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January 17, 2013, 7:13 pm
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This is the list of frequently-asked questions for The Telecom Digest,
and it is sent to new subscribers automatically. It is also posted in
the Digest whenever the contents change, and once per quarter even if
the contents have not changed.
Q. What is The Telecom Digest?
A. The Telecom Digest is the oldest continuously published mailing
list on the Internet. It was started before Usenet existed, but is
now available via the Usenet group comp.dcom.telecom.
Q. Who's in charge?
A. The current Moderator is Bill Horne, and you may reach him by
sending email to telecomdigestmoderator.atsign.telecom-digest.org.
Q. How do I subscribe?
A. If you want to receive The Telecom Digest via email, send a "plain
text" email message to majordomo.atsign.telecom-digest.org, with
the command "subscribe telecom" in the BODY of the message. (The
subject line will be ignored.) You may choose to receive posts in a
daily digest, with all the posts for the day included in a single
email, or you may choose to have each post sent to your email
address as soon as it is approved: digest mode is the default, but
if you prefer individual email, use the command "subscribe-set
telecom each" instead.
If you want to subscribe an address OTHER THAN the one you are
sending the subscription request from, then place the email address
to be subscribed at the end of the command, e.g., "subscribe
telecom president.atsign.whitehouse.gov" or "subscribe-set telecom
You may also receive and post to The Telecom Digest via the Usenet
group comp.dcom.telecom, either using NNTP or through portals such
as Google or Yahoo.
Q. What topics does The Telecom Digest cover?
A. The Telecom Digest is primarily, but not exclusively, focused on
the world's telephone systems, networks, and companies. Our readers
talk about regulations, technical matters, rates, numbering plans,
tariffs, the prices charged for various services, alternatives to
the traditional telephone network (such as VoIP), and related
Q. What do I do if I want to talk about something else?
A. The Internet is a big place: it's impossible to list all the
telecommunications-related groups available on Google and Yahoo and
Usenet in this FAQ. If you're looking for a place to talk about
two-way radios or ship's blinker lights or surplus military gear,
the best way to go about finding a mailing list, group, or website
for your interest is to do a Google search for the specific
equipment you're looking for, and backtrack from that to the places
where others who are interested in it hang out.
Q. How do I get something published in The Telecom Digest?
A. There are three ways to contribute original posts or to reply to
posts made by others. They are -
1. Send an email to
2. Use an NNTP client, such as pine, or a combined email/nntp
program, such as Mozilla Thunderbird, to send posts to the
Telecom Digest via a Usenet server. If your ISP doesn't have a
Usenet server, there are free ones available, such as the one at
3. Use a commercial portal, such as Google or Yahoo, to access the
Usenet group comp.dcom.telecom. You will have to have an account
with the portal's owner in order to do this, but they're usually
issued without charge.
No matter which way you send a message to The Telecom Digest, each
message's "Subject" line must contain one of the following tags in
order to be excepted from our spam-prevention process. There is no
guarantee that a message without one of these tags will ever be
read. The brackets around each tag must be included, but the quotes
are not required.
1. "[telecom]" if your post can be published verbatim.
2. "[nfp]" (Not For Publication) if your email is only for the
3. "[obfuscate]" if you want the Moderator to modify your email
address before publishing your post so that it cannot be used
without being changed, i.e., so that it can't be copied by a
spambot and used to send you spam. If you are a frequent Digest
contributor, you may request that your email address be
automatically obfuscated anytime you sent a post, so that you
may send in contributions without the need for the "[obfuscate]"
4. "[Anonymous]" if you want all traces of your identity removed
from the post before it is published. (See rules about anonymous
postings, shown below.)
Subject: Re: FCC refuses to take action on cramming [Anonymous]
Subject: Eleven-digit phone numbers are coming [telecom] Subject:
Cell phone SMS spam is getting worse [Obfuscate] Subject: I haven't
seen my post yet [nfp]
Please note that the keywords in the tags are not case sensitive.
Q. What are the Moderator's criteria for acceptable posts?
A. In general, the Moderator approves posts which meet the guidelines
shown here. The Moderator's decisions are binding, but readers are
always welcome to argue their case for an exception or for special
treatment: in other words, if a post is rejected, a contributor may
ask the Moderator to reconsider. The Moderator, in turn, may ask
that potential posts be modified so as to make them acceptable, or
may refuse to reconsider a decision to reject. The Moderator's
decision is not subject to appeal, and The Telecom Digest does not
allow "Meta" discussions about moderation policies or decisions.
Q. What are the rules about content?
A. There are very few rules. The most important are listed here:
1. Netiquette is both encouraged and enforced. The Telecom Digest
does not allow ad hominem attacks, unwarranted sarcasm, foul
language, undocumented allegations of illegal or improper
conduct, or other kinds of viciousness. The Moderator reserves
the right to be completely arbitrary and capricious when making
decisions about posts which, in the Moderator's sole and
exclusive judgement, are inappropriate for publication.
