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On Capitol Hill

Senate Panel Weighs In On Wireless Directory

Bill Would Require Customer Approval

By Christopher Stern
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2004; Page E05

The Senate Commerce Committee voted yesterday to require cell phone companies to get the approval of individual customers before listing their wireless phone numbers in public directories.

The committee's action comes as several of the largest mobile phone companies plan to list wireless phone numbers along with wired numbers on 411 and other directory services. The bill, which now goes to the Senate floor, was opposed by the wireless industry.

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a co-author of the legislation, said it was needed to protect consumer privacy.

"Imagine your 13-year-old daughter's phone number in a directory. I want to make sure that parents can control which numbers are listed in any directory," Boxer said.

The wireless industry was quick to criticize the Commerce Committee's vote yesterday, saying it was an attempt to regulate a service before it has even been launched. "It is unnecessary for the government to dictate best practices on a competitive industry with such a stellar record. This is a service that many of our consumers are demanding, especially those in the small business community who have cut the cord and are totally wireless," Steve Largent, chief executive of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, said in a prepared statement.

Nextel Communications Inc., Cingular Wireless LLC, AT&T Wireless Services Inc., Sprint Corp. and several other companies plan to list their customers' phone numbers with 411 services in the coming months. Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest wireless company, is a holdout, saying most customers don't want their mobile numbers made public. Some market surveys have found that as many as 90 percent of the nation's 160 million wireless phone subscribers do not want their mobile phones listed in directories.


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