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Communications

AT&T Readying For the End of Analog Landlines 426

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-was-ready-years-ago dept.
nottheusualsuspect writes "AT&T, in response to a Notice of Inquiry released by the FCC to explore how to transition to a purely IP-based communications network, has declared that it's time to cut the cord. AT&T told the FCC that the death of landlines is a matter of when, not if, and asked that a firm deadline be set for pulling the plug. In the article, broadband internet and cellular access are considered to be available to everyone, though many Americans are still without decent internet access."
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AT&T Readying For the End of Analog Landlines

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  • VOIP sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:53AM (#30605788) Homepage Journal

    If I had a reliable VOIP service, I would be happy, but the most reliable thing is POTS. It's simple and it works. I know some people that are just VOIP or just cell phone, but neither is reliable enough to replace my dedicated line - I've tried it, twice, and its just not enough. Plus land lines are dirt cheap.

    • I dropped my land line last year - haven't missed it. I did go with VOIP because I have young kids and I want them to be able to pick up a phone in the house and quickly dial 911 in an emergency. As soon as they are old enough to use a cell phone reliably, even if under duress, I'll be dropping the VOIP. In the past I might hesitate to go strictly mobile but with Google Voice available now, it's a no brainer.

      • Re:VOIP sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Volante3192 (953645) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:11AM (#30606036)

        Does your internet and VOIP work when the power goes out?

        Pick up that POTS phone...hey look, still working. (Assuming the exchange hasn't been taken out, but if that's the case there's likely bigger problems than a local outage.)

        • Re:VOIP sucks. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:23AM (#30606198) Homepage Journal

          When I moved to where I lived I had POTS go down 3 times due to storms. The last time, a lightning strike near my house (I live in Florida) really jacked it up. Through it all my internet was available. That's what convinced me to make the jump. Since I did switch, I've never had it go down.

          If my power drops, or my VOIP isn't working for any reason, the calls to my home phone are forwarded to our cell phones. And we can still call out on those until power comes back.

          If our cell phones don't work - then as you have said, there are bigger problems to worry about.

          But really, I don't need the VOIP either except as I mentioned, I worry about my kids reliably dialing 911 on a cell phone. Once they are old enough to do that VOIP goes too.

          I've found cell phones to be dependable enough for my needs. Google Voice pretty much clears up the few shortcoming there.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ParanoiaBOTS (903635)

            When I moved to where I lived I had POTS go down 3 times due to storms. The last time, a lightning strike near my house (I live in Florida) really jacked it up. Through it all my internet was available. That's what convinced me to make the jump. Since I did switch, I've never had it go down.

            If my power drops, or my VOIP isn't working for any reason, the calls to my home phone are forwarded to our cell phones. And we can still call out on those until power comes back.

            If our cell phones don't work - then as you have said, there are bigger problems to worry about.

            But really, I don't need the VOIP either except as I mentioned, I worry about my kids reliably dialing 911 on a cell phone. Once they are old enough to do that VOIP goes too.

            I've found cell phones to be dependable enough for my needs. Google Voice pretty much clears up the few shortcoming there.

            There is one problem I don't think you see. The way a cell phone works is that it communicates with a cell tower, that cell tower uses phone lines at some point to route your call. If everything goes to a VOIP based phone system and the power goes out, there is a pretty good chance you will lose your cell phone as well. Currently this doesn't happen because the phone lines carry their own power, so the ones hooked into your cell tower are still up. With a VOIP network, when the power goes out, so does yo

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Urza9814 (883915)

              Wait - you think currently cell towers will operate if they have no electricity running to them? EVEN IF the phone line to the cell tower is still up, that doesn't matter if the tower has no power - they need electricity to communicate with your phone! The benefit of a cell phone is not that the tower doesn't need power - because it most certainly does. The benefit is that there's no fixed line from the tower to your phone to get taken out. And the phone has a battery, so if your power is out, you can still

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by halltk1983 (855209)
                Every one of the cell towers I've worked on has a generator. Last time I checked, those provided power during outages. They run self tests frequently, and I'd imagine they report back any issues.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by SaDan (81097)

          Yes, my internet and VOIP and cell all work when the power goes out.

          I haven't had a POTS line in over four years now.

          Granted, I took measures to ensure I would have working internet and VOIP when the power went out, but it's not THAT hard to figure out what you need to keep your lines of communication open in the event one loses power.

