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Communications Government Networking United States

Could PSTN Go Away By 2018? 305

Posted by timothy
from the hullo-operator dept.
An anonymous reader writes "If current rates hold, only 6% of the U.S. population will still be served by the public switched telephone network by the end of 2018. Tom Evslin reports that the 'Technical Advisory Council (TAC) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommended last week that the FCC set a date certain for the sunset of the PSTN rather than let the service fade slowly into oblivion as it is doing now.' Since doing 'nothing' isn't really possible, he suggests: (possibly) end(ing) the Universal Service Fund subsidies, ensuring PSTN-dependent services like E911 work on new technologies, and assuring that everyone who now has PSTN service has access to either a broadband or cellular communication alternative."
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Could PSTN Go Away By 2018?

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  • by just_another_sean (919159) on Friday July 08, 2011 @08:16AM (#36692944) Homepage Journal

    and assuring that everyone who now has PSTN service has access to either a broadband or cellular communication alternative.

    I'd rather they work on making sure we have multiple broadband and communication options. I don't like the words "a" and "or" being used here.

    Not that the PSTN was much better in that regard but here we have a chance to do it right.

  • Re:Well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2011 @08:29AM (#36693078)

    There's one reason to keep PSTN - when the CO is 10 miles away and it's in a rural area that has lots of hills.

    Satellite - not possible due to terrain
    Wireless ethernet backhaul - need towers
    Cellphone - no service

    There's still a few people that cannot be served with new technologies without significant costs.
    Once, the phone company refused to install DSL, but the location was in-range (installer didn't wanna do it...).
    I had him install ISDN and he had to run an entirely new line :)
    Now it's set to 1.5Mbit service when the signal quality supports 3.0Mbit.
    They also refuse to increase the speed, even with offering to pay for a higher tier of service.

  • Too bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cornwallis (1188489) on Friday July 08, 2011 @08:29AM (#36693082)

    I happen to like and trust PSTN. It just works. Always has. And it is simple. Sometimes simple is good.

    For those comparing this to the switch to digital TV - yeah, I hear you but you know what? The promise of digital TV was over-sold. The picture may be great *most of the time* (not going to discuss the programming - crap, alway was/is/will be - see "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" by Jerry Mander) but it isn't reliable either. My beautiful HD tv breaks up as often, if not more, than the analog signal I used to receive.

    I don't have any confidence in cell or IP service. There are too many ways to make it not work for me to feel comfortable - especially on a "dark and stormy night"...

    Luddit? Maybe. I've been an IT manager for over 20 years, use all the toys at work, but still don't trust them. Sometimes simple is good.

  • by ledow (319597) on Friday July 08, 2011 @08:35AM (#36693110) Homepage

    Let's now be silly here. PSTN operates on a separate grid + backup power basis so that it works even in the case of a (normal) power cut. There's no reason that cellular or broadband networks can't be required to do the same and/or don't already do that.

    I've never experienced a cellular "outage" except through something other than simple power - i.e. oversubscribed networks, busy periods (e.g. New Year Eve), or just plain stupidity of someone changing settings they shouldn't. So there's nothing to say that the cellular network isn't already backed in terms of additional / temporary / emergency power.

    It's like saying what would have happened during a PSTN outage even if the normal grid wasn't affected? Same problem, and would have happened just as often (PSTN networks aren't somehow infallible, and sometimes HAVE to be shutdown for safety reasons if they are still supplying power to places that could be dangerous - e.g. fires, gas leaks, etc.). All that happens is that instead of PSTN you use cellular, or broadband (which is still essentially running on the same PSTN copper/street cabinets/exchanges).

    The only "problem" is that cellular isn't a guaranteed service in that it could be up and running but far too busy to let you call rather than, say, the emergency services. Although they have a QoS for such emergency services, you won't necessarily be able to get signal in an emergency purely because of the sheer number of people near you trying to do the same. But broadband? That's a different matter.

    PSTN was just "a" network. What did you do before you had cellular and there was an accident? You relied on PSTN or "something else" (i.e. your neighbours PSTN, or CB radio, or whatever). Now you just shift your expectations and use other methods.

    To be honest, in an urban environment, I've never had quite so many completely independent ways of contacting people in an emergency. The loss of one, albeit one of the most reliable, is hardly a loss at all in terms of safety. There are at least three different methods of Internet connection available to me just sitting at home - cable internet, phone-line-based internet (e.g. ADSL, etc.) and 3G internet. They are all more-or-less independent of each other so if the 3G goes down, SOMETHING else will work and if the ADSL goes down, I can always hook up a 3G dongle (on any of 5 major networks that all run seperate infrastructure and frequencies).

    If I was out in the sticks, I'd be slightly more worried but your basic landline phone isn't going away - it's just changing its underlying technology. There's still plenty of options open to anyone that needs them. It's not like it's the 40's anymore where the next phone is several miles away and you have no other backups at all.

  • First of all, we are AMERICANS over here, but that aside...

    We are also talking an infrastructure that had at one point a 99% penetration into the homes in America for a population that is about 15x the size of the country your are talking about too. Some of this infrastructure goes back to before World War I and is still in use. The sheer magnitude of what you are suggesting here is akin to rebuilding the entire interstate highway system.

    Yeah, a concentrated and coordinated rebuilding effort could happen, but the price of copper on the world market alone would substantially suffer from such an overhaul of the communications system.

  • Re:won't happen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PingSpike (947548) on Friday July 08, 2011 @09:13AM (#36693402)

    That was my thought as well. They're probably making assumptions based off those same old faulty broadband maps that count an entire zip code as having broadband if one person in it has broadband. I just got DSL service last week for the first time, and I have no other options. My area is fairly rural I'll admit but the United States has large swaths of space that are just like here.

    2018 seems completely unreasonable and sounds like the myopic suggestion of some one that has lived entirely in high population density areas. And I'm not even going to go into the change averse nature of our large elderly population who statistically are going to need reliable 911 service the most.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday July 08, 2011 @09:43AM (#36693700) Homepage

    That's fine, but first the wireless and broadband carriers must be made common carriers like they are over telephone. That is one of the biggest differences between the systems. Telephone companies are not permitted to delay, degrade, alter, or record telephone conversations or modem signals. But no such protections exist over broadband or wireless. They have no requirements for call quality, nothing stops them from inserted advertisements or charging you differently depending on who you call.

    Those same protections need to apply to other services, in addition to deregulating them so we have choices.

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