TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Here's My Number (for Today)

Here's My Number (for Today)

Monty Solomon (
Sat, 2 Dec 2006 22:54:24 -0500

The New York Times

THERE is no shortage of ways to reach Airin McClain, a singer who
lives in Philadelphia. She has a Web site, an instant messenger
account, a MySpace page, four e-mail addresses and two mobile phones.

Good luck getting one of those phone numbers, though. She would
sooner tell you her weight.

"Why would I give out my cell?" said Ms. McClain, 23. "I don't need a
guy I met at a bar one night calling me every day for the next two
weeks begging me to go out. I want to filter out the people I don't
need to have contact with."

In an age of information oversharing, the mobile-phone number is one
of the few pieces of personal information that people still choose to
guard. Unwanted incoming calls are intrusive and time-consuming and
can suck precious daytime cell-plan minutes. And the decision to give
out a cell number can haunt you for years, as people now hold on to
the numbers longer than their land-line numbers.

Some people have found a way to avoid compromising the sanctity of
their cellphone without committing the modern sin of being
unreachable. Instead of giving out her cell number, Ms. McClain has
recently been dispersing what has become known as a "social phone

This is a free number that is as disposable as a Hotmail address. A
handful of Web sites are creating these mask numbers, which can be
obtained in nearly every area code (users can either have a number in
their own region, or make it look as if they have an office in New
York City when they are actually operating out of rural Maine).

These sites buy numbers in bulk at a discount, then generate profit by
displaying ads and getting users of the free service to upgrade to
billable plans with features like call forwarding, call blocking and
outbound calling.

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