        • Your POTS phone will stop working if your local switching station is digital and the power goes out there for a longer period of time than their backup power lasts.
          • by Duradin (1261418)
            And your POTS phone provider will be looking at some massive fines from the government if their backup power fails and their service goes down. They have a good motivator to keep the service working. VoIP, not so much.
          • Re:VOIP sucks. (Score:4, Informative)

            by thebes (663586) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @12:00PM (#30606678)

            Any system will stop working when the battery dies. The point of saying POTS lasting through outages is because Telcos have to adhere (or should) to strict standards regarding availability of service and they maintain their centralized battery backup much better than a consumer does (or can).

            I don't have any experience with VOIP, so I don't know how long their batteries last. However, given that people tend to use their smart phones for everything (GPS, video, audio, etc.) how much of a battery buffer is left at the end of the day to last a 24 hour outage (since power outages are generally unplanned). I know the smart phones I've used can handle a couple hours of GPS, video, audio, etc. and there usually isn't much battery left for voice or standby.

            All I'm saying is that while centralization provides a single point of failure, it also provides a single point of maintenance and allows much larger battery backup than would otherwise be possible. Not to mention that it is much easier to restore power to every CO in the city to restore phone service than it is to restore power to the entire city (much like how blocks on the same grid as a fire station are usually the first to have power restored).

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              //Any system will stop working when the battery dies. The point of saying POTS lasting through outages is because Telcos have to adhere (or should) to strict standards regarding availability of service and they maintain their centralized battery backup much better than a consumer does (or can).//

              Former telco employee here. Battery backups are generally insufficient for that purpose.

              They have batteries that last long enough to ensure the backup generators can be brought online. Usually the generators kick au

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Goody (23843)

            Your POTS phone will stop working if your local switching station is digital and the power goes out there for a longer period of time than their backup power lasts.

            Analog switches don't run on gas or gerbils; they needed power as well. Furthermore, I don't think there's an analog switch in operation in the US today, or least not any town with more than ten houses.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Sloppy (14984)

          Does your internet .. work when the power goes out?

          Pick up that POTS phone...hey look, still working.

          I'll have to take your word for that, because all the lights on the front of my Courier are dark.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by the_rajah (749499) *
          When our power goes out, our Internet service is out, too. The buried phone lines work. We had a tornado in our neighborhood in March of 2006. I was on the POTS line (from the basement) with my kids when it hit. There wasn't even a click, it just worked. Power was out for a week and Internet was out for 4 more days after that. VOIP isn't ready for prime time in my book. The nonsense about fiber having back-up is great until the outage is more than 8 hours, assuming your battery has been maintained. Of cour
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by peragrin (659227)

          the pots line at my companies main office goes down every time it rains from the north east.

          POTS lines are so bad that as they lose customers they just keep moving people to the inner lines as the copper goes bad. I knwo some sections of cities that can't get DSL even though they are 500 from the trunk. why? the copper is so bad and their neighbors have all the good lines already used up.

          POTS is dying of old age and neglect.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by iamacat (583406)

        Are you sure your kids will ever be able to use cell phone or VOIP reliably when the power is out and/or injured to the point of being unable to speek or under duress and told not to?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by stoolpigeon (454276) *

          Yes - I'm sure they will be able to use a cell phone when the power is out.

          The rest of your question is based on a situation that will have ceased to exist [fcc.gov] by the time I drop VOIP.

          Though I find the likelihood of intruders holding my kids hostage to be extremely unlikely. I plan for a wide range of contingencies, but if someone has overcome everything else, I don't think the lack of a land line will be a major factor in any outcome.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by iamacat (583406)

            The rest of your question is based on a situation that will have ceased to exist by the time I drop VOIP.

            Great, 50 to 300 meter accuracy in 2D. So helpful when you are dying on the floor in a high-rise apartment building and paramedics are breaking all doors to figure out where the heck you are.

        • Re:VOIP sucks. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by DrgnDancer (137700) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:49AM (#30606474) Homepage

          Are you sure your kids will ever be able to use cell phone or VOIP reliably when the power is out

          Cell Phones are unaffected by all but the longest term power outages. For VOIP, they make these things called UPSes. A standard "10 minute" computer UPS can keep a cable (or DSL) modem, home router, and VOIP appliance running for hours. When I was living in downtown New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina we had constant power outages and they often lasted for a good long time. I dropped $50 on a separate UPS to handle the telephony and network stuff and never had a significant outage of communications (The one time I did have a short outage, the DSL went too, so it would have killed a "pure" land line).

          and/or injured to the point of being unable to speek or under duress and told not to?

