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Verizon Networking The Internet

In Sandy-Struck NJ Town, Verizon Goes All Wireless, No Copper 155

Posted by timothy
from the copper-is-for-suckers dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a bit from the Asbury Park Press: "'Devastated and wiped out by superstorm Sandy, Verizon has no plans to rebuild its copper-line telephone network in Mantoloking. Instead, Verizon says Mantoloking is the first town in New Jersey, and one of the few areas in the country, to have a new service called Verizon Voice Link. Essentially, it connects your home's wired and cordless telephones to the Verizon Wireless network.' So no copper or fiber to a fairly densely populated area. Comcast will now be the only voice/data option with copper to the area."
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In Sandy-Struck NJ Town, Verizon Goes All Wireless, No Copper

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  • by cynop (2023642) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:44AM (#43628465)

    They better design the network to be able to withstand the extra load that an emergency situation would create. Imagine the panic when a disaster happens and noone can reach anybody for help or to make sure they're ok.

    • by djmurdoch (306849) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:50AM (#43628505)

      That won't be much of a problem. In a disaster, there'll probably be a power failure, and nobody's phone will work at all. Oops, maybe that's not a feature, is it?

      • by rikkards (98006) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @09:49AM (#43628785) Journal

        Let's see:
        Ice storm of 98: Cell coverage was spotty. POTS worked fine.
        Great east coast blackout: Cell coverage was non-existent. POTS worked fine
        Earthquake couple years ago (it was a 6 which is huge for this area): Cell coverage was crap since every body was calling everybody else. POTS... was fine
        See a pattern?
        At least with the wired power has never been an issue since it gets it from the switch. Before the blackout we had got rid of our wired phone and had only cordless. At that point I was thinking of getting rid of our wired connection. That changed my mind.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Let's see:
          Ice storm of 98: Cell coverage was spotty. POTS worked fine.
          Great east coast blackout: Cell coverage was non-existent. POTS worked fine
          Earthquake couple years ago (it was a 6 which is huge for this area): Cell coverage was crap since every body was calling everybody else. POTS... was fine
          See a pattern?
          At least with the wired power has never been an issue since it gets it from the switch. Before the blackout we had got rid of our wired phone and had only cordless. At that point I was thinking of getting rid of our wired connection. That changed my mind.

          When I was in an earthquake in Hawaii followed by an island-wide power outage, POTS was useless - took 20 - 30 minutes with the phone off hook just to get a dial-tone, and calling anyone (local or long distance) resulted in an "all circuits are busy" recording. Both AT&T and Verizon wireless cell sites were working for at least 6 hours hours after the power went off, I still couldn't get a voice call through, but I was able to get (slow) internet access, and send SMS messages to check on family/frien

        • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @12:36PM (#43629735)

          Great east coast blackout: Cell coverage was non-existent. POTS worked fine

          POTS works during power failures because the phone line itself carries enough power to operate a low-tech phone. Outside of hotels, I haven't seen one of these in over a decade. Every home phone I've seen is cordless and needs AC power. If you've got a battery backup, you can move it from the computer over to the landline phone to use it. But battery backups in homes are almost as rare as low-tech corded phones.

          Cell phones will work for about an hour at least, until the batteries in the towers give out. That should cover 99.99% of blackouts. My cell phone has always worked during a blackout. In the one extended blackout I went through (3 days because fallen trees took out all the power and phone lines), if I went outside to a high spot my cell phone could pick up a distant powered tower, and I could make calls (note that only CDMA can do this; GSM has a range limit of about 20 miles due to being sensitive to lag caused by the speed of light).

          Earthquake couple years ago (it was a 6 which is huge for this area): Cell coverage was crap since every body was calling everybody else. POTS... was fine

          In the old days, POTS would become useless immediately after a large earthquake. The shaking would knock all the vertically mounted pay phone handsets off the hook. Same for some home phones (the kind with a separate base and handset). These phones would tie up a POTS line even though nobody was calling. If you tried to make a call then, you'd get a fast busy signal (all circuits busy). You had to wait a few minutes for the phone company to time all those lines out and forcibly disconnect them. By which time everyone else was trying to call and it could take an hour before you could finally get a dial tone. TV news would constantly broadcast to resist the urge to call relatives to tell them you're ok and please stay off the phones, so emergency services and those calling 911 could get through first.

