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How to handle Robo Calls April 25, 2016

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in CLEC catagory, Wireless catagory.
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What is a Robocall?
A robocall is an automatic, computer-generated phone call made to your phone number (mobile or landline) from a solicitor. Illegal robocalls range in variety from dangerous phishing scams, to unsolicited (and annoying) sales calls. But keep in mind that some robocalls are legal, and can include important doctor appointment reminders, surveys, school closing announcements and political campaign calls.

Why Am I Getting So Many Robocalls?
Easy to acquire technologies use software, computers and the Internet to make thousands (even millions) of cheap calls with global range. In fact, many illegal robocalls originate from overseas. Similar technologies make it easy for scammers to “spoof” a phone number so it looks like you are being called by a legitimate number like your neighbor or even the IRS. Robocalls can be quickly set up and illegal scammers work hard to avoid detection.

How Should I Handle Robocalls/Phone Scams?
On the next page, we have provided a list of Do’s and Don’ts for dealing with robocalls, along with a sampling of tools you can use to block such calls. Keep in mind, the type of voice service you subscribe to, such as a wireless provider or through your local cable company, will dictate the types of robocall blocking tools available to you. Caregivers and elders should be especially alert to scamming robocalls since this group is often the most vulnerable.

What Tools Can I use to Stop Robocalls?
The National Do Not Call Registry found at https://www.donotcall.gov/ gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home. You can register your home or mobile phone for free.

The Federal Trade Commission also has some helpful information about robocalls in general [https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls], as well as ways to avoid becoming the victim of a scam [https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0076-phone-scams]. If you are a subscriber to a wireless service, the Wireless Association has a sampling of robocall blocking tools here [http://www.ctia.org/your-wireless-life/consumer-tips/blocking-robocalls].

Below are some tips of what to do and not do and some helpful mobile applications, provider and third party solutions.

Robocall Do’s
 Do contact your voice provider to inquire about available tools.
 Do register with the FTC’s Do-Not-Call list AND file complaints.
 Do educate yourself about available tools.

Robocall Don’ts
 Don’t answer calls with an unfamiliar caller ID.
 Don’t press 1 or 2 to get removed rom their list (it won’t work).
 Don’t engage.
 Don’t give personal information.
 Don’t give financial information.

 

A Sampling of Tools for Blocking for your wireless devices

Android Apps
 Legal Call Blocker Free
 Call Blocker Free
 Safe Call Blocker (black list)
 Call Control – Call Blocker
 Call Filter
 My CallBot Caller ID
 Caller ID, Block Calls & Texts
 Calls Blacklist – Call Blocker
 Mr. Number
 Root Call Blocker Pro
 Truecaller- Caller ID & Block
 Whitepages Caller ID

iOS Apps
 Airtel Call Manager
 Call Bliss
 Call Mute
 Call Manager for Do Not Disturb
 Detector App
 Truecaller: Number Search & Block
 Robokiller
 Whitepages ID
 Sync.ME
 Reverd Free Spam Call

Blackberry Apps
 Advanced Call Blocker
 Block Unwanted Calls
 Call Block
 Call Blocker
 Ultimate Call Blocker
 Call Blocker Free
 Call Control Blacklist
 Junk Call Blocker
 SMS Blocker

Windows Apps
 Advanced Blocker
 Best Spam Killer
 BlackBaller
 Call Blocker
 Easy Reject
 Truecaller
 Call+SMS Filter

I hope this is helpful to everyone out there. While I have tried a lot of the tools listed, the simple blocking app built into your Android seems to work best for me. If you use Apple I strongly suggest getting one of the add on apps.

 

Joe Buck, NCE

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FCC Releases $16 Million for Rural Broadband Experiments Funding November 23, 2015

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in CLEC catagory.
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In its latest release of funding for rural broadband experiments, the FCC awarded $16 million to four carriers for rural broadband deployments in territories previously served by price cap carriers. The $16 million will bring broadband service to 2,451 census blocks across five states, reports the FCC.

A total of $16,138,691.71 was awarded to Skybeam, LLC; Daktel Communications, LLC; Federated Telephone Cooperative; and Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative. These winners were provisionally selected previously, but were required to provide at least one acceptable irrevocable stand-by letter of credit and a bankruptcy code opinion letter from legal counsel. Having met these requirements, the FCC released the funding through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

Skybeam is an affiliate of fixed wireless provider Rise Broadband, who has been quite active in the rural broadband experiment program. Federated and Paul Bunyan are Minnesota based rural telcos, and Daktel is a rural telco based in North Dakota.