2. Posts must concern telecommunications using the spoken word,
i.e., they should be about the ways, instruments, equipment,
inventions, costs, history, and regulations that bear on spoken
conversations between human beings who are out of earshot of
3. Posts which bear on non-voice aspects of the PSTN are allowed if
they are germane to discussion about the worldwide telephone
network in some other way: e.g., a post about "texting" while
driving would be OK, and a post about the traffic loads caused
by dial-up data users would also be appropriate.
4. The Moderator enjoys the privilege of modifying both spelling
and grammar when, in the Moderator's judgement, a post is not
clear enough to read without changes. Posts which require
extensive rewriting are usually rejected and returned to their
authors for rework, but in cases where the author cannot be
contacted (e.g., when a poster does not use a valid email
address), then the Moderator may choose to step in and modify a
post rather than delete it.
Q. What are the formatting and style rules?
A. The Digest has both formatting rules and style guidelines. Here are
1. Your post must be written in English. Although it may contain
words or phrases that are commonly used by non-English speaking
peoples, such entries must be generally acceptable in the
English-speaking online world.
2. Any post submitted with base64 or other encoding which isn't
readable "as is" will be rejected.
3. No attachments of any sort are ever accepted. MIME emails are
always converted to plain text before they are reviewed for
publication, so HTML is always converted to plain text as
well. MIME content such as V-Cards, and images such as corporate
logos, are also removed.
4. You may include URLs in your posts so long as they contain a
valid domain name and point to a server which is currently
online and where the page is available for inspection prior to
publication. IP addresses are never allowed in place of domain
names, and the Moderator reserves the right to delete any URL
that does not point to a well-known domain in a free country.
5. Since some readers use software which cannot automatically wrap
long lines to fit the computer screen, please include a "hard"
newline at the end of every line of your post. Posts that have
"run-on" lines will be either rejected or reformatted, at the
Moderator's option, to comply with this convention.
6. Please do not use "Quoted Printable" encoding. Some Usenet=20
clients cannot decode it, which leaves the readers who use
them=20 with a jumble of strange characters that they must try
to=20 interpret by sight.
7. The "Official" character set of The Telecom Digest is
ISO-8859-1; US-ASCII is also acceptable. If you submit a post
that uses another character set, such as UTF-8, it might be
8. You must clearly identify the source(s) of quoted material.
9. Any quotes which the Moderator deems to be excessively long are
subject to trimming.
10. Advertisements, even those automatically added to posts by
"free" email/Usenet servers without a poster's consent, are
unacceptable and may be removed.
11. "Cartooney" legal statements which purport to limit the legal
rights of someone who reads a post will always be deleted, or
the post rejected. I don't care if your company email server
adds them automatically: color them gone.
Q. Are there any guidelines about the style of posts?
A. Yes, and they are listed here. The Moderator reserves the right to
modify non-compliant posts before publication if he chooses.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Please remember that The Telecom Digest has a worldwide
audience, and that not all people use the email formatting
customs which are common in the United States, and not all
readers have access to high-definition computer screens that can
show hundreds of characters per line, and not all readers have
young eyes. The above ruler is a reminder to keep the lines of
your posts within an seventy-column right margin, so as to allow
room for quote marks in the left margin of followup posts.
2. Please don't include "ASCII art" in your posts, including
signature lines: don't forget that these sorts of decoration
depend on fixed-width fonts to be readable, and that each Digest
reader gets to choose the font (s)he prefers.
3. Please do not use "leetspeak" or other childish misspellings.
4. Excessive capitalization or using inappropriate mixtures of
upper and lower case is frowned upon.
5. Please limit the size of ".sig" files, and avoid pretentious
quoting. Less _IS_ more.
Q. Does The Telecom Digest accept anonymous posts?
A. Sometimes, but reluctantly. Posters who request anonymity must add
the "[anonymous]" tag to the subject line of their posts, and the
Moderator makes a judgement on a case-by-case basis. Posters who
request anonymity will please provide a brief reason for the
request in a clearly-separated section of the email, e.g.,
Please publish this anonymously. My country is arresting those who
discuss this subject publicly.
Keep in mind that, if your request for an anonymous post is
accepted, *ALL* information which might point to your identity will
be deleted from your post. The post will appear with a different
message-id than the one it arrived with, and all headers will be
stripped, so you must include anything you want published in the
body of your post. Of course, if you request an anonymous post but
you want to include a website address, a product name, or other
items of commercial value, then the post will be evaluated with an
eye toward that and will almost always be rejected.
Given that anonymous posts usually deal with controversial subjects
that may be objectionable to governments or corporations, posters
who request anonymity may include a PGP signature in the /BODY/ of
their message, so as to lay claim to the persona the poster is
using. The Moderator will decide, on a case-by-case basis, if the
signature will be included in the post, but the Moderator will
/NOT/ be obligated to make any effort to verify the validity of the
signature. Of course, having a digital key in your possession that
/proves/ you're the author of a controversial post might not be in
your best interest, but that's for you to decide.
