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Registry proves critics wrong

After two years, Do Not Call a ringing success.

By , Network World
October 03, 2005 12:06 AM ET

Network World -

In 2003, when the federal government awarded AT&T a multimillion-dollar deal to build its National Do Not Call Registry, doubters called the move putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.

Whose dinner hadn't been interrupted by a call from a telemarketer pitching the carrier's services?

Two years later, the registry has proved to be a success. In August, it reached an important milestone when the 100 millionth telephone number was added to the system, which allows consumers to list their telephone numbers as off-limits to telemarketers.

AT&T is touting the registry as a rare example of a government IT project that works as planned. Built using emerging technologies, including Microsoft's .Net architecture, and Web services standards, such as XML and Simple Object Access Protocol, the National Do Not Call Registry has never suffered a major outage.

"This system was engineered and built very quickly, within three months," says Linda Miller, project manager for the registry at AT&T Government Solutions. "The elegance of the design is remarkable. It's been able to handle anything that's been thrown at it over the test of time. It has withstood heavy consumer usage and heavy telemarketer usage."

The impact of the Do Not Call Registry is broader than eliminating annoying dinnertime phone calls for consumers who register their numbers via the Web or a toll-free telephone number. The registry also has shown the power of the Web as a way for government agencies to provide simple, reliable services directly to citizens.

Consumer control

"This is the first time where consumers really controlled something, and they feel good about it," Miller says. "The Web provides a whole new interface between John Q. Public and the government. It is relatively cheap, and it works."

The National Do Not Call Registry accepted its first registrations in June 2003. Initially, the system accepted a flood of listings, with more than 27 million telephone numbers entered during the first month. At its peak, the system handled 4 million registrations in one day.

Except for a few days when the registry was turned off by court order in conjunction with a lawsuit filed by the telemarketing industry, the registry has been up and running.

"From the FTC's perspective, the Do Not Call Registry has been a huge success for consumers," says David Robbins, a lawyer and program manager for the FTC. "It has enabled 100 million consumers to register their preference for not receiving telemarketing calls. It has allowed telemarketers to get lists of people to whom they should not place calls. And it has allowed people who still receive calls to file complaints."

The system was built by AT&T Government Solutions, which was awarded a $3.5 million contract. AT&T won the contract because it had the best technical solution and the lowest price, AT&T officials say.

The carrier continues to operate the registry as an outsourced service, earning an estimated $3 million to $4 million per year. AT&T is compensated on a transaction basis, depending on the number of telephone numbers successfully registered in the system. The FTC has the option to extend AT&T's contract for seven more years.

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