Monday, November 24, 2014

Landline Luddite

This PSA is for all the folks out there in daVille who still have a landline.* Something Earnestine would be proud of. One ringy dingy... Today's rant is driven by the incessant robocalls from schmuck politicians during the recent election cycle.  And it is the best thing since caller-id: call blockers.**

Call blockers are devices that connect to your home phone wiring and cut these schmucks off at the knees. Works with telemarketers too. They come in a couple of flavours but they generally have these features in common:

  1. you enter phone numbers to be blocked
  2. you may enter wild cards for area codes or exchanges
  3. when a call comes in that matches these lists the call blocker automatically dismisses the unwanted intrusion
There are some variations on the theme. 

First is how they connect to your phone wiring. Some devices attach to any phone jack and act like just another answering machine. Devices operating in this mode will answer the unwanted calls so you don't have to. At least one blocker wastes twenty seconds of their time on unresponsive silence which you can use to answer the line if you inadvertently blocked a "good" number. These devices always let the phones ring at least once which some consider to be a disadvantage. But you do know there is an incoming call and there is a certain pleasure in knowing if it only rings once some telemarketer is talking to the virtual back of  your hand. 

Other devices connect between your incoming phone line and the rest of your phone wiring and are capable of suppressing the first ring (Caller ID information is transferred between the first and second rings). Consequently you will never be disturbed by any caller you have blocked. Often these devices offer more advanced features that allow live callers a way to ring your phone.

All call blockers allow you to enter numbers to ignore either by capturing the Caller ID or by keypad entry or both. This is commonly known as  a blacklist and the simplest call blockers implement only a blacklist. Others manage a second list of numbers that always ring thru--a whitelist. This  lets you block entire area codes but allow the one or two numbers of folks you want to hear from get thru. One fairly advanced unit has an "automatic" mode that in effect is a greylist. Any number not in ether the black or white list goes to a voice prompt requesting the caller to enter '0' to ring thru effectively blocking robo calls. Almost all politician's calls are robo calls. 

Most will block calls where Caller ID delivery has been disabled as well as other "unknown caller" CIDs. Some devices also block outgoing calls and market this as a parental control feature. Parental control is a myth. Believe in unicorns if you must but never delude yourself into believing you have any control over what your child does, who she talks to or how she communicates. Don't pay more for this feature.

So before the 2016 presidential election goes into full swing you may want to Google "telephone call blocker" and find which option works best for you. 

* Includes Cable and VoIP services.
** We all know the national Do Not Call Registry is worthless.