|June 13th, 2002
Can Protecting Oneself from Telemarketers Lead to Death?
The State of Colorado is currently experiencing a severe
reportedly worse than any other state in the country. Because the
forests are bone dry, forest fires are a particularly bad threat this
year. The fire season began early but in deadly earnest this past week
with the Hayman Fire southwest of Denver.
The Hayman Fire is considered the worst in the 126-year
Colorado. This forest fire is currently making national headlines and is
large enough to be seen from space. So far 50 houses have been
destroyed, over 5000 people have been evacuated from their homes and
communities, and the fire fighters today have stated that they believe it
will take 2-3 months just to contain this over-140-square-mile fire. And
in the next two days it's going to get hot and windy again.
So, you are probably asking, what does this have to do with
As I tuned into the local TV news yesterday (Denver Channels
7 and 9) for
update reports, underneath the newspeople explicating this and that, one
TV station was running a text caption in which was placed varying
readable notices important to viewers in the affected areas (the ones
able to watch TV, anyway). Advice included which areas must be evacuated
by when, which county fairgrounds to which to evacuate livestock, which
communities were threatened, etc.
One announcement stated that in the case of evacuation, the
use "reverse 911" to phone area residents automatically with an emergency
evacuation message. The TV station then followed this advice with:
"Turn off any caller ID blocking on your
The primary use of caller ID blocking on telephone lines is to avoid
unwanted telemarketing calls. The telephone companies reap significant
profits from telemarketers, and then play both sides of the game by
charging customers for various "privacy services" like caller ID
If it is the case that caller ID blocking also blocks
calls, then telephone subscribers residing or doing business in
disaster-threatened areas who have paid (off) the telephone company to
protect them from telemarketers have left themselves overly vulnerable to
not reacting in a timely manner to the threat involved. And of course,
this doesn't have to be a fire; other fast-spreading, life-threatening
disastrous events (flood, nuclear power plant failure, imminently
collapsing skyscrapers, bio-terrorism, etc.) would qualify just as well.
The notion that one should have to pay the phone company a
to protect oneself against telemarketers, at the expense of one's own
physical safety in a disaster, is wholly repugnant.
For this and many other reasons (such as the several illegal
disruptive telemarketing calls I receive on a near-daily basis), I
support a national Do-Not-Call list, to be available at no cost to the
The implementation of such a list is technically trivial.
The size of
such a list can be kept constant regardless of how many people request to
be on it, and small enough to fit on a $500 commercially available
consumer computer hard disk that could fit in a shirt pocket. The only
even minimally significant costs would be storing extra information not
needed by any telemarketer to wash their lists. Washing a TM's list
should be as easy and automatic to accomplish as sending over the
internet a text file to a dedicated computer that does the washing and
sends the result back a few moments later. The cost of the service must
be borne by telemarketers.
I also support the complete elimination of equipment known as
dialers. A predictive dialer is the machine equivalent of a stalker.
The only reasonable, and in fact, legal hang-up abandonment rate for one
of these machines is 0%, since it is illegal under 47 USC 227 to INITIATE
a telephone solicitation without including the name and phone number of
Predictive dialers are an affront to common civil decency,
simply be banned. They accomplish nothing but the automated and
efficient violation of federal law, at consumers' expense.