Volume 31 Number 34
                 Produced: Fri Feb  4  6:31:10 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Caller ID and Cell Phones
         [Zilberberg, David]
Collect call game (6)
         [Yossie Abramson, Daniel M Wells, Gershon Dubin, Avi Feldblum,
Bill Bernstein, David Charlap]
Telephone hang-ups
         [Freda B Birnbaum]


From: Zilberberg, David <ZilbeDa@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 09:09:19 -0500
Subject: Caller ID and Cell Phones

Isn't the answer pretty simple?  The service provider is perfectly
capable of charging for the first minute of a cell phone call or or for
call that aren't picked up.  Buth they don't.  In the case of cell phone
service, the first minute free is one of those features offered by some
companies as an inducement for use of their plans.  If there is
something wrong with using that first free miute, then would always be
something wrong with taking advantage of any sort of price discount.  In
the case of caller ID, it's even simpler.  I pay around seven dollars a
month for this service.  Certainly I should be entitled to use it.


From: Yossie Abramson <yossie@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 10:24:13 -0500
Subject: Collect call game

From: Joshua Hosseinof <hosseino@...>
> 2.Usage of the phone company's network, whether it's international or
> local doesn't cost the phone company anything per se.  These are fixed
> lines with fixed costs regardless of usage.  The phone companies incur
> costs when their traffic crosses onto someone elses network and then
> they have to pay someone for that usage.  But again, even if your call
> crosses five different phone companies networks, each phone company
> does not incur any charges to themselves, and are not charged anything
> by the other phone companies if the call is not completed properly.
> There is no extra elictricity charge to a company based on a circuit
> being in use for phone traffic or not - the only exception may be the
> last part of the local loop (the mile or so of copper wire from the
> phone company to your house) and even that I am not so sure about.
> Whatever amount of electricity is used is so small as to not be
> measurable.

While point 1 can be argued upon, I don't see it worthwhile for this
discussion. However the point above assumes that phone companies do not
incur per call charges, rather they only have fixed costs with an
unanswered call. That is incorrect. For example, if I would call Israel
and nobody would pick up, I wouldn't be billed for the call. However, my
long distance company would get billed by my local carrier, in this case
being Bell Atlantic. They will also be billed by Bezeq and also by the
middle man who brings the call under the ocean. In some cases, the long
distance company will actually own the right to wires under the ocean, so
they won't get billed. But there is still a cost involved. The call still
has to get from point A to point B. For business purposes, your long
distance company realizes that they can't bill you for unanswered calls,
but THEY still get billed. The same is true for collect calls. Even if
it's just a local collect call, the local phone company will incur a per
call charge as well a fixed charge.

[Are you sure that pure SS7 signalling traffic is charged? Likely true
for networks that have not moved to SS7, and I was never really into the
network finance part, but I think that in the US, cross inter-LATA
charges are only on in-band usage, not signalling traffic. Anyone out
there who knows for sure?? Mod.]

 Now, all the other technicalities come into play, do they know the game?
Are they willing to let this through because the other party will

Yossie Abramson

From: Daniel M Wells <wells@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 16:51:17 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Collect call game

Oh so much verbosity. Take an example from the Mishna. It never says even
one unnecessary word, and if needed brings one simple example at a time to
prove or disprove an argument.

And thus from various postings:

> With the proliferation of caller ID and cell phones, the "Collect call"
Obviously it's all part of the same problem

> revenue producing time/code slot without paying for it
The time slot is there whether you use it or not. There would be a problem
if there were not enough time slots to fulfill requirements. For instance
in the old days when making a phone call from NY to LA, one would call the
operator and the operator would call you after 15 minutes or so to say
that they can now connect you now. (Can you believe that this was less
than 50 years ago?). Meanwhile the next customer from NY tired of waiting
cancels his call.

> view this as improper usage of their network.
And if I lean on a telephone pole, is that also improper network usage?

> a violation of the 5th portion of the shulchan aruch (..not written)
A suggestion that we should forbid that which the Rabbis didn't forbid?

