A DTE can control the modems attached thereto by transmitting command messages over the data path and analyzing report messages supplied by the modems in return. Each command message is identified by a specific header. A command message intended for a remote modem (34) is intercepted by the local modem (30) and reformatted so as to obtain a supervisory message that is then transmitted at the rate of one bit per baud. A command message intended for a remote multichannel modem (48) is transmitted either by means of a supervisory message or in the data mode of operation. Messages are specifically addressed to individual modems by a special hierarchical address which utilizes information of the network link level on which the desired modem resides together with information as to which terminal (DTE), if any, the desired modem is attached. All locally attached primary modems are assigned an address comprising the link level designation and a first constant. All remotely attached primary modems are assigned an address comprising their link level designation and the first constant. All secondary modems are assigned an address comprising their link level designation and a second constant or, in the event they serve an attached terminal (DTE), the DTE address is used instead of the second constant.