          Here I assume you're talking about the ability for 911 operators to find you based on phone number you're calling from. I don't know what hole you've been hiding in, but VOIP operators have been registering addresses with 911 system for years. You can tell them not too if you chose, but that seems like a sucker's bet me to me (I guess if you really feel your privacy is more important than the ability for the ambulance to get to your house...) You're partially right about cell phones here, but many if not most have GPS chips now, so you can still be found in an emergency. Some don't though, so it is something to watch out for. To be reasonable though, whatever TV may tell you, there are a fairly limited number of emergencies that will render you able to dial 911, able to survive until help arrives, but completely unable to speak. It's not impossible, but hardly a common occurrence.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      The risk is that the POTS will die and those who can't get IP will be left without phone line - and left with a comment that they could use mobile phones.

      • by alen (225700)

        who can't get IP?

        i just moved to cable internet from my SDSL 1500/1500 line and the difference is amazing. DSL is like dial up compared to Time Warner. i'm supposed to have 10mbps service and yet i've tested it to 15mbps a few times. and it tests at 7mbps during peak usage while i'm heavily using it as well

        • I used to have it like that too, til they built a new subdivision around the corner -- which I then had to share resources with. Service went to hell and I went to DSL, which now makes cable in this area feel like dial up.
        • Re:VOIP sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by NF6X (725054) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:22AM (#30606188) Homepage

          who can't get IP?

          People in rural areas. I can get an analog telephone line at my home (but I didn't bother; I use my cell phone), but cannot get DSL or ISDN because the telephone switch is too far away. There's no cable TV in the area. There are a couple of WiFi-based ISPs that serve the area, but they're really bad. Satellite is an option for those who don't mind the latency. I'm left with using a cellular modem for my internet connection out here, and even with an outdoor antenna, it's pretty crappy. I'd consider reliable 128k ISDN to be an upgrade. Oh, and if I did bother to have a POTS line out here and tried dial-up, I'd be able to get about 28k on a good day, and less if it's rained recently. My cell phone service out here is kinda spotty, but I still don't bother with a POTS line because I don't use the phone too much and I don't feel like paying yet another phone bill.

          Now, if cutting the analog cord meant that the telephone providers would be required by law to build out their digital capabilities to anybody within their previous POTS coverage areas, then that would be great for folks who haven't had any good broadband options so far.

          • Re:VOIP sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MikeURL (890801) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @12:52PM (#30607548) Journal
            The telcos will never, ever run new lines to people like you. The cost per subscriber would be so high that they could never recover their investment, ever (factoring in time-value of money). The only way it will happen is onerous regulations or massive government subsidies (probably both paired together).

            Personally I think it would be better if we encouraged people to live a bit closer together rather than subsidize people who want a log cabin lifestyle with an urban center connection.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by NF6X (725054)

              Oh, I certainly understand that they would never willingly run new lines out here unless they were forced to. I don't think they would have run the old lines that are already out here if they hadn't been forced to, possibly combined with early settlers out here who paid dearly to have power poles put in. I don't fault the cable companies for not running cable out here, because it clearly wouldn't make economic sense for them to do so. I'm not even suggesting that the telcos should be forced to build out the

            • Re:VOIP sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @02:03PM (#30608456) Homepage Journal

              Personally I think it would be better if we encouraged people to live a bit closer together rather than subsidize people who want a log cabin lifestyle with an urban center connection.

              Then who would grow the food that you eat?

      • The risk is that the POTS will die and those who can't get IP will be left without phone line - and left with a comment that they could use mobile phones.

        Considering how loooooong it took to switch TV to digital, I doubt that will happen. This is probably good news, signaling that there is a real intention to provide wireless/broadband coverage nationwide -- finally!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by natehoy (1608657)

        Trouble is, a lot of areas that lack broadband also lack any sort of wireless telephone coverage as well. Until last year, my mother was in such an area. Now she gets DSL (because the local library got it, and since they had to put a DSL demarc in for the library they went ahead and made DSL available for anyone on that station), but cell service is still very spotty there.

        She's one of the luckier ones in her area, though, since she lives near the library and on top of a hill. That means she gets DSL and

        • by omnichad (1198475)

          You mean DSLAM [wikipedia.org], right? A demarc is the box on the outside of the building marking the end of the telco's lines, and beginning of the customer's line

    • by msauve (701917)
      It's simple. Just use a dial-up ISP, and... oh, nevermind.
    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      Plus land lines are dirt cheap.