Rural Broadband Experiments Funding
The funding is part of the $100 million rural broadband experiments funding program, announced back in 2014. The program aims to fund experiments for providing broadband in rural territories, and results from these experiments will help shape the overall Connect America Fund  (CAF) program.

The goal behind this experimental program is to identify efficient methods for delivering broadband and the funding to support it, to rural markets where larger price cap carriers (large tier 1 and 2 telcos) choose not to serve. The CAF is providing funding for rural broadband, but gives price cap carriers the option of rejecting funding for certain rural markets.

There will be a reverse auction to provide funding to other carriers who want to come in and fill the rural broadband void left from these price cap carrier rejection decisions. Rural broadband experiments funding like this awarded $16 million aims to help the FCC better define the rules for awarding future coverage under the CAF plan.

States Battle FCC over States Rights to build Boadband networks after Preemption November 20, 2015

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in CLEC catagory.
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Add the governors of Tennessee and South Carolina and attorneys general from Alabama and Tennessee to the list of those siding with state legislators (and cable operators) in opposing the FCC’s preemption of laws limiting municipal broadband buildouts, which has become a battle over states’ rights.

That came in letters to the House Communications Subcommittee Republican and Democratic leadership in advance of an FCC oversight hearing scheduled for Dec. 17.

The FCC earlier this year preempted state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina, prompting lawsuits from those states in the Sixth Circuit court of Appeals. A majority of attorneys general had asked the FCC not to preempt.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told the legislators she strongly opposed the FCC’s “federal overreach” into her state’s business; ditto Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, who asked the Congress to step in to Protect states rights; Tennessee AG Herbert Slattery added that the FCC did not have the authority to “circumvent” stat law; and Alabama AG Luther Strange, whose office joined a brief to the Sixth Circuit opposing preemption, sent a copy of the brief in his letter to committee leaders.

The FCC majority said in preempting the state laws that the agency had the power and the duty to step in when states were limiting broadband buildouts. The commission confirmed it did not have the power to overturn state laws preventing municipal broadband buildouts, but if those states allows such networks, the FCC can pre-empt laws that would limit them.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has tabbed those laws as the handiwork of incumbent Internet service providers trying to prevent competition.

The FCC is justifying the move under its Sec. 706 authority to regulate if it concludes that advanced telecommunications is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner, which it has concluded in its recent reports to Congress on the state of high-speed broadband. “We read section 706 to permit the commission to preempt state laws that primarily serve to regulate competition in the broadband market,” the order states.

The order points out that the FCC has taken other pre-emption actions to further competition, including state laws on deployment of wireless facilities or restrictions on competitive cable franchises.

Frontier adds Test-to-Landline service July 16, 2014

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in CLEC catagory.
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FrontierBusiness customers are the target market for a new service from Frontier Communications that enables text messaging for landline phone numbers.

Text-to-landline
Underlying Frontier’s offering is cloud infrastructure from Zipwhip. To use the service, Frontier customers install software on their personal computer or use a browser interface to compose a message and enter the phone number to which they want to send the message. The message is sent to the Zipwhip cloud, which sends it as a text message to the recipient.

Inbound text messages also go through the Zipwhip cloud, which sends the messages to the business customer’s computer and, if desired, to other devices such as smartphones as well. All messages are stored in the Zipwhip cloud.

Pricing for the service begins at $4.99 a month for 250 monthly text messages when purchased as part of a “qualifying package” or $7.99 when not purchased in a qualifying package. A premium “Enterprise” version of the service includes unlimited texting and other capabilities such as unlimited auto reply, scheduled texting and group texting for $99.99 to $124.99 a month, depending on whether the service is purchased as part of a package. There is also a medium-level offering that sells for $19.99 to $24.99 a month and includes unlimited texting but not some of the other bells and whistles.

The Enterprise offering throttles text messages at a rate of 10 per minute, while the other two offerings throttle messages at a three-per-minute rate.

Frontier Texting is the company’s latest initiative aimed at eking as much value as possible out of its dwindling landline business. Back in May Frontier CEO Maggie Wilderotter said the company was planning a low-cost emergency-only phone service that would provide the capability to dial only 9-1-1 and the phone company over a traditional landline connection. That service aims to ensure that people can reach help even during a power outage.

Interestingly enough tiny CLEC Mosaic Networx has been offering this service for months. The offering allows them to offer text-to-landline on any carriers landline services with a validated LOA (letter of authorization) from the landline owner. It would appear that this offering is getting the attention of the large landline providers. This product could well mark a new way to open the landline market to all providers.

