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WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever 449

Posted by Soulskill
from the rotary-phones-won't-breed-in-captivity dept.
retroworks writes: "Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon Communications are lobbying states, one by one, to hang up the plain, old telephone system, what the industry now calls POTS — the copper-wired landline phone system whose reliability and reach made the U.S. a communications powerhouse for more than 100 years. Is landline obsolete, and should be immune from grandparents-era social protection? The article continues, 'Last week, Michigan joined more than 30 other states that have passed or are considering laws that restrict state-government oversight and eliminate "carrier of last resort" mandates, effectively ending the universal-service guarantee that gives every U.S. resident access to local-exchange wireline telephone service, the POTS. (There are no federal regulations guaranteeing Internet access.) ... In Mantoloking, N.J., Verizon wants to replace the landline system, which Hurricane Sandy wiped out, with its wireless Voice Link. That would make it the first entire town to go landline-less, a move that isn't sitting well with all residents."
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WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:27AM (#46613571)

    In the real world, ISPs rely on laying cables, and allowing any schmuck to lay cables throughout your neighborhood is a recipe for disaster. Realizing this, a competent (ie, non-Randroid) local government would require the companies that lay cables to sell usage of their cables at a fair price to competitors to promote healthy competition. Unfortunately, Randroids rule the day, and the companies that are allowed to lay cables cannot be burdened with regulations because ARGLE BARGLE FREE MARKET, and so we are in the situation that we are in.

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:32AM (#46613597) Homepage

    I'm in Silicon Valley, and cellular just doesn't work very well. At least not Sprint's CDMA network.

    At home, I have to go to a window to get one or two bars, because the local community association doesn't want a cell tower nearby. I have a Sprint Airave box, which gives me a femtocell which mooches bandwidth from my IP connection. This gets me VoIP quality at cellular prices. If I lose Internet connectivity, I lose cellular connectivity. The Airave box is badly programmed; when it loses IP connectivity it still captures local handsets and insists it's the best path to the network. You have to disconnect its power to reach a cell tower instead.

    At TechShop Menlo Park, which is adjacent to a major freeway, I have to get near a window to get coverage. I'm not sure why there's a coverage hole there.

    For a long time, there was no Sprint coverage on the Stanford campus, because Stanford had an exclusive deal with AT&T.

    I was in San Jose recently, near PayPal HQ, and couldn't get Sprint connectivity until I drove up to a closed Sprint store. They have a femtocell so their demos work, and just outside the store, there was good connectivity.

    Even when it works, cellular voice quality sucks. Sprint finally seems to have fixed their delay problem, though. For a while I was getting delays as long as a second, with delayed echoes coming back, like some low-end VoIP system.

    The land line works great. Voice quality is very good, because it's only about 150 feet of copper to the big underground AT&T vault (the size of a shipping container, air conditioned, and full of racks of gear) out at the street. But there are no cellular antennas at that location; it's all wires and fiber.

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:46AM (#46613627)

    The price of a land line as far as I know is capped so even remote locations will be able to afford one. Not only that, but I believe that almost every location should be able to get a land line at this price and telcos are mandated to provide that service.

    If telcos want to go wireless, they are essentially talking about getting the "last mile" out of the equation. How they get (voice) data from and to the neighborhoods isn't mandated. This has already led to phone systems being out on the fritz when they are most needed, because phone companies decided to cheapskate on things like electrical power availability, line of sight and such. The telephone system has helped keep communications going for disaster areas throughout the last 100 years or so with varying amounts of success. Lets at least get them to do it properly if they are ever allowed to replace it so people can be certain it's affordable and it will work even in disaster circumstances when the reliability is required most.
  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @04:47AM (#46613749) Homepage

    I don't know about you, but there's no way my cellphone is staying up for a week without power.

    I know the towers don't.

  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @04:50AM (#46613763) Homepage

    It can happen, but emergencies very rarely saturate the POTS network. Nearly every major incident has brought cell service to it's knees.

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @10:55AM (#46614789)

    There are big problems with the switch. The old analog phone lines were powered by the -48 Volt signal DC voltage from the phone company switching stations, which had very reliable backup power and facilities to cut off phones that were accidentally left off hook and kept draining current from the batteries or secondary generators. All this has evaporated in the modern cable modem/FIOS/internaet/land line era. Each house needs its own local battery or other power supply to keep the phones active, and each buried switch needs its own power, and many cut-rate DSL or phone companies are skimping on the quality and size of these backup power systems. The result is much more fragile, and phone service is much less reliable than the old analog system. That old analog system was _amazing_ in its ability to survive natural disasters and still provide _some_ phone service, even if only to a few homes in a neighborhood.

  • Re:Hello 911? (Score:5, Informative)

    by twistedcubic (577194) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @12:09PM (#46615151)

    This is not how it works. I've called 911 on a cell recently, and on a land line around 10 years ago.
    When I called on the land line, the operator asked, "Are you MY NAME?", which means she had my information INSTANTLY.
    When I called on a "smart" phone, I had to tell the operator where I was, so she could forward me to the right jurisdiction, and there was a little hold time.
    To me, this is a big difference, because the time I called 911 on the land line, there were two men trying to break my door down, and being put on hold would not have improved my confidence.

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