U.S. Backs New System for Net, Phone Numbering

The U.S. government is supporting a move to a new standard designed to
create a single point of contact for telephone and Internet communications.

The new electronic numbering system, also known as ENUM, would give
consumers a single number for all their telephone numbers, e-mail and
instant messaging addresses, fax numbers and mobile phone numbers.

ENUM would give each consumer what is being called a “single identifier.”
But before the system goes into effect, there will be a review by domestic
and global communications security experts on the issues related to consumer
data protection.

The Federal Communications Commission will work with the Commerce Department
and the State Department to create the new electronic numbering system. ENUM
is being backed by 13 other countries around the world, and will also work
with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to develop global
standards for electronic numbering, or mapping of Internet addresses and
phone numbers.

The ENUM standard, also know as e164.arpa, will translate telephone numbers
into Internet addresses, and vice-versa. Consumers would not be expected to
memorize these numbers, and it is expected that Web browsers and advanced
telephones would automate the process of mapping, or numbering conversion.

On February 13th, FCC Chairman Michael Powell wrote a letter to Ambassador
David A. Gross, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Office of
International Communications and Information Policy. In the letter, Powell
says “ENUM is a new and potentially important service, a product of the
convergence of the traditional public switched telephone network with the
Internet.”

In the letter, Powell endorses the recommendation that the U.S. move forward
on the e164.arpa standard and look into the “domestic implementation of
ENUM.”

The FCC’s backing on ENUM appears to be a major statement of backing on
Internet-based telephony, which despite speculation of dramatic growth has
failed to catch on widely with consumers.

The FCC, State and Commerce Departments have said they are insisting that
the highest standards of security, competition, and privacy.

The ENUM standard started with work done by the Internet Engineering Task
Force’s Telephone Number Mapping working group.

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