SMS/800, Inc. and the SMS/800 Number Administration Committee constantly track how many numbers are removed from the SMS spare pool so that the industry doesn’t experience a shortage of toll free numbers.  Based on that tracking, in April 2012, it was believed that the 90% in-use trigger for releasing the 844 prefix would occur in the first quarter of 2014 with full exhaustion in the fourth quarter of 2015.  Consequently, it was decided to release 844 around February 2014.

Suddenly, in March 2013, almost a million numbers were reserved from spare: 800,000 numbers.  That left just over 4 million toll-free numbers available, or approximately 10.5% of the numbers.  Now the industry is under pressure to get 844 released sooner, get the numbers back, or proceed to control reservations.

Who needed nearly a million numbers in a couple of weeks?  I will bet, without  knowing as a fact, that these reservations were not spread over several RespOrgs.  I would bet that the reservations were made by one or just a few RespOrgs.

The FCC has talked about hoarding issues for years, but not much has happened.  I am a little concerned that if the FCC steps in without careful consultation from a wide range of industry experts, the real culprits will not be the ones that suffer.  I know this from experience with trying to respond to the investigation a couple of years ago.  I admitted to having six numbers that got missed when I sold my CLEC and I was informed that that qualified as hoarding.

It is time that the regulations on the sale and hoarding of numbers is addressed, but not just by the FCC coming down on the issue through regulation and fines, but rather through a true discussion with the industry about technical issues that allow hoarding and a realistic look at the sale of numbers.

The issues are not as simple as the last group of questions the FCC used in their investigation. We need long term, well planned solutions.

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And it needs to be before March 29!

In September 2012, we all came together to convince the FCC to approve the election of a new board to SMS/800, Inc.  Well it hasn’t happened and now the FCC needs more convincing to finish the job.   YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A RESPORG OR NEED A LAWYER TO LET THE FCC KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!  If your company cares about the future of toll free, please follow these simple instructions.

I have attached everything you need. (Just click the link to download the file)

  1. Easy instructions to file online with the FCC
  2. A sample letter for filing as an attachment
  3. A copy of the FCC’s request for comment
  4. Some history for those of you new to this

Please file today.  If you have any questions or need any help, e-mail [email protected].

Thank you

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In the late 1980’s, when we on the SMS/800 committee were developing toll free number portability, we realized there would be some risk of taking customers out of service during the porting process.  This interruption in service could happen because the receiving RespOrg could not provision the service until they had RespOrg control, and so having the releasing RespOrg consider the port an immediate disconnect would take the customer out of service.  Since the committee also had recognized the possibility of an independent RespOrg, the need to clearly indicate that the change of RespOrg and the change of carrier were two different things was paramount.

Even more important than those reasons was the level of importance the FCC put on end-user control of their toll free numbers.  In the orders the FCC issued and has issued since, the end-user control has been supported except in the rare circumstances surrounding shared and bundled use services.

Following the FCC’s orders the SMS/800 Guidelines issued in 1993 made the following statement.

3.2 Change of RespOrg

3.2.1 A change of RespOrg should not be confused with changes to the Toll Free Service(s) or choice of Toll Free Service Provider(s).  It is the responsibility of the Toll Free Subscriber to separately advise its Toll Free Service Provider(s) of any proposed changes to the Toll Free Service(s), including but not limited to, disconnection of service. The Toll Free Service Provider may not disconnect or in any way interrupt Toll Free Subscriber’s service based solely upon a change of RespOrg.

3.2.2 Responsibilities of the Toll Free Subscriber

  • Establish a business relationship with the Submitting RespOrg.
  • Provide the Submitting RespOrg a valid, signed Letter of Agency (LOA) as described in 3.2.3.
  • Notify the Submitting RespOrg of the requested date for the RespOrg change to occur.
  • Notify its Toll Free Service Providers of any changes in service arrangements including, but not limited to, disconnection of service.

 

This language was still included when the Guidelines were updated in May 1012.  Why then, twenty years later, are there still companies that take a RespOrg change to mean a disconnect?  Do these companies not understand that the FCC’s interest is in ensuring that the end-user’s toll free calls are not brought down before the customer is finished with their service ?  Is it too much trouble for the releasing carrier to confirm this before they put the customer out of service?

This is especially a problem for ATL.  ATL has been around since 1993, and we are one of the ten largest RespOrgs.  It is no secret that we are not a carrier of any kind and that our service provides an outsourced RespOrg option.  Why then would a carrier releasing a number to us decide that their customer is automatically disconnecting their service?  In many cases our clients have decided they want to have their numbers under their control and are not making a carrier change at all, but because the carrier doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the rules or the customer, they disconnect them.  Not a good idea to irritate your customer like that.

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For years, ATL Communications has been involved in the quick recovery of toll free traffic from localized network outages and currently we are working with several companies to find new ways to provide that same quick recovery for outgoing traffic.

