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Junk Phone Calls, Metered Usage, and Cellphones

At 6:08 PM 9/6/96, [email protected] wrote:

>is done because of the Great Drug Hysteria, but I suspect part of it
>is that pay phone companies don't make money receiving calls,
>so they don't want to tie up their phones doing that; perhaps if
>they charged money to receive calls as well as initiate them,
>they'd be willing to receive calls?

I am about to start worrying about "junk phone calls" more so than I have
been. I just bit the bullet and bought a digital cellular phone, with a
nifty rate plan called Digital Flex: I get unlimited free airtime from 7
p.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays, and unlimited free airtime all weekend. From south
of Salinas to north of Santa Rosa and as far east as the Central Valley. In
other words, the entire Bay Area and outlying communities. I can send and
receive calls over this entire region, from anywhere in the region (of
course), without any charges.

The downside is that calls _from_ or _to_ my phone during "business" hours
are charged 42 cents a minute, airtime (tying up a channel and all), plus
whatever other fees may be applicable at each end. Thus, every "junk call"
I get trying to get me to buy aluminum siding, or to vote Democratic, or to
switch my long-distance carrier (!), costs me a minimum of 42 cents,
depending on how fast I can realize who they are and get rid of them ("Let
me forward you to Jim Bell's AP hotline...").

Needless to say, my cellular number is only going out to a handful of
folks, and with recommendations that they not call me during business hours
unless its urgent.

I believe this kind of pricing model is likely to be common. We can debate
til the cows come home whether flat rate pricing makes sense, for ISPs, for
cellphones, for other things.

Relevance to Crypto? The "junk e-mai" issue, calls for regulations (which
I'm against), technological solutions (Caller ID lets users decided to
accept a call or not....same idea could be used with e-mail, a la Hal
Finney's "You have a message of size X from size Y entitled Z" proposal for
positve acceptance of remailed messages), and the value of True Names (and
True Numbers).

I'll be real pissed if my new cellphone number ends up in the hands of mass
marketers, given that I don't plan to give it out to merchants, to
organizations, etc.

(I'm probably inviting malicious use by one of my enemies here on this
list...there may be ways I don't yet grok to "look up" cellphone user
numbers. I can then get hit with denial-of-service attack just by having
this 42 cents a call situation. I hope no one is this malicious.)

P.S. The phone is a Motorola Micro Digital Lite, a little bugger with a
zillion features. It can vibrate silently instead of ringing (phone sex?),
it can store 100 alphanumeric name/number combinations, it even has a data
port for use with a modem (probably a special modem, and certainly a chore
to set all the battery-powered stuff up properly...I'll report on it if it
works). The cost was about $200 for the phone, after the rebates,
kickbacks, etc., and after "sales tax on the pre-kickback price" was added
back in (California has a tax collection scam where sales tax is assessed
against the "real" price of some good or service....imagine the
possibilities if this is extended to cover other such areas). The "Digital
Flex" plan from Cellular One is $20/mo for the basic plan, and then $15/mo
on top of that for the unlimited evenings and weekends use. (This could
easily save me the amount I often spend in a month just yakking with
friends and girlfriends who live over the hill in the Valley.)

These rates have really come down a lot. The unlimited calls is what sold me.

--Tim May

We got computers, we're tapping phone lines, I know that that ain't allowed.
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
W.A.S.T.E.: Corralitos, CA  | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^1,257,787-1 | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders aren't even speed bumps on the information superhighway."