          So it's not that POTS stands up better in earthquakes. It's that much fewer people use it nowadays, while the infrastructure that still remains was originally designed to handle a much larger volume of calls. As that equipment starts to break down and isn't replaced because the call volume isn't needed, POTS service will become as (un)reliable as cell phone service after these types of widescale disasters.

    • They better design the network to be able to withstand the extra load that an emergency situation would create.

      A good example of what is called the "Nirvana fallacy". Rejecting a good solution because it is not perfect. Do you have any idea what kind of overcapacity you need to handle the case where everyone wants to call everyone else simultaneously? I'm sure the good people of whatever this town is called wouldn't be willing to pay for it.

      • by thogard (43403)

        A former head of AT&T (might have been Fred Kappel, CEO in 1960s) made the comment that you have to design the network to cover the traffic on Mother's Day and everything else is free.

        In the direct dial exchanges of the 70s, 20:1 ratios were the target within the towns or exchange clusters. Long distance was priced to discourage ratios that high.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      ..just skimming the article blur, I think they HAD a disaster which is why their phone lines are broken in the first place.

      sometimes wireless is better.

  • Reliability... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:48AM (#43628495)

    As someone who lives in a rural area and is forced to use wireless internet (still have copper for my phone though), the reliability and speed still aren't anywhere near that of wired. Speed may not be an issue for just phone, but the inconsistent connection may well be.

    • by puto (533470)

      Part of living in a rural area. I live in Ocala, Florida, not exactly a huge city, but we do have LTE and I get blazing fast reliable internet.

      I routinely get 12-10 megs down and 2 up. I can stream and torrent reliably.

      • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday May 04, 2013 @09:18AM (#43628621) Homepage Journal

        we do have LTE [...] I routinely get 12-10 megs down and 2 up. I can stream and torrent reliably.

        But for how long at a time? With the 5 GB per month transfer cap that was typical of LTE plans last time I checked, a 10 Mbps transfer would eat up the entire month's allowance in one hour.

        • by negge (1392513)

          That's terrible. A friend of mine did a run on speedtest.net using his phone yesterday and got 60/30 Mbit/s (up/down). Unlimited, naturally. Just because you're able to stream a Youtube video doesn't mean it works like it should. It's like saying "well, at least it's faster than biking" when you buy a broken car.

        • My wife and I use just our phone's hotspot feature for internet as we live in an area with no DSL or cable service. I work at home one day a week and then we do "normal" web browsing and such. We try to limit video watching because, obviously, the 5GB/month cap. We've been doing this for 6 months and don't "usually" go over the cap. In March both she and I did because we had a friend visit for a week who worked from our home during that time, so I incurred 2 extra GB and my wife 1. So, overall it works bu
      • by xclr8r (658786)
        If the rural areas combine forces and lay some initial capital then it can be done. See what UK farmers are doing: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21442348 [bbc.co.uk]
      • by BitZtream (692029)

        I grew up in Ocala. It wasn't a rural area 20 years ago, it sure as hell isn't today. Hell florida has had full statewide cell phone coverage easily since 2000 that I'm aware of, I don't know how much before that it was.

        Cedar Key, Inglis, Yankeetown, Crystal River, Okalawaha ... THOSE are rural areas.

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        I get blazing fast reliable internet. ... I routinely get 12-10 megs down and 2 up.

        Bless! Rural America must be, from a technological point of view, hell. The cheapest package that I'm able to buy in my area (literally, the most budget of the budget packages) is 20 MB down. And I get it too- Speed Test tells me that I'm getting 19.5 MB today.

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      This isn't a rural area; this is outside NYC. It's got reasonable population density, and perhaps more importantly it's the wealthiest region in the entire state of NJ. It's also a very small region -- they could probably blanket the entire town with a single cell tower. I highly doubt they'll have any signal strength issues unless they decide to put the receiver in their freakin basement.