      I discovered that they are nowhere near as cheap as prepaid cellphone plans for my usage pattern. I was paying AT&T $30/month for the basic land-line plan. Now I pay $20 every 3 months for 150 minutes (60 minute card with lifetime double minute bonus plus a an additional 30 minutes via promotional code), have an ever increasing pool of unused minutes, and have more more phone features than I ever did with AT&T's basic plan (caller ID, voice mail, call anywhere in the U.S. without getting raped..)

      • Really $30 a month? I pay $15 with another $5 in taxes and fees. I think they're either charging people where you live more, or you're slightly exagerating.
  • Fantasies... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:55AM (#30605812) Journal

    Aaah! The delicate irreality of think-tank fueled corporate musings that are mostly thinly veiled attempts at doing away with current regulation and obstacles to pure profitability

    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:02AM (#30605900)

      It can't be bargained with! It can't be reasoned with! It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!

    • Did anyone think for a second this wasn't a thinly veiled: "hey, why don't you spend your stimulus budget on IP infrastructure?"

      But that's how it works in North America: publicly funded, privately managed. Federal money will (hopefully) create a public, reliable, IP network that brings one connection to the home we use to choose our content (phone, tv, media) providers. Maybe now we'll get our internet up to the level of a developed country like, say, South Korea... or a better part of Europe.

      As a Slashdot

  • by 228e2 (934443)
    Lets stabilize the current cellular service you currently offer before assuming you can handle the onslaught of customers when the 'cord is cut'.

    Speaking of handling loads, how are you doing with the barrage of iPhone users?



    Before you all jump on me, I am a happy AT&T customer. I am just being bluntly honest.
  • by Immostlyharmless (1311531) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:58AM (#30605852)
    Have you seen how much they charge for broadband access via wireless? Seeing as its already normal practice, its a nice way of forcing all those DSL customers to pay by the bite. Not to mention where ever the government mandates an update to necessary infrastructure, a huge hand out isn't far behind.

    As far as AT&T is concerned though, I have them, and my calls drop at my house all the time in a city of around a million people. Screw them, course it's not just them, Verizon and Cricket both dropped calls at my house too. A-holes, all of em. Each one of them should change their slogan to "Providing the least amount of service possible to as many people as we can dupe for the most amount of money that the market will bear."

    Now THATS a true company mission statement if ever I heard one...
  • by assemblerex (1275164) * on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:59AM (#30605868)
    This system has been built up over 100 years, the reality is they want to cut costs and force people to pay more for the same service they get for $29 a month.
    • by Viewsonic (584922)
      This is exactly it. They want people to pay $100 a month for useless, locked in plans. Phone deals like they used to do with land lines in the past will come back again, more money for them. If the FCC forces them to offer $10/mo plans with no extra fees, then sure, but somehow I doubt AT&T wants that.
    • by alen (225700) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:08AM (#30605982)

      i've had voip since 2003. my inlaws just got phone via their cable service and i just cancelled vonage in favor of Time Warner. in all cases it's cheaper than landlines. $30 - $35 a month gets you unlimited local and long distance calling and a ton of features like caller ID and conference calling that they nickel and dime you for on POTS

      • by xaxa (988988)

        My landline is £20/month, which gets me unlimited national calling (60M people), unlimited calling to some other countries (US, CA, DE, IE, FR, ES, AU, NZ, NL, IT) and 8 Mbit/s ADSL.

        Still, I'd prefer to get rid of the phone service and have the ADSL use the whole line. (The fastest ADSL here is up to 24Mbit/s. Presumably this could be increased very easily if the line didn't have to be shared with phone service.)

      • And on the flipside, those services don't fully and properly support 911 *and* you now have a single point of failure (no redundancy). Keeping the landline is worth it to me, I don't judge everything solely on price.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mathieu Lutfy (69) *

        Still sounds like a rip-off. I just pay a specialized VoIP provider, such as unlimitel.ca or voip.ms, for a "by the minute" SIP/IAX2 account. It has a 3.50$/month base fee and 1.1cent/minute for north-american calls. Our monthly bill is rarely more than 10$/month. It also gives us reasonnable rates for calling Europe (2-3cents/minute). Call quality is always good (although that will mostly depend on your broadband connection). Stuff like caller-id, multiple concurrent calls, etc. are included. You can also

    • Are you gonna pay for the upkeep on a system that is no longer economically viable? Sure POTS was built up over 100 years, but most of that buildup was when it was new technology (or the only technology) and there were lots of willing customers. That age is LONG gone. Come on, 25% of US households have no landline at all. And that number is growing every year. So as the critical mass of people using it goes away, who is gonna be left to foot that bill? When all your neighbors ditch landlines, are you

  • by IANAAC (692242) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:04AM (#30605936)
    I would like to see ATT say this, with the knowledge that they would have to provide the equivalent of "Universal Access", be it with broadband or cellular.

