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Blocked Conference Calls Cripple Food Programs to the Hungry


LOS ANGELES - AT&T/Cingular, Sprint and Qwest are blocking access to free conference calling which also is impeding efforts by the California Hunger Action Coalition to stop hunger, according to Frank Tamborello, Executive Director of Hunger Action Los Angeles and Co-Chairperson of the Coalition. The action coalition has depended upon FreeConference for more than four years to connect its volunteers statewide with free conference calling.

Added Mr. Tamborello, “Our statewide coordination and activities have come to a complete halt as a result of these anti-market activities. We were blocked this week when a group of members on the Central Coast scheduled a call but half the callers were unable to access it. We started using FreeConference several years ago when a group of grass-roots people wanting to address hunger in our state could no longer afford to pay the exorbitant rates of other teleconference systems. Using FreeConference allowed us to continue our organizing - these moves by the large carriers are appalling.”

News reports reveal that AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel said the company is blocking “certain numbers” for conferencing services, including FreeConference, an action it feels appropriate under its wireless terms of service agreements. FreeConference, however, is encouraging those using its services to complain to the FCC, their state’s attorney general and the phone companies, noting, “This appears to be a coordinated effort to force you to use the paid services they (the phone companies) provide, eliminating competition and blocking your right to use the conferencing services that work best for you.”

The blocked calls, if they continue, will interrupt planning of the coalition’s annual event, Hunger Action Day, which is just five weeks away.


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