  • Does that mean every phone call from Mantolocking will sound like it's coming from a cell phone? Blech.
  • Power failures? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:56AM (#43628547) Homepage Journal
    Of course, one benefit of POTS was that, in a power failure, your landline phone would frequently still work because of the giant piles of batteries at the CO. So, you could still dial 911 if, say, your aged relative's breathing assist machine needed power, or if there was some other medical emergency in the midst of what ever caused the power failure. Kind of ironic that, as a result of a disaster, they'll be somewhat more vulnerable to disasters.
    • Re:Power failures? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by intermelt (196274) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @09:11AM (#43628603) Homepage

      Of course, one benefit of POTS was that, in a power failure, your landline phone would frequently still work because of the giant piles of batteries at the CO. So, you could still dial 911 if, say, your aged relative's breathing assist machine needed power, or if there was some other medical emergency in the midst of what ever caused the power failure. Kind of ironic that, as a result of a disaster, they'll be somewhat more vulnerable to disasters.

      This would probably be more reliable than POTS. Every household would have a backup battery. Even the POTS interfaces from the cable company come with a battery installed. Remember when cell phones were just phones and the battery lasted for days? Now imagine a bigger battery.

      Also in a disaster they could easily setup mobile towers to replace towers that have been damaged or to add additional capacity. You can't just run new POTS lines in an emergency. The old system could have been down for weeks if your lines went down. Now maybe only hours or days if it even goes down. There is a lot more redundancy now too since you are not relying on a single copper connection to your house. In theory you would have the ability to connect to multiple towers, so it one fails the other will be a backup.

      So it is not at all more vulnerable to disasters.

      • Re:Power failures? (Score:4, Informative)

        by jittles (1613415) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @10:14AM (#43628901)

        Of course, one benefit of POTS was that, in a power failure, your landline phone would frequently still work because of the giant piles of batteries at the CO. So, you could still dial 911 if, say, your aged relative's breathing assist machine needed power, or if there was some other medical emergency in the midst of what ever caused the power failure. Kind of ironic that, as a result of a disaster, they'll be somewhat more vulnerable to disasters.

        This would probably be more reliable than POTS. Every household would have a backup battery. Even the POTS interfaces from the cable company come with a battery installed. Remember when cell phones were just phones and the battery lasted for days? Now imagine a bigger battery.

        Also in a disaster they could easily setup mobile towers to replace towers that have been damaged or to add additional capacity. You can't just run new POTS lines in an emergency. The old system could have been down for weeks if your lines went down. Now maybe only hours or days if it even goes down. There is a lot more redundancy now too since you are not relying on a single copper connection to your house. In theory you would have the ability to connect to multiple towers, so it one fails the other will be a backup.

        So it is not at all more vulnerable to disasters.

        I had one of these cellular home phones when I lived in a South American country. After the president of said country was temporarily ousted by the military, I carried around said phone for days in the event that the US Embassy needed to get a hold of me. The battery did indeed last for days. In fact it had to, power went out on a regular basis and no one would have phone service without a battery. It was quite handy, I will say. Thankfully they never had to get a hold of me.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        This would probably be more reliable than POTS. Every household would have a backup battery. Even the POTS interfaces from the cable company come with a battery installed.

        'Right, because a bunch of batteries in random homes that are never serviced or replaced are going to work much better than the banks at the CO that are managed by people that know what they are doing ... and also have big ass generators to actually power the system. The batteries at your CO are a 5 minute solution to cover until the generators kick in.

        This is an example of a time when decentralization is fucking stupid, its just as stupid as everyone having their own personal power plant in their basement.

    • by robot256 (1635039)

      This is not necessarily true anymore. Several times our neighbors' phones went out with the power, but our FIOS phone and cell phones still worked (and continued to work when I plugged our terminal into a bigger UPS). I chalk it up to a bad/insufficient UPS on the copper-to-fiber switches somewhere upstream. We don't get copper back to the switch board anymore.

      Also, what Verizon didn't say was how many customers in the town were actually subscribed to copper landlines before the storm. It's possibly mo

      • Re:Power failures? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Saturday May 04, 2013 @10:04AM (#43628859)

        Yes, an underappreciated aspect of the "copper" network, at least in the U.S., is that it's increasingly only a legacy last-mile network: there's copper under the streets of your subdivision, but once it gets out of the subdivision it's no longer on copper anymore.