    Frankly, I don't think they're capable of doing such a thing (technically, yes, they're capable, but I highly doubt they'll want to subsidize Universal Access, particularly with cell service).

  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:07AM (#30605978) Homepage Journal

    decent internet access from many people because it is unprofitable for them to deliver, while still holding on to their granted monopolies in those areas. and then they even go to the extent of saying that they want to cut the landline cords. this basically means a lot of people will not only be without decent internet access, but also decent phone communication. unbelievable bastardiness.

    yet, if, any government agency would, god forbid, to step in to eliminate this blatant slighting of citizens, those bastards all start up yelling 'competition' , 'hands off business', 'no government intervention', 'socialism'.

    maybe socialism is indeed what is needed. for, apparently, what we have on our hands became an outright feudalism.

    • by qoncept (599709)
      Ironic, isn't it, that this is coming from the most awful coverage wireless provider?
    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday December 31, 2009 @02:06PM (#30608484) Homepage Journal

      I'm of the opinion that municipalities should own utilities. Here in Springfield the city owns the electric company, and we have the cheapest and most dependable power in the state. The power company actually turns a profit as well, selling excess power to private utilities in surrounding communities. Meanwhile, the poor folks who have Amerin have crappy service, abysmal customer service, and high prices.

      The reason is that unlike most businesses, you can't shop around for a utility; it's not like you can go down the street and get a competing electric company. Corporations are beholden to stockholders, and in most businesses that means they have to be beholden to their customers as well. An electric company doesn't have this "problem"; you're stuck with them.

      As Lilly Tomlin's character "Ernestine the telephone operator" always said, "We're the phone company. We don't HAVE to."

      The electric company here IS beholden to their customers, who vote in local elections. If the electric service gets bad, the mayor loses his job. In effect, the customers are also the stockholders.

      To the folks you mention yelling "socialism" I say, how are you with those socialist roads, police, and fire departments? Some things should be free market, but when there is no free market (like electricity or other wired/piped infrastructure, roads etc.), government should own it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Here in Saint Charles, our electric company is a co-op. It's not owned by any sort of government, but it's not a for-profit entity either. It's owned by the subscribers and run by a board elected from and by the subscribers. I can't say that we have the cheapest rates in the state, but I know they're quite cheap, and I know for certain that our power is considerably more reliable than Ameren.

        Co-ops are an easy answer to whiners who think "socialism" is a naughty word, and at least in theory, I prefer the

  • by RichMan (8097) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:09AM (#30606006)

    Any proposed replacement must satisfy the following conditions showing it is a true improvement

    a) be cheaper now and for the long term for customers
    b) be more reliable
    c) provide better 911 and other emergency services information

    From the above
    a) there will not be an initial upfront customer cost over and above current costs.
        If it is to be cheaper overall the provider is to eat the up front cost and just delay reducing costs to the customer.
    b) things like a touch tone charge are disallowed
    c) it must not depend on power available at the customers site
    d) digital features like allowing customers to add a digital description containing things like number of house occupants, ages, medial conditions to be sent along with a 911 call should be considered.

    • WRT: "c) it must not depend on power available at the customers site"

      I'd be OK with this as long is there is some sort of battery backup, and the cost of power and battery replacement is factored into the consideration of (a) cheaper.

      If the battery is automatic, I'd say a minimum of 72 hours. If it's toggled on for use as needed by the customer then 8 hours should be enough to get through most outages.

  • Make sure I can still call a frigging ambulance when the electricity is out to my house and their local DSL box. This should include powering and charging cordless phone base and receiver typically used with VOIP for a few days.
    And that I can just dial and hang up and have someone local check out my house/apartment, not just give highway patrol my phone number or at most the broad area that GPS suggested.