While working on these projects, I was surprised to learn how many outages occur and how many carrier customers are affected. We all heard about the 250,000 lines out for 40 days after 9/11 or the 1.4 million after Hurricane Katrina, which by the way, ATL recovered them for the state offices in about an hour. These other small outages go unnoticed, except by the people they affect and their carriers or resellers who don’t have what is necessary to recover quickly.

What is even more disturbing is how few alarm companies, emergency services, including government emergency services, and insurance companies have the kind of back up needed.  ATL hears over and over how these companies are reassured by their vendors that because they spent enormous amounts of money getting alternate paths into their buildings they have “end to end” recovery capability when in fact just one end was handled.

As Louisiana state officials learned, these alternate paths do nothing if the outage is at your client’s or customer’s end.  Think of all the outages that could have been avoided or reduced in time for a total of just $200 to recover thousands of calls in only a few minutes, but it didn’t happen because no one told the emergency services how to do it.

Here is a snapshot of just two months of outages.

Date

Location

# of Lines Down

Time to Repair

7/6 Bremerton, WA 40,000 6 Hours
7/3 Pocono, PA Not Published 17 Hours
7/3 Oak Park, ND 3,000 1-4 Days
7/2 North Star, MN 192 21 Hours
7/1 Burr Ridge, IL Not Published 34 Hours
6/29 Palm Springs, CA 1,200 8 Hours
6/27 Rapid City, SD Thousands 4 Hours
6/22 Lincoln, NE 23,000 11 Hours
6/21 Southeast, NE Not Published 2.5 Hours
6/17 Carlisle, SC 455 24 Hours

There have been cost-effective ways to protect your toll free traffic since 1993 and work is going on right now to bring that same security to local traffic.  Do you have customers in any of the cities above.  Were you ready to help them?

Call us, we can help you. And our toll free number, 800-398-5777, is never down.

 

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We recently experienced a problem using templates on Canadian origination.  The whole idea of using templates is that you can update all the records associated with that template with one change and it happens almost immediately.  Unfortunately, it is not necessarily true when you change the Canadian carrier.

It turns out that Bell Canada’s  SCP BX01 is not really set up for templates.  When you load a number on a template, Bell Canada converts it back to a CAD in their system so it can be processed.  If you make a change to the template, the change is not recognized by BX01 so that traffic will continue to be carried by the original carrier.  Actually this only happens if the dip goes to BX01.  If the dip goes to Telus EU01, then the number will be routed properly as Telus’s SCP is template compliant.   That is why it was confusing to us that some of the traffic was going to the new carrier, but not all.

I think it is about time that Bell Canada think about upgrading its SMS database to become more compliant.  If you agree and have significant toll free traffic originating in Canada, you should contact the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and voice your opinion.

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As they say, timing is everything.  Earlier this week, ATL’s newsletter came out with information about “spoofing.”  In case you didn’t read the article, “spoofing” is the practice of replacing the Caller ID with another phone number, something that is subject to fines from the FCC if done for illicit purposes.  A week ago, I became a victim of spoofing and they spoofed the wrong person this time.

 

ATL frequently receives complaints from people that one of the toll free numbers under our RespOrg ID is harassing them with calls.  As many of you know, it is very difficult to explain to a non-telecom person that a toll free number cannot originate a call.  The problem with catching spoofers is in most cases it is impossible to track down the culprit because all you have is a non-working toll free number; that is where this story gets interesting.

 

I am on the board of the Oregon Healthcare Exchange, part of the healthcare reform process happening across the country.  Last week, I started getting calls with Oregon Caller IDs on my home phone.  The callers were leaving me messages about their views on healthcare.  The people clearly didn’t know much about the issue and I could hear them being prompted by someone else in the background.  If I answered, the caller hung up.  This would go on non-stop for a few hours then stop and then start a couple of days later.  I called back some of the people who had called me, remember, I was getting their Caller ID, and I found that all were members of one particular union and they had been led to believe that they were calling an organization and not a private residence.  Many said they were confused when they heard the greeting, “Hi, this is Aelea and Tom.”  When I asked who called them, they gave me a non-working toll free number, but they knew it to be their union.

 

As most of you know, I am not one to let a wrong go unanswered, so I started to do some research.  Other board members were getting these calls some at their businesses, some on their cell phones.  This was even more maddening because our meetings are public and if someone wants to talk to us it is very easy.  This particular union has chosen not to participate in the public meetings.

 

I looked up the RespOrg ID for the toll free number and it turned out to be owned by someone I had met a couple of years ago.  She had been plagued by this kind of use of this number until she was no longer able to use the number.

 

The next step was the FCC and an Oregon Congressman.  I had done the math according to the “Truth in Caller ID ACT” and the fines for just the calls to me add up to $900,000.  The fine limit is $1M, so with the calls to all the other board members this situation easily reached the limit.

 

So what do I want from all this?  I am not really interested in getting a union fined $1M since their misled members are the ones who pay the fine, but I am interested in the FCC levying some kind of fine so this organization and others know there are teeth in the law.  I also want the following from the organization:

 

  1. Letter of apology to the board members
  2. Settlement with the company that owns the toll free number
  3. Written agreement that this approach will never be used again

 

I’ll let you know what happens.