 

Joe Buck, NCE

Market Research before product development… June 10, 2013

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in CLEC catagory.
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When you’re on the hook to launch a new product or service, you need to answer a critical question: How many customers will buy it? It’s tempting to jump right in, assuming everyone will want your fantastic new offering. Its more tempting to jump right in when your sales team is telling you they need this product to sell. But before you put the resources of yourself and/or your company into building, marketing, and launching a product, it pays to research just how big the market is. Your gut feel may be directionally correct, but double-check it against hard data about potential customer groups. And don’t do this in a vacuum. Be sure to have an objective conversation with the people within your company as well as within the marketplace about exactly where this product will play and how big that market might be. Defining the specifics will help you clarify your product’s competitive advantage. Product viability research can save you and your company from making costly mistakes.

 

Joe Buck, NCE

Tennessee Utility Seeks Service Provider Partner for Fiber Network December 20, 2011

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As the nation’s electrical power infrastructure is upgraded to support more sophisticated applications and capabilities, power companies have been upgrading their communications infrastructure and an announcement this week from Tennessee’s Johnson City Power Board offers a new twist on how the communications upgrade might play out.

Like many power companies, JCPB, a community-owned nonprofit, recently opted to build its own fiber optic network, rather than lease the network from a communications service provider or partner with a service provider on the build. But JCPB hasn’t closed service providers out entirely.

JCPB is now seeking qualified companies to be a third-party service provider for commercial Internet and telephone services delivered over the utility company’s fiber network. According to a report published by Johnson City Press, the JCPB made the decision in October to explore the idea of working with a third-party communication services provider. This is not a new approach as I have been personally involved with several utilities that have taken the same approach. The approach can be challenging for both utility and service provider however if approached with a partnership mindset such approach can be mutually rewarding to both parties.

The Johnson City Press reports that JCPB did a feasibility study that showed a third-party approach would give the JCPB the best return on investment, balancing low risk with possible profits.  The report specifically talks about the service provider offering last mile services and equipment to commercial customers. Perhaps some commercial customers are already connected to the fiber network, eliminating the need for the service provider to do any additional network construction. Additionally the Press reports that the feasibility calls for the power board to “most likely make a capital investment of $1.5 million over five years, which could include installing more of a fiber backbone to reach businesses if needed.”

Revenues from communications services could reach $1.3 million over 10 years, depending on the agreement with the third-party vendor, the Press report states. To achieve that goal, the JCPB would need to capture about 20% of the areas’s total market for data services, about 15% in phone services and about 5% of private data services over five years, the report also notes.

Those goals would appear to be attainable, depending how services are priced and depending on the competitive offerings available in the area. Many customers in smaller markets such as Johnson City are predisposed to buy from the incumbent local provider, and although it’s not clear whether the third-party provider will be locally based, the fact that the local power company cooperative owns the network would appear to be a strong draw.

JCPB reportedly installed the fiber network to support advanced metering infrastructure and has plenty of unused capacity. The JCPB example illustrates the changing roles of telcos, utilities, and other service providers in a broadband world and demonstrates the type of partnership opportunities which may increasingly become available.

The challenge I have seen in the past is a utilities inability to manage such high profile public relations issues as telecom and data for the small amount of bottom line it represents as compared to their regulated utility business. Additionally, being from the Tri-Cities area myself, there are no local companies with the financial strength and technical know how to take on such a large undertaking as a partnership with a small utility. The revenue potential represented here will certainly make it challenging. One alternative however is for JCPB to partner with a company who has Federal Broadband initiative funds (such as a specific CLEC I worked for). This would ensure the proper funding and resources and allow both companies a much longer ROI model.

Joe Buck, NCE

Iowa seeking bids to sell or lease statewide fiber-optics network December 13, 2011

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in CLEC catagory.
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Iowa officials have formed a special committee to search out potential buyers for the state’s 8,661-mile fiber network that forms the backbone of its Iowa Communications network. It’s uncertain how much the state could net from the sale. That’s still the $64,000 question if you will. It’s certainly a pretty major undertaking and a number of people within the industry are interested in what happens in the process.

A special committee authorized by Gov. Terry Branstad and the Legislature is formulating bid specifications that will form the parameters by which state officials would solicit offers for the Iowa Communications Network’s (ICN) backbone system and its 8,661 miles of fiber cable by June 30, 2013. The bids will be solicited from private vendors that might be interested in leasing the network or buying it outright.