    I still don't like the concept that my 911 or other calls can be disabled by a new worm attacking the un

  • No Landlines? Hah. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:11AM (#30606034)

    There still is nothing as reliable as a plain regular analog telephone line, as engineered by the fine people who used to work at AT&T.

    Even though I love my blackberry, I'm going to keep my POTS line for a very long time. My POTS line has worked flawlessly from the day it was installed for over 10 years.

    I love this line from the article: "It makes no sense to require service providers to operate and maintain two distinct networks when technology and consumer preferences have made one of them increasingly obsolete."

    Lies. The analog portion of the phone system is only in the last mile. The backend of the phone system has been digital for a very long time, and it is ALREADY common to see IP-based backhaul with QOS.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vaporland (713337)

      Lies. The analog portion of the phone system is only in the last mile. The backend of the phone system has been digital for a very long time, and it is ALREADY common to see IP-based backhaul with QOS.

      Exactly. The electromechanical switching systems went out in the 80s, but the digital switched network has been isolated, for good reason.

      from Wikipedia:

      It is becoming increasingly common for telecommunications providers to use VoIP telephony over dedicated and public IP networks to connect switching stations

  • [T]hough many Americans are still without decent internet access

    If they're AT&T customers that's probably especially true.

    I have no problem with removing analog phone lines from a requirement as long as they're required to still provide phone service to rural areas via VOIP boxes or cell to landline convertors or something similar. I think they'll find that the whole thing will wind up being more expensive than just keep analog pairs around (especially if the phone still needs to work in a power outa

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:12AM (#30606058)
    Fax machines and Stand Alone Credit Card terminals require them too. You can sometimes jury rig it to work, but it's a crap shoot....
  • silver lining (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    All of the valid points/problems in the previous comments aside, at least this would finally put an end to fax machines, eh?

    • Good luck getting rid of fax machines. Some businesses still require either fax or snail mail to send legal documents ... e-mail attachments and other such things are not acceptable alternatives.

  • by Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:16AM (#30606118)
    If AT&T wants the FCC to set a date to cut landlines, the FCC should force AT&T (and other corporations) to get the country's infrastructure up to snuff first. We can talk about dates after that.
  • by BlueNoteMKVI (865618) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:17AM (#30606130) Homepage

    I've used VOIP for years at both my business and my house - but we still have a landline. Just a few other roadblocks we ran into that weren't mentioned:

    • faxing is unreliable. Yes, businesses should migrate into the 21st century and ditch the fax machine, but MANY businesses (including many of my suppliers) still rely on the fax for their daily operations. We've gotten around that by using a fax-to-email service, but that's sometimes a pain to deal with.
    • credit card machines are similar (also using a modem). Again, move into the 21st century and use an IP connection instead, but change is hard. Many businesses are still using their 20 year old credit card machine, and until you phase those out you'll still need a landline.
    • security systems apparently don't work well without a landline - I don't know the mechanics of it but I suspect it's similar.
    • The biggest issue - VOIP is simply not reliable. POTS lines are required by federal regulations to have a certain uptime, VOIP lines are not. If your VOIP provider goes down in the middle of a business day you have no recourse other than perhaps an SLA agreement with them. We use several and they're generally very reliable, but not to the standard of the good old copper line.

    I love the flexibility I get with VOIP, I can work from anywhere with a decent internet connection and have all kinds of routing options through my Asterisk server, but we still have our incoming calls defaulting to a POTS line that runs into the Asterisk box. VOIP is constantly gaining ground but it's not there yet.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @01:08PM (#30607790)

      The biggest issue - VOIP is simply not reliable. POTS lines are required by federal regulations to have a certain uptime, VOIP lines are not.

      Since the context here is the FCC taking the first step in exploring policy for a switch from PSTN to IP-based networks as the basis for the nation's primary, universally accessible communication network, while one should certainly demand that the FCC require, as part of that policy, that the IP network have the same uptime requirement that applies to the PSTN network it is replacing, I don't think it makes sense -- in that context -- to view the difference in current regulatory requirements for reliability as an intrinsic difference between the technologies.

  • Or (as I believe would be the case), the phone is powered from house wiring meaning, if your power goes out, you've lost your phone service. If the central office provides the power for the local loop (as is currently done), they have batteries fail over to when their power goes out. Several years ago, my power went out for 3 days. Using an old dial phone which didn't require external power, I still had phone service.

