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Letters To The Editor
December 2000


In This Month's Mailbag:

In Response to Robert Hashemian's "Online Vigilantism," October, 2000:

Thinking Obscene Thoughts: Napster

Your points are valid: It could lead to an abuse that might last long enough to do some real damage, but there is another threat that many people on one side or the other of the Napster debate may not have considered: That the technology makes it possible to distribute all manners of evil through the networks without any accountability. Child pornography comes to mind as one side effect of a ruling favorable to Napster. The technology that makes the music downloads possible among users also makes the sending and receiving of child pornography possible. Consider what might happen if someone you crossed decided to send such graphics to you and then alerted the various police authorities, how could you defend yourself?

Without some ability to authenticate who has sent what over the Internet, how could we prosecute criminal wrong doings? Spam and black lists are ugly enough, but the specter of Napster technology for the sake of corporate profits over the common good is obscene.
- William Bean


The examples you give in your article for getting permission to send someone e-mail do not fit the guidelines for a MAPS-type service at all. What I want, and what MAPS gives me, is the ability to block out people and companies that broadcast e-mail to thousands of recipients with no means to stop them. There are legitimate e-mail newsletters (Internet Telephony among them), but they offer legitimate means to cancel out the messages.

My working definition of spam is an e-mail that contains any one of the following elements:

  1. It came to me from a known spam house IP address.
  2. It came to me via an unauthorized third-party e-mail relay.
  3. It came to me directly from someone's dial-up connection, so it could bypass their service provider's limitations on e-mail volume per customer.
  4. It has a free e-mail service's address for a return address, but the e-mail didn't come from the same service.
  5. It came from a source I had already specified to accept "no advertising." If that source continues to send me e-mail in spite of my saying not to, or requires me to periodically restate that I don't want advertising, they then become a known spam house.

So far, MAPS uses many of the same definitions for spam as I do, therefore I use their service. If MAPS starts vendettas or extortion rackets, I will find another means to filter spam, and I think others would likewise go elsewhere. I think that the MAPS people abusing their position would be a self-correcting problem. I also think involving government could potentially make the problem much worse, since it could become impossible for people to be able to go elsewhere when the system goes corrupt.
- Arthur Kahlich

PBX Questions

My company works in call center activities. I am wondering if there is any hardware or software available which connects the computer (for Internet telephony) to the PBX system. Also, are there any tools, hardware, or software available to enhance voice and overcome firewall problems?

Tom Keating responds:

Your question is a bit vague. You didn't describe your existing infrastructure, such as what type of PBX you have, your LAN environment, etc. Also, do you want people to make inbound VoIP calls to your call center? Do you want VoIP to the call center agent's desktop? Or do you just want your internal agents to be able to make outbound VoIP calls via an ITSP (toll bypass to save money)?

However, you did mention you wanted the ability to "get around" the firewall issue associated with VoIP. Check out www.aravox.com for a firewall that gets around this issue. You may not require such a high-end solution, but it's still worth checking out.

There are several other products that can help to VoIP-enable your call center. Check out the TMC Labs Innovation Awards in the September 2000 issue of C@ll Center CRM Solutions magazine, as well as the October 2000 issues of both Internet Telephony magazine and Communications Solutions magazine. We discussed several e-commerce VoIP solutions to VoIP-enable the call center. (Simply surf over to www.tmcnet.com and then choose the back issues of each respective magazine.)

LAN Solutions

As a LAN reseller, we are being asked to start providing end-to-end solutions including automated attendant/voice mail/outbound calling solutions.

Unfortunately, we have little current experience after having investigated the market 10 years ago, and are amazed to see so many companies selling so many flavors of product.

If you were to start reselling a four-port Windows product with automated attendant, voice mail, outbound capabilities, and fax on demand, which companies and products would you look at? Naturally our customers are most interested in price/performance using standard hardware platforms such as NT/2000 boxes in Dialogic or other popular, value-based boards.
- Allan Levene

Tom Keating Responds:

I'm assuming you already know the "big boys" (AVT & Active Voice) in the Windows/PC voice mail space. However, they might be priced out of what you are looking for.

Try Connected Systems (more of a "black box" running on a RealTime O/S than Windows NT, but a great feature set and price), E-voice Communications (also features PC-PBX functionality), and Sound Advantage (they have a lost-cost solution using Dialogic hardware and Windows NT).

You mentioned you needed outbound capabilities as well. I'm assuming you mean "predictive dialing." If so, I don't believe any of my suggestions have that feature, but ask the vendors. Often, predictive dialing is a separate feature from the voice mail system.

We invite readers to send their input and advice to ggalitzine@tmcnet.com.

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