The state's "Do Not Call" list has become virtually worthless.

Whether you're on the list or not, the phone often rings at the dinner hour in many homes with offers, sales pitches, and "surveys."

Identifying the caller is virutally impossible. The call might be from "ABC Enterprise" but your caller ID will say it's from a different firm, such as "Pacific Telephone."

A call-back number is often shown, but if you call it back you realize the number isn't legitimate.

Is there any prosecution occurring anymore for "do not call" violations? How do you even report infractions if you don't know whose calling you? Should this become an FCC matter instead of merely a state violation?

Unfortunately, the problem is going to get worse if some members of Congress have their way.

A bill has been introduced in Congress which would allow "robo-calls" to your cell phone even if you didn't give a company permission to contact you at that number.

Supporters of the "Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011" include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Air Transport Association, as well as groups that represent bankers, mortgage lenders, college loan programs and debt collectors.

In a letter to Congress, they claim H.R. 3035 is needed to "modernize" existing law by enacting "limited common-sense revisions to facilitate the delivery of time-sensitive consumer information to mobile devices, while continuing to protect wireless consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls."

What such a measure would really do is make nuisance telemarketing calls even more prevalent.

It would allow bill collectors to make those recorded calls constantly on your home phone as well as your cell phone, with the dialing by the firms being done over and over.

Expensive minutes from certain telephone plans would be siphoned by these robocalls.

Congress should scrap this proposal immediately.

In addition, Congress should think about establishing more stringent rules for telemarketers and other robo callers requiring that "Do Not Call" lists be respected, that callers must list a legitimate call-back number, and that heavy penalties are applied to those firms who don't comply.

Actually, robo calls should be made illegal - especially from telemarketers and bill collectors. Even if a bill collector calls, you should have the option of talking to a real person, not just listening to harassing rhetoric. What if the bill isn't actually yours; that there is a mistake somewhere? The disruptive, frustrating, and embarassing phone calls will continue.

It's bad enough that our computers are being infiltrated daily with unwanted spam. We should have the right to sit down and be able to eat dinner in peace without telemarketers bothering us, especially if we opt to be included on "Do Not Call" lists.

Since many are robo-calls, you don't even have the option of telling them not to call again.

Telephones used to have "party lines" where talking was not a very private matter. That's changed.

They've become private communication devises for a reason. Consumer pay for privacy on the phone by having their own individual numbers.

These numbers aren't intended for unwanted callers to harass, irritate, and infringe on the privacy of the consumer.

The bill proposed in Congress will open a flood gate for unwanted telephone calls on our cell phones. Obviously federal lawmakers have no clue how harassing these telemarketers have become or they wouldn't be foolish enough to introduce legislation like has been proposed.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com