The RFP Implementation Team is slated to get an estimate of the overall ICN investment when it meets next week – a figure likely to range between $300 million and $400 million given that the initial bonding to construct the network topped $200 million to bring one fiber-optic endpoints to all 99 Iowa counties, Iowa’s three state universities, Iowa Public Television and the state Capitol Complex. Also, the federal government invested at least $95 million for features that include homeland security protections coordinated at the Iowa National Guard command center in Johnston and telemedicine capabilities.

The network’s oversight commission has enlisted the help of Cedar Rapids-based Fiberutilities Group to manage the RFP process, which Lingren said is complicated by the fact that the state pays $1 annually for the right-of-way access that likely would carry at least a $3 million yearly price tag for a new owner or lease. Also it’s unclear whether the hub could remain at the Johnston command center if the network was sold. A buyer or leasee also would be allowed to use the network only to serve existing authorized users and must continue providing all products at a lower overall long-term cost.

I guess this is just another sign that government has no idea of how to manage private enterprise. Let’s hope the restrictions government has allowed to be placed on the facilities does not severely hinder the overall value of the asset or the public will once again be left to carry the brunt of the financial impact.

Joe Buck, NCE

Zayo expanding their Fiber footprint December 5, 2011

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Fiber network operator Zayo announced this week that it is expanding its network facilities into the San Diego, Calif. Area, making San Diego the latest of its more than 150 markets in service for wholesale bandwidth and corporate enterprise services.

The Louisville, Colo. company also recently expanded its network through Los Angeles and is in the process of interconnecting these properties with its other fiber networks following its recent acquisition of 360 networks. The closing of the 360 deal is pending.

In San Diego, the Zayo network will extend for 400 route miles throughout the San Diego metropolitan area, from the heart of downtown San Diego, north to Oceanside, and east to Escondido. Zayo will provide dark fiber and bandwidth infrastructure services on its San Diego network.

Zayo said it also will offer leasable dark fiber assets that were not available previously in this geographic area, allowing customers more cost-effective dynamic capacity upgrades.

Zayo has been one of the busiest builders and acquirers of regional fiber networks in recent years. The company announced the 360 networks acquisition in October, which followed deals to acquire American Fiber Systems and AGL Networks a year earlier.

FCC finally adopts Universal Service Reform November 7, 2011

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After months of industry debate, the FCC today voted unanimously to transition today’s high-cost Universal Service fund into a Connect America Fund with the goal of making broadband available throughout the U.S. by the end of the decade.

Encompassed in those reforms is a plan for phasing down per-minute access charges, which currently help cover the cost of bringing voice and broadband service to rural areas. Additionally today’s reforms will require VoIP service providers that originate or terminate traffic in TDM format to pay access charges on that traffic and will put rules in place to curb phantom traffic and traffic pumping. All great news for the ILEC’s but not so great for the up and coming VoIP world.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called today’s reforms a “once-in-a-generation overhaul of Universal Service” and predicted that they would “unleash billions of dollars of private sector infrastructure spending in rural areas.  By constraining growth, today’s reforms will minimize the burdens placed on all consumers.” Consumers could save as much as two billion dollars annually on wireless and long-distance phone bills.

The order adopted today formalizes much of what Genachowski outlined in a speech several weeks ago.  But there were a few surprises—including substantial vagueness about how long-term Connect America funding for rate of return areas would be calculated and a revelation that the order would put “all carriers originating and terminating VOIP calls on an equal footing in their ability to obtain compensation.”  The latter move appears aimed at addressing the concerns of cable operators who have argued that reforms favor incumbent carriers.

Interesting how additional the FCC can believe that charging additional taxes on such services as VoIP will save consumers billions since it is those same consumers consuming the VoIP service today in an effort to escape the escalating costs of ILEC services.

Universal Service reforms

Key elements of the order adopted today involving the Universal Service program include:

  • Capping funding for the high-cost Universal Service program at today’s $4.5 billion level for the next six years
  • Broadband is defined as 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream
  • Only one carrier to receive funding for an area

Here’s how Universal Service reforms would impact various types of carriers:

Price cap carriers- These carriers, which include the nation’s largest telcos such as Verizon and AT&T, currently receive about $1 billion in high-cost funding. Some of these areas have broadband, but price cap carriers have not deployed broadband as extensively as the rate of return carriers have.

Initially funding for price cap areas will be capped but price cap carriers will have the opportunity to collect as much as $300 million more if they bring broadband to areas that cannot get it today, collecting $775 per every new unserved location.

Beginning in 2013, funding for price cap areas will be determined through a combination of a cost model and a competitive bidding process. The FCC is tasked with undertaking a public process to develop a broadband cost model, which would determine target funding for each price cap area. The incumbent could then accept that level of funding and build out broadband or decline funding, in which case funding would be awarded through a competitive bidding process.

