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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 witherstaff (713820) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:25AM (#46613431) Homepage
    With carriers having overcharged over 300 billion [newnetworks.com] who is then on the hook if there are no more landline companies? Of course telcom giants want people only on wireless, Verizon has been selling off their landline business for years.

    I haven't kept up with the laws the last decade but the ILECs - incumbent local exchange carrier - were the equivalent of government mandated monopolies. Telco reform act of '96 forced the ILECs to share the publicly paid for infrastructure with startup phone companies. The Internet exploded with thousands of ISPs popping up. This was rolled back under Bush Jr when Powell's son was running the FCC. I wonder if this means other companies can move into these abandoned areas without the ILEC screaming like crazy?
  • An option? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:38AM (#46613453)
    Municipality should simply take over the existing land line infrastructure.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:41AM (#46613459) Homepage

    Only a couple of conditions:

    1. All government services must be accessible at no cost via a method which is guaranteed to be available to any person. IOW if landline phone service isn't required to be universal then all government offices must have in-person hours and be staffed at a level sufficient to get everyone who shows up on any given day served before the office closes, or all services must be available via mail (postage pre-paid). Online-only services are not allowed, since the government isn't guaranteeing that everyone will receive Internet access. Phone-only services are not allowed since the government isn't guaranteeing everyone will receive cel phone service. Online-only or phone-only would only be allowed if the government mandated that everyone would be able to receive either Internet access or cel-phone service regardless of location. Which the service providers won't go for, since their whole goal is to avoid being legally required to provide service in unprofitable areas.

    2. Any person must be able to get basic (local calling and 911 service) phone service at any address, regardless of where that address is, upon request at no more than the previous cost of equivalent landline service. Whether it be via cel or VOIP, the service must be available. Note that this doesn't completely get around requirement #1, since the basic service isn't guaranteed to provide access to government numbers. To the extent that it does, it would satisfy #1.

  • by rusty0101 (565565) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @02:47AM (#46613473) Homepage Journal

    ...these supercarriers need to be advised that any service they plan on replacing POTS with, will fall under common carrier regulation, and they will need to get approval from state regulatory boards for price modifications, service level changes, and the like. Under Common Carrier regulation, they will have to open up their service offerings to competitors at the same rates they charge their internal providers, i.e. their Internet Service capability will have to be available to companies like NetZero, at the same rates that they charge their own internal ISP organization.

    They will also be obligated to build out their infrastructure to provide universal access to provide coverage to every customer they pull POTS services from. That's not to say that they can't make hybrid service available, where they provide some form of a wireless trunk to an equipment stack outside of town that provides local distribution in the same area that they already do this for with POTS. Essentially they will replace T1 trunk hardware at those remote vaults with a wireless T1 system, and presumably none of the customers would be the wiser.

    Note, I don't expect that this is how things will play out, just how I think it should. I'm biased, as I am a customer who's worked in the telecom industry.

  • by dryeo (100693) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:43AM (#46613621)

    The problem is the people outside of town. It's easy to have a cell tower or 2 in the centre of town but to have multiple towers will mean eating into their profits.

  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @04:39AM (#46613733) Homepage

    A big thing is that they don't get to define 'coverage'. Too many areas they claim are covered have terrible and unreliable service. To be covered, it needs to have x signal strength INSIDE each and every home all the time. No dropped calls at all, and no drop outs.

    In other words, it needs to be at least as good as properly maintained copper. That also means they will need to have several days of backup power at each cell tower.

    And since it costs a lot less than POTS to install and maintain, we expect it to cost less than POTS service. Note that in many areas they will need a low cost voice only unlimited minutes for a flat fee rate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 30, 2014 @04:50AM (#46613765)

    Here in the UK, our governments certainly have had many failings but your attitude is completely alien to our way of life.

    Over here, we understand that the best way to have real freedom and competition is to have more than one powerful competitor and the government actually works to make sure that happens.

    In the town I live in, there are two major supermarkets within 5-10 minutes walking distance of each other and there's another major one on the outskirts of town. If one of them does something stupid, then I would just move my business to another one.

