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 there's a major change.

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 telecomdigestsubmissions atsign

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 subject line, followed by the
    "quit" command in the message body. Be sure to erase any signature
    or other automatically-added content, since it might confuse the
    SYMPA robot. 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, add the command "set telecom mail" on the first
    line in the body of the message, followed by the "quit"
    command. For information about other options, send another email,
    and put "help subscribe" in the subject line. You'll receive a
    help message, which will tell you what other options are

    If you want to subscribe an address OTHER THAN the one you are
    sending the subscription request from, then you need to send an
    email to the moderator's personal address and include details of
    the request. Any email sent from an address which is obfuscated,
    incorrect, or which goes to a challenge-response system will be

    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 send a post, so that you
       may submit 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 "Sympa", which allows subscribers
    to choose either digest or individual emails, and since Usenet
    readers already enjoyed the option of seeing individual posts,
    Sympa is programmed to give email subscribers the same choice.

Q. What are the options available to subscribers using the email

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 subject line.

Q. How do I unsubscribe?

A. Send an email to, with the command
    "unsubscribe telecom" in the subject line of the message. If you
    no longer have access to the email account from which you
    subscribed, use the command "unsubscribe telecom <>".

    If you don't have the password for an old account, and no longer
    have access to it to send emails to the SYMPA 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 SYMPA 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 email robot, with the
   appropriate option. See the help file for more info.

    Example: if you send an email to, and put

      set * nomail

    ... in the message, Sympa will stop delivery of all your
    subscriptions until you send another "set" command to restart

    Please note that all robot commands need to be confirmed, so
    you'll get a "challenge" email from the Sympa robot, containing
    instructions on how to confirm the command. If you prefer, you may
    send commands that are validated with your Sympa password, and
    they will be executed without need for confirmation: see the
    Sympa help files for info.