        If you still have a modem lying around and something to dial up to, you can get a rough idea of how far your copper goes by seeing if you can actually get 56.6 kbps downstream. The official phone standard only supports a band of frequencies (300-3000 Hz) sufficient to squeeze in about 30-35 kbps of data transfer. The 56kbps standard exploits the larger physical capacity of copper lines to push more data [michael-henderson.us] in the downstream direction, by replacing the usual DAC on the phone-company end with a codec that directly switches line voltages, with the effect of using more of the copper's bandwidth... as long as it doesn't go through another filter at any point in the process, in which case you won't be able to get better than 33.6.

        • by russotto (537200)

          If you still have a modem lying around and something to dial up to, you can get a rough idea of how far your copper goes by seeing if you can actually get 56.6 kbps downstream. The official phone standard only supports a band of frequencies (300-3000 Hz) sufficient to squeeze in about 30-35 kbps of data transfer. The 56kbps standard exploits the larger physical capacity of copper lines to push more data in the downstream direction, by replacing the usual DAC on the phone-company end with a codec that direct

        • by antdude (79039)

          Ah, that is why I cannot get DSL (20K ft.) and CONNECT at usually 28000 (highest is 31200, but super rare; in the past was 24000 like BBS days). Also, the line noises are awful for the modems. I see my external modems' error correction lights go crazy. On good connections, my already compressed downloads are at about 3 kB/sec. :(

    • Wireless infrastructure still has battery backups there's nothing different there from a POTS. The only difference here is how to power the endpoint devices since the system won't power them directly. There's no reason why this couldn't be battery powered. This is actually how FTTH endpoints are usually setup, with a local battery backup at the home ensuring voice over the fibre line keeps running when your power doesn't.

      There are off the shelf solutions for this problem which work quite well.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Until next year ... when your mini-UPS battery doesn't hold a charge for shit ...

        How ofter do you see these batteries replaced? Whats that? Never? Oh yea, thats exactly how often TimeWarner replaces their VoIP units in homes ...

        Off-the-shelf solutions you refer to work for shit. Just because you think you know how reliable something is, doesn't make it true. You're pretending to live in a fantasy world of perfect UPSes ...

        Managing 100,000 UPSes that are NEVER serviced is going to be WAY WAY less reliab

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          Actually they work just fine. My telephone company sends out a new battery every 4 years with instructions on how to replace them. During our last major flood everything stayed up, except we didn't have power for over 24 hours. I couldn't call out after about 5 hours because the exchange eventually went underwater but that's not a problem of the battery.

          Stop complicating very simple stuff.

          Also you don't need to replace batteries every year. SLA batteries on a constant float have a shelf life of 5-10 years.

    • It also reminds me of the discussion of the cell phone network going out after the bombing in Boston. A lot of people were taking the attitude, "Well it's fine for the cell phone network to go out in an emergency. It's not serious infrastructure. You shouldn't be relying on cell phones." As thought the cell phones were toys for teenagers to post Facebook posts, while landlines were for "real" stuff.

  • by robbak (775424) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @09:03AM (#43628575) Homepage

    Rolling out new copper in this day and age would be madness. But the decision to rely on wireless as anything other than a short-term emergency measure is wrong. They should, of course, be rolling out new fiber as a matter of urgency.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Rolling out new copper in this day and age would be madness. But the decision to rely on wireless as anything other than a short-term emergency measure is wrong. They should, of course, be rolling out new fiber as a matter of urgency.

      Well, it sounds like a long haul of fiber for very few customers and anything that does havoc on the copper wires might do the same for fiber optic wires as well.

      "If you go down the block, there are people that are using other technologies so I can spend a fortune running copper down there and have nobody use it," (...) Verizon has its fiber-optic network in other parts of Ocean County's barrier peninsula hit hard by Sandy, including Ortley Beach, Normandy Beach and Brick. There are no plans to bring fiber to Mantoloking.

      This is going to happen a lot, here in Norway they're planning a similar phase-out of copper - actually the whole central parts of the country by 2017, cannibalizing for spare parts to run the outskirts - but they're not going to lay fiber to everyone that had copper. The rest will get some form of wireless service.

