Are Telcos Dropping the Calling Name Ball?

Jul 9, 2007 12:00 AM, By Carol Wilson Are Telcos dropping the Caller Name Ball?

Accudata Technologies, one of the companies that provides Calling Name delivery service, is once again publicly accusing telephone companies of deliberately not delivering some calling name information to their Caller ID customers in order to save money. This time around, the company says it has research data to back up its claims, and it is sharing that research with the Federal Communications Commission.

According to Verizon, however, this is more of an Accudata sales pitch than anything else. Another incumbent LEC said the real problem is manipulation of calling data to avoid access charges. They tolerate the wrong data. Are Telcos dropping the Caller Name Ball?

Accudata is one of several companies providing Calling Name or CNAM services. These are databases that service providers can access in order to find the names associated with telephone numbers and deliver that information to their Caller ID subscribers. In the past, Accudata has publicly claimed major telecom service providers such as Verizon and Comcast often don’t deliver calling names to their Caller ID customers, if those obtaining those names requires them to pay for accessing outside databases such as Accudata’s.

To prove its point, Accudata commissioned independent research by O’Brien Research, a Dallas firm, which tracked the Caller ID activity of 265 customers across the country for 11 days in March. That study found that consumers received the wrong calling name and number 52% of the time, said Greg Smith, president and CEO of Accudata. It also found that calling name information was available for 32% of the calls for which it wasn’t delivered. Are Telcos dropping the Caller Name Ball?

Instead of seeing the calling name for which they are paying, consumers saw the wrong message such as “out of area,” “unavailable” or “State Name calling.”

“There seems to be a cost-cutting measure on the carriers’ part – if they have to go outside their own database to get the calling name and number, they aren’t doing it,” Smith said. “When that name information is from their own database, it doesn’t cost them anything. But when they have to get the information from somewhere else, they are paying for those database dips. And that’s what we see declining.”

A spokesman for Verizon said that Accudata’s comments are more about drumming up business for its CNAM service than anything else. “We already buy that service from a number of vendors, and we have told Accudata we’re not interested in their service,” he said.

Even the O’Brien research showed consumers were happy with their Caller ID service, Smith admitted. Fifty-one percent of consumers rated their Caller ID service as “good,” and another thirty-nine called it “excellent.” Are Telcos dropping the Caller Name Ball?

That’s because consumers are confused, according to Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Assn., the largest industry group for companies that operate call centers for outbound calling of consumers. His industry is concerned that consumers are blaming telemarketers and others for deliberately not providing calling name information, something they are legally required to do.

“This is not a broadcast issue, it is a receipt issue,” he said. “Once we’ve broadcasted [calling name and number information}, all of our ability is terminated.”

When calling names aren’t delivered, he said, “it creates an image that somebody is trying to hide something. We need to eliminate that potential confusion.”

Searcy met with the FCC to support Accudata’s position, which is that this is a bigger issue than it appears. He believes the FCC should at least ask telecom service providers what percentage of calling names it is providing to subscribers paying for the service.

“Just because consumer is not aware they are not receiving the full value of the service is not a reason not to investigate,” he said.

Steve Scharf of Ringgold Telephone in Georgia said there is a problem here, but not the one Accudata is suggested. Database dips are based on calling numbers, or ANI data, and if that is inaccurate, the wrong caller ID name or no calling name can be displayed, he said.

“We see an incredible amount of manipulated ANI data – we’ve been able to identify as much as 35% of all incoming traffic during a one-month period,” Scharf said in an email response. “While network configuration errors can prevent ANI delivery, more often this is a result of carrier arbitrage of access charges. The latest example we’ve identified is an IXC that is delivering intrastate calls with ANIs suggesting the call is originating from South Africa (even the SS7 data stream reflects the international bit flag). We worked to trace some of these calls with upstream carriers and confirmed intrastate origination and transportation of the call. No CNAME match could be made for this call from ‘South Africa.’ ANI manipulation is rampant and there appears to be no end in sight.”

Scharf also pointed out that wireless carriers often deliver the wrong Caller ID name or even no name and since the incumbent is dependent on the originating carrier to pass that information along, there is no way to offer that calling data. With the growth in wireless substitution, there will be less calling name delivery, he said.
– Jul 9, 2007 12:00 AM, By Carol Wilson