Don't even /think/ of asking the Moderator to serve as a postman
for encrypted emails: if you want to have someone encrypt their
emails to you, then you must use a publicly- reachable email
address and request encrypted replies in your post. Of course,
you'll have to have a PGP key available on a public key-server,
such as pgp.mit.edu: the Telecom Digest does /not/ publish PGP
Q. May I "spam-proof" my email address?
A. Yes. It's OK to make your address "human readable", so that readers
can send replies directly to you, but spam robots can't pick your
address off our website and use it to spam you.
If your email address is indecipherable, then your post will be
reviewed more stringently than posts sent by those who are willing
to receive direct emails. There is, of course, a grey area between
having a "spam-proof" address and having an unusable one, and the
Moderator makes decisions on a case-by-case basis as to whether
posts with invalid email addresses are acceptable.
Q. Where are the archives of old posts?
A. Some are available on the Telecom Digest website, which is at
http://www.telecom-digest.org /, but editions of the Digest produced
before 2007 might not be online in a format that you can search or
obtain with a web browser. As time allows, the Moderator is finding
ways to make them more easy to use, and I welcome help with this
Q. Can we write about things that came before telephones?
A. Posts about things like semaphore signalling, Morse Code, The Pony
Express, and Carrier Pigeons are discouraged. Such subjects may,
however, be mentioned by posters who choose to illustrate the
history, technology, regulations, and social forces which formed
the PSTN we use today, but posts may not focus exclusively on them.
Q. Can I post a story about things which might come after telephones?
A. Not unless you are speculating in a believable way about the future
direction the PSTN will take. The Telecom Digest is not a venue for
Science Fiction, so if you want to post about phones on other
planets, or other ways of communication which haven't been
discovered yet, then you'll need to find a more appropriate place
for your work.
Q. Since the line between "Data" and "Telephone" gets more blurry
every day, how do you draw the line between VoIP services such as
Vonage and Skype, and the more traditional telephone network?
A. If it concerns people using electronic means to talk to each other,
it's fair game, provided that the method(s) being used are capable
of connecting to the PSTN or are provided by a recognized common
carrier. When there is room for doubt, each post is judged on its
Q. If I can sign up to receive each post separately, why is it called
"The Telecom Digest"?
A. The original Telecom Digest was a compilation of emails that were
received by the Moderator each day. The Moderator assembled each
day's digest by hand, and sent it out manually, so there was no
other subscription option besides the "digest" version. When The
Telecom Digest was made available to Usenet readers, that changed,
but the original title of the publication remained, so it is still
called "The Telecom Digest".
Up until 2007, the email version of The Telecom Digest was still
assembled by hand each day, and was thus available only in digest
form, even though it was, by that time, sent out using an automated
email robot located at John Levine's server in New York. The email
robot in use is "Majordomo", which allows subscribers to choose
either digest or individual emails, and since Usenet readers
already enjoyed the option of seeing individual posts, Majordomo
was reprogrammed to give email subscribers the same choice.
Q. What are the options available to subscribers using the Majordomo
A. There are too many to list here: to get started on them, send a
"plain text" email to majordomo.atsign.telecom-digest.org with the
word "help" in the BODY of the message (the subject line is
Q. How do I unsubscribe?
A. Send an email to majordomo.atsign.telecom-digest.org, with the
command "unsubscribe telecom" in the BODY of the message. If you no
longer have access to the email account from which you subscribed,
but still know the password for it, use the command "approve
<password> unsubscribe telecom <old.email.address>". (The subject
line will be ignored.)
If you don't have the password for an old account, and no longer
have access to it to send emails to the Majordomo robot, then you
may ask the Moderator to intercede and unsubscribe an old address
on your behalf. Such requests are *always* verified.
Please note: the Majordomo robot will AUTOMATICALLY unsubscribe any
email address that is "bouncing" emails FOR ANY REASON. If your
mailbox is full, you might lose your subscription, so PLEASE turn
off delivery of the Digest when you go on vacation!
Q. How do I turn off delivery of the Telecom Digest while I'm on
A. You need only send a "set" command to the Majordomo robot, with the
"nomail" flag, in the BODY of an email message. (The subject line
is - wait for it - ignored).
Example: if you send an email to
majordomo.atsign.telecom-digest.org, and put
set ALL nomail-14d
... in the message body, Majordomo will postpone mail for all of
your subscriptions while you are traveling, for the next 14
days. N.B.: there is no space between the "nomail" flag and the
minus sign that is in front of the interval.
Please note that all Majordomo commands need to be confirmed, so
you'll get a "challenge" email from the Majordomo robot, containing
instructions on how to confirm the command. If you prefer, you may
send commands that are validated with your Majordomo password, and
they will be executed without need for confirmation: see the
Majordomo help files for info.
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