be willing to negotiate future recip rates
along with signs that grassroots support for the local telcos is growing, with a large number of complaints being filed at the FCC on behalf of the local telcos.
Ironically, AT&T last week announced 1st quarter profits of over $2-Billion.
Several Wall St. analysts predicted AT&T would earn over $11-Billion this year.
Earning that kind of cash, and complaining of paying out a few million dollars in legally owed recip comp money does not engender much sympathy for AT&T and the other large carriers.
What AT&T fails to point out, in their blitz of press releases about the local telcos, is that the local telcos are merely following a tariff which AT&T did not fight when proposed.
AT&T arguments, are lame and empty, but as they say in Texas, “empty drums do make the most noise”

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...