Telecom Digest FAQ [nfp]

This is the list of frequently-asked questions for The Telecom Digest. It is posted 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 an email to

Q. How do I subscribe?

A. If you want to receive The Telecom Digest via email, Send an "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 each"

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 changed for various services, alternatives to the traditional telephone network (such as VoIP), and related issues.

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 one 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 glyphs in order to be excepted from our spam-prevention process. There is no guarantee that a message without one of these glyphs will ever be read. The brackets around each glyph 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]" glyph.
  2. "[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 the keywords in the glyphs are not case sensitive.

Q. How does the Moderator decide what to accept?

A. In general, the moderator makes decisions about what should be published after reading a submission, and 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. Basic 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 telephones, either wired or wireless, 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.
  3. Posts which bear on the history of telecommunications are allowed if they are germane to discussion about the worldwide telephone network in some way: e.g., a post about the Western Union company's TELEX network would be allowed if it served to illustrate the underpinnings of the PSTN and/or the regulatory framework within which Western Union and the Bell System competed with each other, 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. Does The Telecom Digest accept anonymous posts?

A. Sometimes, but reluctantly. Posters who request anonymity must add the "[anonymous]" glyph to the subject line of their posts, and the Moderator makes a judgement on a case-by-case basis. Posters whom 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. * ******************************************************************

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 venue for your posts. 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 the PSTN to talk to each other, it's fair game. 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 readers the same choice.

Q. What are the options available to subscribers using the Majordomo robot? 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 ignored).

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 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.

***** Moderator's Note *****

This is the first time I've published a FAQ for the Digest. Suggestions for improvement, corrections, and clarifications are welcome: you need only reply to this message. Your replies will NOT be published.

Bill Horne Moderator

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Telecom Digest Moderator
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