The high-cost program will be gradually phasing out as the Connect America program phases in, with funding ultimately capped at $1.8 billion annually for price cap areas.

Rate of return carriers- These carriers currently collect about $2 billion in high-cost support and the vast majority of their territories already have broadband, which has been funded in part through today’s high-cost program because broadband and voice services share many of the same network infrastructure. Initially that fund would be capped and carriers will now be required to bring broadband to unserved customers who request it. As the high-cost program phases out and the Connect America program phases in, support for rate of return areas will remain capped at approximately $2 billion per year.

The FCC is issuing a further notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on establishing a long-term broadband-focused CAF mechanism for rate of return carriers, which will seek comment on reducing the current rate of return level of 11.25%.

Wirless carriers- Because a separate Universal Service program was never before established for wireless carriers, those carriers currently obtain funding through the competitive eligible telecommunications program, which pays these carriers based on the incumbent’s costs. The CETC program currently comprises more than $1 billion of today’s high-cost program. While some companies that collect this money would not have been able to deploy service without it, others are essentially milking the system.

Today’s order will phase out the CETC program over five years. In addition $300 million will be awarded through a competitive bidding process for wireless carriers to bring 3G or 4G service to an area that cannot get 3G today. This is what will be known as the mobility fund—and it will rise to $500 million in future years.

As the CETC program phases out and the mobility fund phases in, the FCC said it expects to see an average of over $900 million going to wireless carriers each year through 2015.

Cable companies- Apparently the only opportunity for cable companies to obtain broadband Universal Service funding will be as competitive bidders if the incumbent declines to provide broadband.

Satellite and broadband wireless providers– These companies will have the opportunity to collect $100 million annually for providing broadband service to the most remote and highest cost areas, representing less than 1% of the U.S. population. The FCC will seek comment on how to award this funding.

Inter-carrier compensation reform

As for phasing down per-minute access charges, the FCC’s plan calls for:

  • Immediately capping interstate and intrastate charges
  • Bringing interstate and intrastate rates to parity by July 2013
  • Bringing rates to bill-and-keep within  six years for price cap carriers and within nine years for rate-of-return carriers

Rate of return and price cap carriers will have different access charge revenue recovery mechanisms—and in a press release outlining today’s order, the FCC notes that “We reject the notion that ICC reform should be revenue neutral.”

All in all I would say the FCC is sending a clear message to all VoIP and cable providers. Stay tuned for further developments.

Joe Buck, NCE

Voxbone debuts DID allocation service for call centers November 3, 2011

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Voxbone, a provider of phone numbers and network access for call centers, voice conferencing service providers, and other telco-related businesses, has introduced VoxTrunk, which creates a large pool of minutes that can be used for inbound dialing to toll-free numbers (where the recipient pays for the call), or long-distance, “geographical” numbers–telephone numbers where the caller pays for the call.

VoxTrunk is the first service for what’s called direct inward dialing (DID) that combines toll-free and geographic service according to Voxbone. With separate services, one or the other service may reach capacity while the other has capacity to spare. By combining toll-free and geographic into one pool, the capacity can go to whichever service needs it most.

Typically if you buy two services you have to manage the services separately,however if you push the two capacities together, you can manage it more efficiently.

Voxbone, based in Brussels, Belgium, provides service in 4,000 cities in 50 countries. While primarily serving Europe, Voxbone also serves multiple cities in the United States and globally. In August, the company named a VP for business development for North America, Hugh Goldstein.

In many countries, mostly in Europe, Voxbone owns the phone numbers that it assigns to customers or is a reseller of numbers wholesaled from local phone companies. Elsewhere, the company rents voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) network capacity from Internet service providers (ISPs).

VoxTrunk charges for its service with a flat monthly fee for each phone number and a flat monthly fee for using Voxbone’s global VoIP network, regardless of distance. The charge for a call to a contact center in the United Kingdom from the Netherlands is the same as if the caller were from Australia. In addition, customers offering the toll-free service are also charged a local fee per minute for the toll-free line.

Demand for services like VoxTrunk is driven by demand for hosted contact centers, in which a company hires a third-party vendor to handle the calls for them. A 2010 study by the research firm Frost & Sullivan found that the North American contact center market earned revenue of $453.7 million in 2009, estimated to reach $1.2 billion by 2016.

Demand is also driven by the wider use of unified communications where businesses combine voice, video, e-mail, instant messaging, and document sharing through one platform.

Interesting…everyone seems to be getting on the band wagon.

Joe Buck, NCE

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