It might not be the most important development around the globe today, but it's one a vast majority of Americans are welcoming... and popular enough that President Bush kicked it off with a White House Rose Garden ceremony.
Yes, today's the first day to sign up for the Federal Trade Commission's "National Do Not Call Registry." Starting Oct. 1, most telemarketers must avoid phoning people on the list, or face fines of up to $11,000 per call.
It's free to get onto the list, and you can register online at http://donotcall.gov. The website is receiving extremely high traffic today -- a quarter of a million had signed up by 10:30 this morning -- and access likely will be slow and sporadic.
But don't worry, you have plenty of time; consider hitting the site in the next few days. Consumers in states west of the Mississippi River (including Louisiana and Minnesota) can register by calling 1-888-382-1222 toll-free. On July 7, phone registration will be open nationwide. If you do sign up by phone, be sure to call from the number you want registered.
The list won't protect you from all unsolicited calls. Political organizations are still free to contact you, and you may still receive solicitation calls on behalf of charities or calls to conduct surveys. (How else would politicians know what to do?) Also, companies with an "established business relationship" may call for up to 18 months after your last purchase, though you can always request them to stop contacting you.
Quite obviously, the list has drawn strong opposition from many in the business community. Telemarketers have filed a lawsuit trying to stop it, claiming it violates their First Amendment rights to commercial speech. One study estimated that 185 million people spent $270 billion for purchases over the phone in 2001.
The telemarketers aren't getting much sympathy, though. As one businessman told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "This never would have happened if some people hadn't abused the medium."