Directory service can be crucial for small businesses
By Hiawatha Bray, Globe Staff | September 5, 2005
Once, you had to pay the telephone company an extra fee if you wanted
an unlisted number. These days, you can get one without even trying.
Just get a cellular telephone, or one of those new Voice over Internet
Protocol (VOIP) phone services. In most cases, directory assistance
operators won't be able to find you. That's because cellphone and
Internet phone providers have not plugged their customers' numbers
into the big national phone number databases.
That's good news for millions of consumers sick of harassment from
telemarketers. But millions of others -- especially small-business
people and the self-employed -- want their numbers listed. The absence
of directory listings might persuade them to keep their traditional
But times are changing. Starting next year, millions of cellphone
users will be available through the same 411 service that lists
standard phone numbers. And there are moves afoot to include VOIP
telephone numbers in phone directories, as well.
Most of the nation's biggest wireless carriers have teamed up with
Qsent Inc. of Portland, Ore., to produce a national databse of
wireless phone numbers. "Our plan is to roll it out to all the major
411 providers in the country," said Greg Keene, Qsent's chief privacy
officer. "For those of us that really want to be reached ... it'll
Directory assistance services are provided either by the phone
companies themselves, or by independent firms like Infonxx Inc. of
Bethlehem, Pa. When the Qsent database opens for business, these
directory assistance providers will be able to connect to it and
search for listed cellphone numbers.
Cellphone users who don't want their numbers listed need not worry.
This will be an 'opt-in' database. A user won't be listed unless he
requests it, and can get delisted whenever he changes his mind.
Numbers won't be printed in a phone book or sold to telemarketers.
They will be available only by dialing directory assistance.
Cingular, T-Mobile, Nextel, Alltel, and Sprint plan to participate in
the system. But Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest cellphone
carrier, with 47 million subscribers, wants no part of it.