    The same goes for other types of businesses.

    In other words, you are free to make as much money as you want in the UK (and Europe); you just have to do it in a socially fair and acceptable way.

    And BTW, while we are discussing American "freedoms", what's all this about about allowing people to ask for your receipts and inspect your bags when exiting a supermarket in the US even though you are not suspected of doing anything wrong ?

    Do you have any idea of the massive uproar which would occur in the UK if a supermarket (like Tesco) was stupid enough to try that over here ?

    Such a concept of guilty until proven innocent is totally alien to our way of life and it would result in a massive backlash against the supermarket in question as well as a mass migration to supermarkets who did not treat their customers as criminals.

    For a country which has given the world so much, and rightly deserves to be recognised for such, it saddens me to see Americans talk about freedoms and then willingly subject themselves to things which would never be tolerated over here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 30, 2014 @07:34AM (#46614091)

    I hear bagpipes! You are using the same no true Scotsman fallacy that the communists employ when every real life attempt at implementing it fails to produce a utopia. The communists will claim that true communism can only exist when the government ceases to exist. Funny how you libertarians are making the exact same argument with capitalism, blaming the very existence of a government for its failures.

  • by towermac (752159) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @11:08AM (#46614835)

    Yes, 'free market' is abused quite often. Let's look at the term.

    'Free', as in the freedom to buy a thing, or not buy a thing; the freedom to pick and choose among various styles and vendors of that thing...
            There's no freedom here; I have to have internet access to my house, on just about the same level as I need power and water. Going without it is not an option. And as far as the kind of internet access I need, there's really just one of those too; and it's called 'Fast Enough'.

    'Market', as in more than one store to buy something at. There's no market here; I have to buy that internet access from whatever cable comes to by house, regardless of what they call themselves this week. I will give you that where FIOS has overlapped cable, you have a market of 2. (I won't count DSL) And yes, we see temporary price wars, but I'm not fooled into thinking that it's a healthy 'market', or that it's good for me in any way in the long run.

    There is no free market, and to try to fake one, pisses me off as a conservative. It's a utility already, and access to it needs to be 'owned', in the physical sense, by the government, or the people. Cities should probably administer it at a municipal level; Co-Ops are great for more rural areas. Maybe county, or even state. Whatever works best for for your locality as a voter, with as much right to internet access, as the right to have power and running water to your house.

    The only hesitation that I have, is that it's early, and standardizing on something like fiber optic might be like Edison jumping on DC too early. Plus, the existing infrastructures would have to be bought out; the government can preeminent domain take something to a point, but the takee has to be paid. The moment such a law passed, but long before unprepared municipalities would be ready; investment money would flee the space instantly, resulting in chaos. The opponents would use that to their advantage, and would probably win.

    Still, I can't wait for ISPs to be taken over by the people, and the term replaced with lowercase 'isp', an anachronism referring to a particular type of hookup to the internet.

  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:06PM (#46616071)

    The fundamental problem is that POTS sucks by any definition, but it rarely fails suddenly and catastrophically in areas where the phone lines are mostly underground (I don't know about the rest of the US, but in Florida, there are a LOT of places where the phone lines are buried, even though the power lines aren't). Most of what you describe is progressive deterioration over relatively long periods of time. Wireless networks, in contrast, tend to lose power suddenly, and stay down for at least the remainder of whatever catastrophe caused the failure in the first place.

    Twenty years ago, it was almost UNHEARD of in Florida to actually lose phone service during anything short of an Andrew-like hurricane... and even in Andrew, few people actually lost phone service. When they did, it was almost always due to catastrophic destruction of their own home's demarc box. Two years ago, half of Dade & Broward county lost Comcast & U-verse for half the day during a GODDAMN TROPICAL STORM (Isaac) that didn't even hit us directly. In fact, it seems like the most disruptive storms are, in fact, "slow & sloppy" tropical storms that have enough gusts to knock out commercial power early in the storm, then leave the area in limbo for another day and a half as the storm slowly passes through the area.

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