  • They're doing the same thing on Fire Island. From what I heard, they were planning to run FiOS before Sandy, so I imagine this is just a stop-gap.

    Which would be fine, save for one problem: their coverage *sucks* out there. When the summer season hits in less than a month, we're screwed.

  • by Aaron B Lingwood (1288412) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @09:36AM (#43628713)

    Verizon has likely pocketed tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance to cover loss of business and to 'make good' its infrastructure. Verizon then neglects to make good and proceeds with building an inferior alternative at a fraction of the cost.

    It would be interesting to see if the insurance company paid for the cost of this new infrastructure; provided funds to the value of the existing infrastructure; or provided funds for the replacement cost of the existing infrastructure. In the case of the latter two, has Verizon returned the unspent portion to the insurance company (and are they required to?) or simply added this windfall to their bottom line.

    It also makes me wonder how much federal and state funding was used to build this network.

  • If they refuse to run copper or cable then the local government should terminate their monopoly privileges and either allow another supplier to lay the wires or open service to full free market competition.
  • Seriously, wireless is great for when I'm out and about and all I have is my cell phone or when I'm making a quick, temporary connection with the laptop, but I would not feel comfortable living somewhere I couldn't have a physical last mile connection - fiber or cable is fine, (though I'd pay for BOTH to have redundant last mile connections)

    I get that it's cheaper to go wireless, but there appears to be a great divide between Internet reliability and speed - those with last mile wired connections and those with only wireless options (satellite of local wireless carriers) and in our mad rush to make things more convenient, we're also making them slower and less reliable than they could be.

    I suppose I could look at it another way - it would cost WAY MORE than the phone company could hope to make back to re-run copper, so from a business sense, I guess this works for them.

    However, if I were Verizon, I'd be rolling out the fiber to premises, and give Comcast something to worry about... but instead, they're abandoning FIOS... go figure.
     

  • POTTS lines are heavily regulated as to rates and service levels, this is why the connection rates are cheap and anything more than lifeline service is heavily levied.
    The phone company is obligated to provide 911 service and lifeline at regulated rates.
    This presents a business model with limited revenue and high maintenance liability, because folks that rely on this model don't use the phone excessively and are very careful about long distance charges.

    With wireless service the phone co is no longer legally

  • by flayzernax (1060680) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @11:16AM (#43629265)

    It must be entertaining to play quake. Then again if Verizon used really good AP's maybe its not much different.

  • by stox (131684) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @12:34PM (#43629719) Homepage

    I think Verizon should forfeit their rights to the landline infrastructure and associated rights of way. These can, in turn, be rewarded to someone who can maintain and improve upon them.

  • That copper to home did not mean copper from the plant to home.

    In newer areas, the power failed after six hours. The phone company had fiber to a local box which had batteries and copper to the houses.

    In my older area of town, the power stayed on to the phone (but we lacked electrical power for 3 weeks and only old dumb phones worked- anything with a power plug didn't).

    I think the days of copper to home are going away. Hopefully we can get fiber to the home.

    I would prefer to see one wide fiber pipe which

  • Mantoloking is a Jersey Shore community situated on the Barnegat Peninsula, also known as Barnegat Bay Island, a long, narrow barrier island that separates Barnegat Bay from the Atlantic Ocean.

    As of the 2000 Census, Mantoloking was the wealthiest community in the state of New Jersey with a per capita money income of $114,017 as of 1999, an increase of 29.8% from the $87,830 recorded in 1989. It was ranked as the 15th highest-income place in the United States.

    Mantoloking, New Jersey [wikipedia.org]

    Population 300. As a summer resort, 5,000.

    Anything you build here will be exposed and vulnerable, I am not sure that trenching cable solves that problem.

    Most of what you build here will see little or no use eight to nine months out of the year --- and little or no return on your investment.

  • Anybody care to guess how many days it would take Verizon to change its mind about FiOS if Google showed up at the next Mantoloking city council meeting & offered to deploy Google Fiber there if the city paid the direct costs of laying the fiber itself? Oh, and offered to pay for the lawyers the city would need when Verizon and Comcast fought back the only way modern American corporations seem to be capable of competing -- by using the courts to block it, instead of trying to outdo them by offering bett

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