Foreign Listings for Residences

In this new era of cell and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phones, an issue has arisen that may be a problem for some and not a problem for others. The issue is getting your telephone number listed in the directory if you want it to be published there.

With traditional telephone service, you get your number listed in the directory as a part of your service. If you don't want your number listed, then you have to pay an additional three dollars per month for unlisted service.

With cell and VOIP phones, the complement is true. You get an unlisted number gratis. Since most cell phone and VOIP companies do not provide directory listings, you have to go to your local telephone company to arrange a listing. The cost is between two and four dollars per month, once you get the listing. So your local telephone company wins out both ways.

Since the local telephone directory is published by your local telephone company, there is not much you can do to change this.

However, most local telephone companies are clueless when it comes to foreign listings. I've had foreign listings with Bellsouth and with Verizon. When you call the business office to arrange a foreign listing, customer service representatives incorrectly tell you that you cannot list your telephone number in the directory if the number is not provided by their company. Or they tell you they will transfer you to 'someone who can help you' and then you get the recording telling you that 'all agents are busy'. When they finally answer, they tell you *they* are going to transfer you to 'someone who can help you'. Once again, you get 'all agents are busy'. And you play this game all day unless you hang up or demand to speak to a supervisor.

I've even spoken to supervisors at the local telephone company who do not even know what a foreign listing is much less how to make one for you. In every instance I've gotten a foreign listing when I moved or initiated VOIP service, I had to call the Public Service Commission in the state where I then lived. That has included South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. Only then do I get a phone call from someone at their company that knows what they are doing. Then, I get my listing.

Once you get your account and your account number, if you call back with a billing issue or a minor change to your listing, they keep transferring you from department to department. On this I also called the Georgia Public Service commission. I was contacted by the telephone company's executive complaints department and was told that the Small Business department is responsible for handling all foreign listings. Even then, Small Business still tried to transfer me the Yellow Pages (who only sell phone book and business ads) until I told them about my conversation with their executive complaints department (who had defined that the Small Business office is responsible for all residential foreign listings). Only then do I get someone who will try to address the problem.

In the case of Georgia, AT&T/Bellsouth lists my number as being in Marietta, Georgia. I have my number listed in the Marietta Community phone book and the Atlanta directory (two separate foreign listings since they are in different telephone books). AT&T/Bellsouth 411 does now have me correctly listed as being in Marietta, Georgia.

Masterfiles is an online directory assistance service. Because they do not have to pay for operators, they can charge as little as twenty cents per listing. They get their databases from all of the local providers and the updates are typically one to two days after a listing is made, altered, or deleted.

Easy411 is a third party directory assistance company. They also get their listings from each of the local telephone companies and their database is kept up to date at the same rate as Masterfiles. You can reach the service by dialing a toll-free number. Their charge is less than getting a number from 411.

I discovered that Masterfiles and Easy411 (and presumably all the other national directory assistance services) were showing me as Atlanta, Georgia and not in Marietta. When I spoke to Masterfiles, they said that my listing was as a result of what was sent to them by AT&T/Bellsouth and the only way it would get changed would be for AT&T/Bellsouth to fix my listing and submit the update. I'm sure (from previous conversations with Easy411) that the same applies to Easy411.

In talking to AT&T/Bellsouth further, I was told that because the Marietta book is a 'community' directory, that foreign listings in the Marietta phone book were not forwarded to other directory assistance services. They told me further that all numbers in the Atlanta book were submitted to other directory assistance services as 'Atlanta' even if the listing in the Atlanta book and/or AT&T/Bellsouth directory assistance said elsewhere (Marietta, in my case). I told them that this was not acceptable and that I needed them to correct their listing.

They have not corrected it. I was told today that they had reached a 'dead end'. I told her that if she'd reached a dead end on her present path that she was going to have to find another route. She said she'd try and see what else could be done (like they've told me so many times before without further results).

I know I get agitated with these people when I talk to them. They are helpless when it comes to the subject of foreign listings and it makes their customers feel so victimized. I've been blindly transferred, placed on eternal music on hold, and gotten unacceptable support from them so many times that frankly my nerves are very jangled.

Everyone should have the right to have their number properly listed if they so choose to do so. The poor customer should not be at the mercy of the telephone company to get their foreign listing made. The directory listings can only be done by the local company. It is a monopoly and the telephone company should not be able to pick and choose who can or cannot be listed. And they should be required to list it correctly, not in Atlanta because it is in the Atlanta book but listed as somewhere else.

Some time ago, I corresponded with QWEST in email and asked them if they could make a foreign listing for me. I was told to call their toll-free number and place the order. The problem was, all of these people were clueless as well. I did this just to satisfy my curiosity as to whether or not they had the same problem (I don't have a VOIP number in their coverage area). I talked to several people at QWEST and these people were clueless about it as well.

I will write a letter to the Georgia Public Service Commission requesting assistance in getting this matter cleared up if they do not have a resolution for me in the next few days.

If you feel so inclined (and you are not using AT&T/Bellsouth, Masterfiles, or Easy411 directory assistance as I've already confirmed these), try calling your nationwide 411 service and ask for Fred W. Atkinson, III in Marietta, Georgia. If they say no listing, try Atlanta, Georgia. I'll bet they give you my phone number then. If you do this, please send me a direct email at and tell me the result.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: From 620-331 Sage Telecom (SBT reseller): dialing 1-411 for information in Marietta, GA no listing. In Atlanta, no listing. From 620-602 Vonage Telecom dialing 411 for information: no listing in Marietta, GA but you were listed in Atlanta. Using 1-404-555-1212 from either the Sage (SBC reseller) or Vonage lines, I was told 'Fred W. Jr.' existed in some town around there with an area 229 number out of Atlanta. It would appear AT&T intercepts 555-1212 these days to some provider or another, while Sage Telecom intercepts 1-411 to go to whoever is the prime source for Verizon. Vonage sends their 555-1212 to the same people. I did not test using my Cingular Wireless phone to either 411 or 404-555-1212. That's four calls at about $1.50 each, or $6.00. Do you want me to test on that line also? Please remit the six dollars thus far expended to me via the Pay Pal donation box on the front page of the web site
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Fred Atkinson
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