Nebraskans hope to silence telephone robots and 'junk calls'

The best kind of telephone salesman - one that never strolls down to the water cooler, never asks for a raise, and never takes no for an answer - may be ''fired.''

In Nebraska, people are getting angry with this kind of salesman. Nebraska is considering a bill to limit use of telephone robots - the kind that call homeowners and deliver recorded messages promoting everything from aluminum siding to political candidates. There is a bill before the Legislature to severely limit the use of these automatic devices.

Nebraska is not the first state to consider restrictions on these machines, says MIS Week. As the telephone devices are more widely used, ways to regulate them are likely to become an issue nationwide.

The devices, besides generating criticism from private individuals who don't appreciate ''junk phone calls'' and refusing to disconnect from indiscriminately dialed police and fire stations, have recently come under scrutiny by the military. They called unlisted numbers at the Strategic Air Command base in Omaha.

Nebraska law requires some regulation and predialing permits from the state Public Service Commission. The new bill would place additional restrictions on automatic devices used for advertising or political services.

The telephone robots are unfailingly polite to humans, pausing for them to speak and thanking them for chatting. But they are rude to other machines: If a machine answers, most will disconnect.

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