Here’s an interesting e-mail I just got from FreeConference.com, a service I regularly use:
Dear FreeConference User:
AT&T/Cingular, Sprint, and Qwest Are Blocking Your Conference Calling
As of Friday, March 9, it’s come to our attention that Cingular Wireless has begun blocking all conference calls made from Cingular handsets to selected conference numbers. If you call our service, you receive a recording that says, “This call is not allowed from this number. Please dial 611 for customer service”.
Earlier this week, Sprint and Qwest joined in this action, blocking cellular and land line calls to these same numbers. This appears to be a coordinated effort to force you to use the paid services they provide, eliminating competition and blocking your right to use the conferencing services that work best for you.
Don’t Let AT&T/Cingular, Sprint, or Qwest Take Away Your Right to Use the Conference Service of Your Choice!
We Need Your Help! Please Take the Actions Below:
Whether you are one of their customers, or an organizer who is being impacted by these uncompetitive actions, please file a complaint with the FCC or send an email to your State Attorney General to complain about this monopolistic practice to limit the choices of consumers.
You can also let these companies know how you feel about their attempt to block competitive services:
Sprint Customers can click here or dial *2 from their Sprint Phone
Cingular Customers can click here or call 1-888-333-6651
Qwest Customers can click here or call 1-800-860-2255
Your FreeConference Team remains steadfastly committed to bringing you simple, convenient and reliable conferencing services at the lowest cost possible. We appreciate your support in this endeavor.
Your FreeConference Team
I’m a Sprint customer and the way I read this, Sprint isn’t blocking now (nor Qwest). I called Sprint’s tech support and they’re not aware of this service being blocked.
My guess is, however, the providers would like to block these calls because conference calls eat up a lot of minutes — it’s not necessarily aimed at getting users to buy the paid service from the provider. But still, minutes are minutes and the providers shouldn’t be able to restrict how they’re used.
UPDATE: GigaOm has done some real reporting on this (and who says blogs can’t do journalism?)
Thank you for checking your service based on our notice to you. Currently, the three providers in question have chosen to block just one facility where we have equipment located. A number you can use to validate the blocking is 641-297-5333. We have enabled an alternate set of numbers for conferences affected by this action and the correlating number for this service is 641-297-5334. You will see that the 5333 number gives you an “all-circuits are busy” message with Sprint, but the 5334 number will complete the call. Both numbers point to the same equipment!
We decided to make everyone aware of the situation so we can get a quick resolution before it becomes any worse.