> a baal nefesh would refrain from doing this.
How I wish we would all be baal nefesh and charud by the things that are
written...daven at neitz, and at least in a minyan, make brachot with the
right kavanas, etc etc.

> see that observant Jews feel free to take every advantage
If not every advantage, then which of the many available are then deemed
suitable for the Jew to feel free to take?

> Do we have only 613 mitzvot
Yes and ONLY 613 obviously each with its own ramifications.

> that we're supposed to deduce for ourselves 
Certainly not. The halacha, and especially as interpreted by a valid posek
does that for us.

> just because there's a loopholes in halacha. 
Find me one. There are no loopholes in halacha. It's either allowed or not
allowed or suggested that a baal nefesh should act accordingly.

> or public law
If a company does *really* take note that it is mainly a Jewish problem
then perhaps from the point of view of not increasing hostility,
one should abstain.

> we don't need the fine points of halacha to tell us that as
Oh yes we do. Otherwise observant Jews would live in the same anarchical
system as the rest of the goyim.

> and instead, trusted us to develop halachic judgment
Nope, not us, but the rabbonim

> halachically permitted but morally confusing behavior
Creating a non existent chasm between what is considered morality and
halacha is presumably much more confusing for a child.

And what is more, a parent that tries to impose strictures on his child
that have no validity either in Jewish or civil law, and are certainly not
practiced by the vast majority of the population, such a child will
probably grow with resentment of parental influence, and disregard for
law, religious and civil.

I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone by my comments and if I did so
please forgive me.


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 09:18:20 -0500
Subject: Collect call game

> From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
<< A very quick point (as I want to get an issue out and then need to get
to work early today). I'm not sure if I agree that the consideration is
whether or not we cause the phone company to incur any additional
expenses. The alternative way I look at it is whether I have used a
revenue producing time/code slot without paying for it (e.g. I have  used
resources of the company that it is thier intention it should be  revenue
producing without paying for it). I'd be interested to hear from people
on the list whether this is the a halachically valid distinction or  more
of a baal nefesh (someone who is careful about things) level. This

	I think that the distinction is halachically valid.  There is a
concept of zeh neheneh vezeh lo chaser, meaning that if I gain something
from someone, such as (the Gemara's example) living in his house rent
free, and it costs him nothing, I am not obligated to pay him.

	However, (and I don't have sources with me now so I cannot cite
chapter and verse,) my recollection is that this applies ONLY when the
house, e.g., is not usually used for rental.  So if, for example, I were
to "squat" in a hotel room and state that it costs the hotel nothing for
me to be there since, for example, they were at 10% occupancy anyway
that night (so the room would not be rented if I were not there) and I
sleep on the floor and use no disposable items, etc. it is still
forbidden and they can take me to Bais Din to extract the rental fee.

	The analogy is obvious: if the phone company is set up to sell
utilization of the network, the fact that they have zero incremental
costs for my phony phone call is irrelevant.  If they're selling, you
have to pay.

	I am not sure how using Caller ID to "send a message" fits into
this.  It might be permitted since, because the Caller ID service is
itself being paid for separate and apart from telephone service, this
may be included in what you pay for.  OTOH.....

	I would like to add my absolute AMEN to Stan's points about chillul
Hashem and setting examples for children.


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 06:15:13 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Collect call game

On Wed, 2 Feb 2000, Daniel M Wells wrote:

> > revenue producing time/code slot without paying for it
> The time slot is there whether you use it or not. There would be a problem
> if there were not enough time slots to fulfill requirements.

I do not believe that this is a correct statement. If the time slot is
part of the subscriber allocated time-slots, it is there for the purpose
of generating revenue for the company, to pay back cost of building and
maintaining the infrastucture. That is no different than the issue of
whether it is permitted to sneak into a theatre and watch a movie with out
paying for it, since they are "already showing the movie" and I think I
can make a good arguement that it would be little different from sneaking
into the Subway or possibly a bus/train/plane etc.