  • Bottled Water (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Duradin (1261418) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:19AM (#30606148)
    This plan is like saying municipal water is outdated and unnecessary because "everyone" can buy bottled water.
  • Don't take my POTS! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bloosh (649755) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:24AM (#30606212)

    I'll keep my land line at my house active as long as possible.

    I have three small kids and I need something absolutely reliable in case of an emergency.

    While I do absolutely love modern mobile tech (Droid!), I prefer using a land line while at home. I simply don't enjoy having long conversations on a mobile phone. The newest phone at my house is a Nortel Meridian M9616CW which was (for me) the ultimate geek phone in the mid 90s. They seem to fetch a good price:

    http://www.telephonegenie.com/customer/product.php?productid=16149 [telephonegenie.com]

    The rest are all Western Electric, Automatic Electric and ITT phones from the early 40s - 70s that I've collected and repaired. They all work perfectly (even rotary dialing) on the Cox Digital phone service.

    As the article mentioned, POTS is preferable in disaster areas. I live in an area of New Orleans that didn't flood in Katrina. The only way I was able to contact people in my neighborhood who stayed for the storm was on their land lines.

  • by seven of five (578993) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:28AM (#30606254) Homepage
    In our northside Chicago neighborhood, the ATT-maintained land lines get all noisy and cross-talky whenever it rains.
    We can hear other conversations on the line.
    We call the 611 number, and they fiddle with it, it gets better. The next time it rains, the lines get noisy.

    I'm completely unsurprised that ATT doesn't want to have land lines anymore. They're too cheap to be bothered with upkeep.
  • Sooner or later (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:37AM (#30606342) Homepage

    The problem is one of market share and costs. At some point, the costs of maintaining POTS will exceed the revenue produced by it. When that happens, or maybe a little before, POTS is dead. It really doesn't matter if not everyone has switched over or not, it will just be terminated.

    That is the reason they want an announced-by-the-government date, as it would eliminate the carrier from being the bad guy.

    The problem is today end-user vVOIP has no tariffs that require reliability. If Vonage service goes out, so what? Because of the number of hands it has to go through, it is unlikely we are going to see much mandated reliability for VOIP service anytime soon. This means that your "landline" phone is not going to have anywhere near the reliability that POTS service has today, and there will be no regulation that says it has to be.

    All in all, this sounds like an interesting, but utterly useless idea. But unless something is done about pseudo-carriers like Vonage and Magic Jack POTS service is doomed.

  • People will die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by W.Mandamus (536033) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:54AM (#30606602)
    In Katrina the power went out, the cell phone towers went down, the police multiplexing radio stopped working. The only communication people had when the water started coming into their homes were their analog phone lines. When everything else stopped working those remained operational. I still remember people calling in to a local radio station (from their landlines) to say that they were trapped in their attic and request help. Getting rid of analog phones is the worst idea I've ever heard and shows that that the people suggesting it have never seen the information black hole that results from a major disaster.
  • Rural people (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rostin (691447) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @12:02PM (#30606706)

    Barring the sudden availability of much better internet access, this is bad news for my parents. They live about 15 miles from the nearest town, which is itself nothing to really speak of. Wireless is available, but they are on the very edge of the service area, so it is unreliable. They've been using a satellite-based service for a year or two, but the latency is terrible. A ping to google takes around 1.5 s (yes, seconds). I haven't tried to call anyone on skype from their house, but I imagine it would be unusable. Their cell phone service is somewhat spotty, as well.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @12:17PM (#30606986) Homepage

    I don't want to pay more and get more, even if it's better value for the dollar. I want to pay less and get what I think I need. I want to make that decision. I don't want an unholy alliance in which The Government forces me to do what best for The Corporations.

    The digital TV transition was different, because when it came down to it, those of us who prefer free broadcast TV still have that choice. (Most of us). We paid a one-time charge for a converter box, less than $20 with the coupon, ZERO DOLLARS PER MONTH, and life goes on. Yes, the transition was bungled, and the FCC lied when they said people who were getting adequate analog reception would get adequate digital reception, but by and large our freedom of choice was more or less preserved.

    The important point is not that transition cost was small, the important point is that it was ONE TIME. The difference between what we have now--copper-wired POTS, plus DSL, plus broadcast TV, and the cheapest digital package from the three providers in my area (municipal electric company, Verizon FIOS, Comcast) is at least $30 a month. Not $30: that's $30 + $30 + $30 + $30 + $30 + $30 + $30 + $30 + $30 + $30 + ... (Well, due to life expectancy, at least there's effectively a "senior discount!")

