He says don't blame Verizon for $5 fee, blame state regulators

'The regulators don't care if Verizon is charging folks $5 per line for unpublished numbers'

verizon

Yesterday I wrote about Verizon's feeble attempt to justify charging $5 a month for an unlisted phone number. In essence, the company says the fee is "chiefly systems and IT based," a contention that has been met with reactions ranging from skepticism to ridicule.

Jeff Wheeler's view falls closer to the latter. A former vice president of technology for National Directory Assistance, Wheeler is now a consultant. He says in an email that Verizon's explanation is a crock, but that blaming the carrier for that $5 fee misses a critical point:

At a previous job, I developed directory assistance database software from scratch.  I had a staff of myself and one part-time, undergraduate computer science student.  It took me a few weeks to develop all the necessary tools and software to interface with what is today about 90% of independent telephone companies in the U.S.  The company is unquestionably an industry-leader in directory assistance data (as well as look-ups, etc.)

So I've got a lot of expertise in this matter.  I can tell you with 100% certainty that there is no reason for Verizon or Mom & Pop Telephone Co. to have any more expense for handling an unlisted, or unpublished, phone number than a listed one.  The same process is followed for all three types of directory listings.  The only difference is the unlisted, or unpublished, lines have a flag indicating such.  This is the case for every directory assistance software used across the whole industry.

It surprised me to learn this.  I came into the directory assistance business with no substantial telecom background. The amount of unnecessary fees that regulators allow the companies to charge their customers is pretty ridiculous. This is one that is, as you say, indefensible.

The problem isn't really Verizon. It's their job to charge consumers as much as they can for the services they provide. The issue is state regulators. The regulators really don't care if Verizon is charging folks $5 per line for unlisted/unpublished numbers. Phone companies aren't simply going to give up that revenue (even though it has no appreciable impact on their bottom line) because it's their duty to earn as much profit for their stakeholders as possible.

So if you really want to point a finger at someone about these fees, you ought to consider pointing it at state regulators. It's up to them to get rid of these excessive fees.

Now there's a don't-hold-your-breath proposition if ever there was one.

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