30 Years of the Digest ... founded August 21, 1981
The Telecom Digest for April 2, 2012
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Date: Sun, 1 Apr 2012 00:43:13 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com. Subject: Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool By ERIC LICHTBLAU March 31, 2012 WASHINGTON - Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show. The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of "surveillance fees" to police departments to determine a suspect's location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations. With cellphones ubiquitous, the police [say that] phone tracing [is] a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions, suicide calls, and investigations in drug cases and murders. One police training manual describes cellphones as "the virtual biographer of our daily activities," providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels. But civil liberties advocates say the wider use of cell tracking raises legal and constitutional questions, particularly when the police act without judicial orders. While many departments require warrants to use phone tracking in nonemergencies, others claim broad discretion to get the records on their own, according to 5,500 pages of internal records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union from 205 police departments nationwide. ... http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/us/police-tracking-of-cellphones-raises-privacy-fears.html -or- http://goo.gl/M27XD
Date: Sun, 1 Apr 2012 15:23:24 -0400 From: tlvp <mPiOsUcB.EtLlLvEp@att.net> To: email@example.com. Subject: Q.: Credo mobile: who are they? Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Postal flier reached me yesterday, from "Credo mobile", seemingly a MVNO reselling Sprint wireless service, and portraying itself as anti-tea-party in keeping with its activist-oriented sales hook. Who -- or what -- are they, really? In league with Working Assets? Other? TIA; and cheers, -- tlvp -- Avant de repondre, jeter la poubelle, SVP.
Date: Sun, 01 Apr 2012 10:55:23 -0500 From: email@example.com (Robert Bonomi) To: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject: Re: Verizon, at&t agree to stop 'cramming' on customers' bills Message-ID: <ZdSdnWHx5oH25-XSnZ2dnUVZ_jWdnZ2d@posted.nuvoxcommunications> In article <HYmdnfn4T7pkrevSnZ2dnUVZ_hednZ2d@earthlink.com>, r.e.d. <email@example.com> wrote: >Regarding this posting and linked article, I have always wondered about >this: > >From: "HAncock4" <firstname.lastname@example.org> >> >> MSNBC reported: >> "Verizon and AT&T have agreed to stop "cramming" consumers' telephone >> bills with unauthorized third-party charges, Sen. Jay Rockefeller >> announced Wednesday. > >[Moderator snip] > > >Is there expertise in the newsgroup readership as to how cramming >works, technically? I gather it's not like billing for carrier >interconnection (not that I understand that, either). The 'simplest' how-it-works explanation is that a 3rd-party service provider sends the telephone company a list of phone numbers, and the amounts to be billed against those accounts. The telco gives the provider that money (less a 'service fee', for doing the billing/collection) and bills the telco subscriber 'as directed'. If the subscriber disputes the charge, there is a 'chargeback' mechanism, but things get really messy. Historically, there is a LONG_STANDING industry practice of letting 'select' third parties bill through your telephone bill for the services of that third party. I'm not sure when 'Ma Bell' and Western Union came to the 'special agreement' whereby you could phone the local Western Union office, dictate a telegram, and have it billed to your telephone account. WU was one of a very small number -- possibly the only one -- of 'outside' providers with this special billing arrangement. Ma Bell also offered some 'specialty' on-demand services that could be billed on the phone bill -- conference-call bridges, translation, transcription services, and the like. Comes the 'divestiture' boondoggle, and it was ruled that (a) 'Ma Bell', in it's "regulated" operations, could NO offer such 'enhanced' services, and (b) the 'regulated' side had to provide 'equal access' to competitors of the telco's 'unregulated' service offerings. Since the telco 'unregulated' division could bill on the phone bill, it was held that 3rd-party providers also had to be given that capability. In the early days, the mechanics of the process were that the 3rd-party services provider wrote a computer tape with the billing info, and sent it to the telco's processing center. Also in those early days, the situation was rife with fraud and large- scale scams, with the telco caught in the middle. They had already paid the scammer, and couldn't recover the money paid out, so (oddly enough) were very reluctant to 'refund' those bogus charges to their subscriber. Telcos could, and did, disconnect your service if you failed to pay those 3rd-party charges. It took several rounds of revisions to the relevant regulations to get the situation 'mostly' under control. Today, 3rd-paty billers don't get any money until the subscriber pays the 'phone bill', in full. In addition, telcos cannot disconnect, or pursue 'collection', over disputed 3rd-party charges; they are just bounced back to the originator, who has to do all the collection/enforcement themselves. And, I believe, significant restrictions were imposed on 'who' can now do such billing. It may involve posting 'substantial' surety bonds, and/or have an 'established' business record (which would eliminate the newly- established 'fly by night' operators). I think the 3rd-party biller must also, now, have explicit written consent from the telco subscriber, a -signed- document specifying the nature and amount of the charges that are 'authorized'.
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