REPLY COMMENTS OF VANITY INTERNATIONAL (1997)
Loren C. Stocker, Managing Partner of Vanity International, hereby submits reply comments to Report and Order dated April 4, 1997 on behalf our firm, our clients, and the general public.
We strongly encourage the Commission to revisit "its belief' that that 800 numbers are merely a "public resource" subject to seizure without due process. No enduring public policy can be created without an explicit acknowledgement of user rights. Rather, we firmly believe that Commission should adopt the land model of phone number "ownership" and use homesteading as a model for allocation.
Phone numbers are a public resource when they are allocate on a "first come, first serve" basis by public trustees like USWest and others. What's been absent from the Commissions actions to date is the public covenant created by use.
Once toll-free numbers are assigned to private enterprise, rights are created. These rights are not legal fiction; but real, actionable rights that create a “hornet's nest of issues" when violated, as so aptly put by MCI. The only legal fiction is that toll-free numbers remain a "public resource," in utter disregard to the subscriber's rights. This deficient definition has led to the unenforceable policy central to the discussion on hoarding.
Although not explicitly defined, toll-free "ownership" rights are very little different than land ownership. Land ownership is a public covenant that allows users to exercise control of the property including the right of reassignment. We rarely think of real estate as a "public resource" but it remains so - even during private ownership. For example, no user can transfer their real estate to another country or use the land for purposes contrary to public interest.
We encourage the Commission to view toll-free numbers in the same light. Prior to assignment, one set of rules should apply to ensure "fair and equitable" allocation, using "homesteading" as a model. Subsequent to assignment, a new set of rules should apply to ensure continuity of use without interference by the Commission's public trustees (i.e., the RespOrgs). Business and private enterprise deserve to know explicitly that - absent any illegal conduct - they are free to continue use and control of their toll free numbers. Users should quite literally be able to bank on this.
If the Commission finds it in the public interest for toll-free numbers to go to best use, then it must pass no regulation that inhibits the transfer of toll free numbers between two consenting users. Efficient land use was largely a result of decentralized process of exchange. Users of toll-free numbers will, likewise, sort out the best use of numbers in a decentralized manner as land users have for years.
Finally, the Commission should explicitly prohibit their public trustees (i.e., RespOrgs) from self-dealing. RespOrgs have privileged access to toll free numbers and should not be allowed to interfere or prevent the free exchange of user rights – or more egregious - hold out the best numbers for themselves.
Loren Stocker, Managing Partner
Chicago, IL 60614