Telecom Digest F.A.Q. [telecom]

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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
   (The part that says ".atsign." will, of course, be replaced by  
   the "@" symbol in all examples shown in this f.a.q.)

Q. How do I subscribe?

A. If you want to receive The Telecom Digest via email, send a "plain
   text" email message to, 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" 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
      Moderator's eyes.
   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.)

   For example:

   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
      each other.

   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
   the rules:

   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 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.

   However -

   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 /, 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
   own merits.
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 with the
   word "help" in the BODY of the message (the subject line is

Q. How do I unsubscribe?

A. Send an email to, 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 <>".  (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, 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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