    And the last time there was a big power outage where I worked, the spiffy new VOIP phone on my desk went out INSTANTLY. (No, in theory it shouldn't have, in theory there was no good reason, I'm just saying what happened). After about 90 minutes, nobody could get signal on their cell phone. (Again, there's "no reason why that should have happened," but it did). The older set of desk phones, which hadn't been disconnected yet, lasted a couple of hours. But the three plain old telephones that were still around, because it was easier to use with the fax machines than with any of the newer systems, were working fine five hours later. And based on admittedly decades-old experience, probably would have been working days later.

    They will tell us that they can make the digital infrastructure just as reliable, and during the next big Katrina-like disaster the phones will all go dead and then they will tell us "but that SHOULDN'T have happened."

  • by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @12:39PM (#30607342)

    I can't really see AT&Ts reasoning. The fact is copper line wire pretty much runs everywhere, and by adding some DSL line extenders, much of this could be reused for providing DSL service everywhere for relatively little cost, compared to having to build new networks. So POTS infrastructure can be used to help bring broadband to rural areas relatively cheaply reusing much of the existing infrastructure. Wireless tends to be expensive and slow. due to the limited bandwidth, simply due to the fact everyone in an area is sharing that bandwidth. DSL could probably offer cheaper and faster service more reliably.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @12:58PM (#30607632) Homepage

    In parts of Europe, voice phone service has been digital for a decade or more, using ISDN. ISDN voice is 64Kb/s uncompressed, so you get digital audio for the last mile in the same format as the rest of the phone network, and with no packetization lag. ISDN was supposed to take voice digital. Unfortunately, US phone companies took it as an opportunity to switch from flat-rate local call pricing to per-minute pricing, so it never went anywhere.

    The US did ISDN power wrong - Europe provides power over ISDN, but the US does not. So ISDN home equipment remains powered up as long as the central office has power. (There's a cute trick with ISDN power - normally, it's one DC polarity, and you can draw a fair amount of power, enough to run answering machines, wireless base stations, and ISDN phone displays. In emergencies, the central office reverses the DC polarity and lowers the current limit. You can still make calls, but the accessories power down.) Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark are about 1/3 voice ISDN.

    Here are some modern ISDN phones. [gigaset.com] They have nice features, like a running display of call cost and SMS capability. ISDN and DSL can be run on the same wire pair, so using ISDN for voice and DSL for data works.

  • Great idea! (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrJimbo (594231) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @02:05PM (#30608472)
    Just look at how well the forced conversion to digital TV worked out. They said the reason for the forced conversion was to help bring better OTA TV coverage to rural areas. In my very rural area we had 5 network TV stations: ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and PBS before the forced conversion. Now we have three, only one of which actually switched to digital. The crippled $20 off boxes don't pass through analog signals without degradation so I have to replug the antenna in order to switch channels.

    Ah yes, another stellar example of the best government money can buy. Did it not suffice that the telecoms have kept the US in the technological telecommunications toilet compared to the rest of the developed world? Now they've destroyed OTA TV and are planing to destroy POTS and DSL. Yet whenever we try to fight the corporate destruction of our country, our efforts get thwarted by the simple ploy of crying "socialism!".
    • Re:Great idea! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Wansu (846) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @03:09PM (#30609206)

      You're spot on DrJimbo. Lots of TVs went dark in my home town. Lots of TVs went to the dump too. So much for going green. The unemployed and underemployed can't afford fancy new TVs or the expensive services.

      We have POTS and DSL. It has been very reliable. I like the small, independent DSL provider we have. Capable local techs answer the phone on the rare occasion we lose connectivity and it's usually the phone company's problem anyway, not the ISP.

      POTS is such a simple mature technology, there's little they can screw up. There's also not much they can overcharge for.

      It's no surprise AT&T wants to do away with this so they can gouge me for lousy service and a more restrictive TOS.

  • by Alrescha (50745) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @02:40PM (#30608884)

    ATT whines about people leaving for alternative services as if it were inevitable. I don't think it was.

    VoIP gave people alternatives to being gouged $25 or $30 a month for just *dialtone*, and people chose. I have a T-Mobile prepaid cell phone and I pay less than that *per year* for the 'dialtone' component.

    I'd pay $100/year for a wired circuit and dialtone, but that kind of money just isn't enough for the likes of AT&T.

    A.
    (who has been off the PSTN for a long, long time)

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