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US carriers are taking the beep

Pogue elicits promises of action from telcos

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New York Times columnist David Pogue's ongoing campaign to reduce the length of voicemail messages is bearing fruit, as an update from the man explains the operators are starting to listen.

Pogue launched his campaign, titled "Take Back The Beep" two weeks ago, complaining that the lengthy messages that operators play when one wants to leave, or collect, a message are taking the piss - pointing out that many users pay by the minute to collect and/or leave messages, so having lengthy introductions is a nice little earner for the operators.

In his blog, Pogue pointed out that Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all add at least 15 seconds to his own recorded message played to callers, extending the time users spend on the phone. It might only be 15 seconds per caller, but the numbers add up and galvanised by David's campaign, customers have been complaining to their network operators to such an extent that they've actually started listening.

AT&T says it is moving everyone to Visual Voicemail anyway, making the process of collecting messages easier, but is "actively exploring how to shorten the voicemail messages".

T-Mobile says it also likes to listen and will think hard about the issue. Sprint has pointed out that by going into your voice mailbox and pressing "3", then "2", then "1" then "3" you can remove the operator prompts entirely, which is fair enough if not very intuitive.

Verizon, meanwhile, hasn't responded at all, except to say that users can switch off voicemail entirely if they wish.

Customers unimpressed by two unfulfilled promises and one blank look might like to vote with their feet and take their voicemail elsewhere - UK-based HulloMail recently launched in the USA, only on T-Mobile with Android for the moment, but other alternatives exist. Or they can join the campaign and complain to their own carrier, or even the FCC, to bring a little beep back into their lives. ®

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