ICB Toll Free (800/888) News by: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News
Monday October 06 1997 at 11:40:01 AM EDT

1 800 AUSSIE

Recognition of vanity value, and private trading of numbers between customers, are standard fare Down Under.

New York, NY US - New York, NY October 6, 1997 (ICB TOLL FREE NEWS) The following news release has been issued by the Australian Communications Authority:

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) is seeking public submissions on the draft National Numbering Plan, which was released today. The new Numbering Plan elevates the legal status of numbering requirements and updates the rules for telephone number allocation, transfer and use in the new telecommunications environment. The public consultation process is aimed at ensuring the Plan takes into account the needs and concerns of end-users and the telecommunications industry at large.

ACA Chairman, Tony Shaw said, "Numbering in general is very important to phone users. The new rules on number portability, customer's rights of use of numbers and the sale and use of pre-paid services such as digital mobile SIM cards are new areas treated in the plan. It's important that users of numbers examine the Plan and offer suggestions on improving the Plan before it is finalised".

The draft Numbering Plan has been developed by the ACA, in consultation with its Numbering Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives of telephone companies, state and federal government and organisations representing consumer and user interests.

Copies of the draft Numbering Plan are available from the ACA on (03) 9828 7334. Alternatively, these documents may be obtained via the Internet at http://www.aca.gov.au.

Written submissions must be lodged with the ACA by no later than 1 November 1997. To enable the Authority to meet its statutory obligations for implementation of the Numbering Plan, submissions cannot be accepted beyond this date. The Numbering Plan is to take effect no later than 1 January 1998.

Given the controversy surrounding these issues in the U.S. -- particularly the criminal status of number brokering -- of particular interest are chapters of the draft numbering plan on portability (chapter 10), obligations of telco's with respect to customers' rights of use of numbers (chapter 9), and chapter 13, called "CHARGING FOR THE USE OF VALUE INTRINSIC NUMBERS". This chapter, pertaining to telco's, provides for a service provider to impose a charge on the use of a number which is defined as having intrinsic value, which includes numbers that have a sequence or configuration of digits that has commercial or symbolic value, or a number which can be translated to a particular configuration of letters which has commercial or symbolic value; ie, vanity numbers.

According to Vince Humphries, ACA Staffer, "We're generally in favour of customers being able to transfer numbers to other customers. Numbers are regarded as a national resource, and so they aren't owned by anyone to whom they're assigned. A customer, however, is entitled to 'enjoy the beneficial use of the number, freely and without hindrance'."

There are a few special provisions that deal with the transfer of numbers between customers. At the moment, however, there is no requirement on telcos to facilitate the transfer, but the Numbering Plan does say that it's in the interests of a customer to make arrangements with his or her telco in advance of settling a transfer with another customer.

Asked why the Australian Communications Authority takes such a different position on this than the FCC, Mr. Humphries suggested, "We've been persuaded by arguments from some user groups that there is no inherent problem with number trading. There also seems to be a compelling analogy with the ability of a person holding leasehold title over property to transfer that title."

Written comments on the draft Numbering Plan can be submitted, in MS Word or Rich Text Format, by mail to

Draft Numbering Plan Australian Communications Authority P.O. Box 7443, St Kilda Road Melbourne 3004

or by e-mail to numbering.plan@aca.gov.au.

Author/Correspondent's Profile: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News

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