The fundimental issue I see is whether this falls under a case of fraud,
which would be halachicly forbidden, I think, or (improper in my opinion,
maybe OK in other peoples opinion) use of a loophole in the way the
telephone companies have set up the collect call rules.

> > a violation of the 5th portion of the shulchan aruch (..not written)
> A suggestion that we should forbid that which the Rabbis didn't forbid?

This gets to the heart of a major topic (in my opinion). The idea I
learned from my father (which he refered to as the 5th chelek) is that not
all which is not forbidden are things we SHOULD do. I explicitly in the
above refernced posting (I think I was pretty clear) was saying that even
if it was not forbidden (if it is forbidden no one is ALLOWED to do it), I
strongly question whether it is something that we SHOULD do, or more
explicitly, I am of the opinion that it is something that even if
permitted, SHOULD NOT be done by a Yore Shamayim (one who fears haShem).

Avi Feldblum

From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Wed, 02 Feb 2000 10:32:38 -0600
Subject: Re: Collect call game

 I'm more than a little disturbed by the direction of this discussion,
which is towards to the idea that this scheme is mutar (permissable).
Let me propose the following:
 1) The next time someone wants to do this, he should simply call the
operator and say, please call this number and tell them that Shloimy (or
whatever) wants them to call me back.  If the operator goes ahead and
does this then there is no problem as everythign is upfront.  My guess
is that it won't happen quite like that.
 2) has anyone thought to ask a sheyla (question) about this?  There are
people on the list with access to major poskim and some guidance would
be appreciated.

From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Wed, 02 Feb 2000 15:20:10 -0500
Subject: Re: Collect call game

Stan Tenen wrote:
> It is not appropriate to do everything and anything that isn't
> specifically or generally prohibited.  There are other issues. ...

Yes.  Definitely.

There is a concept in Halacha as something which is "disgusting under
the law" (sorry, I don't remember the Hebrew phrase.)  This specifically
refers to something which is technically legal but is nevertheless wrong
and should not be done.

The example of this I was taught was the one with King David, Batsheva
and her husband Uria.  As everyone knows, King David saw Batsheva and
decided that he wanted her.  So he sent her husband off on a suicide
mission and took her when he died.

Technically, David did nothing wrong.  A king is allowed to command any
member of the army to undertake any mission - even a suicide mission.
And a king is allowed to take any unmarried woman he wants.

Nevertheless, when these two perfectly legal acts were put together for
an immoral purpose, David was punished for it with the death of his son.

We probably won't have our children struck down for stealing phone
calls, but I think it's another illustration of the same principle.

It is perfectly legal to place a collect call.  It is perfectly legal
for the recipient to refuse such a call.  Nevertheless, when these two
legal actions are performed together for the purpose of defrauding the
phone company (even if it is only consuming bandwidth that might
otherwise be going unused), it is wrong and should not be done.

-- David


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 10:20:18 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Telephone hang-ups

(Sorry, I just couldn't resist!)

It would be difficult to add anything to Avi's and the Tenens' outstanding

I recall as a child a family who very occasionally did this -- they
called them "Scotch calls", playing into the stereotypes about Scotsmen
being thrifty.  They did it on returning from a long car trip to
reassure that they had arrived home safely.  However, this was at a time
when long-distance calls were much more expensive than they are today,
and this was a family that was not overly flush with discretionary
income. Their values otherwise were unusually scrupulous re honesty in
business dealings.  But they knew that it wasn't 100% kosher.

I think the argument that it's not costing the company anything is faulty
-- the infrastructure has to be there, someone had to build it in the
first place, and then maintain it.

Daniel Wells raises an interesting question:

> By the way if one is contributing to the profit and loss of the
> company, should one check if the company has a Heter Iska before
> calling.

How could we do any business at all, even go to the grocery store, if we
did this all the time?  I'm just buying something from them, I'm not
their partner!

Again, thanks to Avi and the Tenens for superb responses.  You made my

Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"


End of Volume 31 Issue 34