 

PS:  I do want to make one correction from the article in the newsletter.   It was stated that ATL disconnects a toll free number after the second complaint.  ATL can only disconnect numbers under our RespOrg ID and we always ask for the permission of our client first.

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On October 1, 2012, forty-five telecommunications companies signed in support of the petition of SMS/800, Inc. to change the composition of   SMS/800, Inc. (WC Docket No. 12-260 and

CC Docket No. 95-155.)  This was the culmination of almost two years of meetings between the FCC, a cross-industry committee, the current 800/SMS board and the new officers of SMS/800.  Through hours of negotiations, all of these entities agreed on a design for the membership of the new board and the details of the election.  There were indications at that time that the election could be held in January 2013.
Now it appears that the FCC staff has decided that the petition will need a full Commission review and vote instead of the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) just issuing an order.  Although this might bring a stronger order that might not succumb to any challenges, in all of the filings there haven’t been any challenges and in fact, representatives from every major carrier filed in support of the filing.

The real result of this decision is that there will be more delays and something that the industry has been working on for two years will be stalled.  I am not saying that this has just died.  We are told that there are meetings being scheduled to brief the Chairman’s legal advisor and then the current SMS/800 board will schedule meetings with each of the Commissioners’ legal advisors to ask them for support of the order and to urge a quick decision; but I guess I am no longer encouraged by those kinds of reports.

Some of us worked very hard through last summer and agreed to let go of some issues near and dear to our hearts in order to come to an agreement with the current SMS/800 board so the election could be held this month.  We went to the FCC as a united Transition Committee and a united industry.  Why isn’t that enough to get the FCC to let us move on instead of being mired in more bureaucracy?

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Many CLECs and carriers have not applied for a Service Provider Identification Number (SPID) and are relying on their underlying carriers to port their local numbers. The result is often long delays. Although there are regulations for porting time, when landlines are involved, those time clocks do not start until the Customer Service Record (CSRs) has been acquired and orders have been accepted.  If the porting party is not all over that process every day the actual porting process may not start for weeks.

So, why are so many carriers not doing their own orders?

  • They don’t know the SPID is now free. It used to cost $1,000.
  • There is a fixed monthly minimum cost for the Service Order Administration (SOA) access of at least $500.
  • Handling CSRs, local orders, and NPAC can be very complicated and labor intensive.

So when our customers say, “Can you do this for us like you do for our toll free porting?” the answer is, “Yes!”

You can outsource this to ATL and we will take the burden off you and handle the work, in most cases, faster than your carrier. The same value proposition applies. Because you will get your customers onto your billing quicker, your increased revenue outweighs our cost.

What is different? You have to get a SPID and we can help you through that process because we have gone through it ourselves. The rules are different in local porting and there are still glitches in the process that do not exist in toll free. Remember porting in toll free is a decade ahead of local.
So if you are a CLEC or a carrier (that means all you IP Telephony people too), call us and find out how you can get your revenue faster.

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For years, ATL’s clients have been asking us to provide the kind of services for local number portability that we do for toll free. It does seem like a natural progression and we did stick our toe into it a couple of years ago, but we got back out shortly after because the right things weren’t in place.

ATL’s president, Aelea Christofferson, has been meeting with the leadership of the Local Number Portability Working Group and Neustar to get the right things in place and it looks like it is time to jump back in. ATL is offering a new independent local porting service. It will allow the advantages our clients now have for toll free, but just as local and toll free are different, the service will be slightly different.

“It turns out I overlooked a missing link” Aelea says. “I forgot that twenty years ago I worked with the carriers to allow ATL to use their CIC codes on our records. It was easier because many of the carriers already knew and respected ATL from working with me early in the toll free number portability design process. The other difference is that toll free clearly recognized the need for an independent RespOrg entity when the rules were being written. Now it is time for ATL to start working with our clients’ carriers to gain the same respect and trust for local porting.”

Our service is going to start as an option for recovery of local services in network outages. There are several companies working with Neustar right now to design a service where the end user will have greater control on when to switch providers.  To participate in this service the end user or reseller will need to use multiple local carriers in geography.  We will keep you posted as we get closer to introducing this option.

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Dec
21

What does ATL do for you?

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We take care of your toll free numbers, from ports to CIC’s, but do you know about all the other things we do?

Did you know that we can load your numbers with your carrier for you? Have you ever thought about disaster recovery (DR)? What about Least Cost Routing (LCR)?

Are you a CLEC? We can also port your local numbers for you.

DR:

  •   Templates: By putting your numbers on templates for fast transfers from one  carrier to another.
  •  Multi-Carrier Routing: By having more than one carrier on your records you have multi- carriers ready in case one carrier goes down

LCR:
Routing traffic to different carriers by geography, time of day, day of week, or percentage allocation.

  •  Control carrier cost and load balancing

Contact your ATL Rep for more information; we would love to hear from you.

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