Telecom Collapse?

Joe Greco jgreco at
Thu Dec 4 15:43:29 UTC 2008

> That is the one and only thing keeping a land line at my home.  I
> have two young children, and I need to be sure that if something
> were to ever happen that: 1.) The phone would work even if the
> power was out, or the Internet connectivity was flaking out.
> 2.) 911 would function exactly the way it is supposed to, and
> not be routed to some 3rd party call center which could potentially
> delay a response.
> I haven't found the power to be reliable, and the cable Internet
> tends to go down when the power goes out.  There's always cellular,
> but then you have to depend on there being someone with a cell phone
> around to make the call, and my kids aren't to the age yet that I
> would want them toting around their own cell phones.  As long as
> my POTS line is more reliable than VoIP, I'll probably keep it.

Network reliability is certainly one aspect.

However, in some areas, copper is being stripped (and I don't mean stolen,
though that's a problem too), see the typical Verizon FIOS install for
example.  The reliability of having a battery-backed CPE of some sort is
questionable.  In an inside-CPE environment, replacing the battery is a
rough proposition.  You can't expect customers to do it, look at how hard
it is to get smoke detector batteries replaced, and this would be a more
complex SLA-alike less frequently.  You can't get workers to do it, just
think of the logistics.  In an outside-CPE environment, you could do it,
probably.  But then you might well be better off just running DSL to the
home and centralizing the battery, and um, does that bring us back to
U-verse?  (Did I just make an argument for U-verse?)

It would be nice to see a program like AT&T Lifeline that was oriented
towards maintaining copper for emergency purposes, except that I suspect
that this would raise a whole new set of issues, such as periodic testing.
Regular use of a landline ensures that it works.

This raises other issues as well; E911 services are probably experiencing
an ever-higher volume of "test" calls, for example, and testing of copper-
only "emergency POTS lines" would raise that further.  I suppose this
could be addressed with an automated system fronting the 911 call ("You
have reached 911.  To report an emergency, please press 1 or wait on the
line.  For test functions, press pound.")  I'd personally like that, it
would be better for testing purposes.

Fun pics:

VoIP service is dodgy on the end of consumer grade Internet connections,
though.  Around here, the cable TV tends to fail with the power when the 
power supply/amps on the poles burn through their batteries in an hour 
or two.  DSL may be a bit better, but since everyone's got a cordless
phone that requires AC power, ...

Really, I sometimes wonder at how readily accessible 911 really is in a
regional crisis.  You're probably well-covered if you have VoIP *plus*
a cell or POTS, but how many people have actually checked with their 911
dispatch to make sure that their VoIP is registering properly?

Given the tendency towards wireless, if you don't have POTS, it may be 
best to just keep an old cell around without a service plan to be able 
to dial 911.  You can probably even teach the kids how to deal with that,
at least once they're old enough to know their home phone and address.

... JG
Joe Greco - Network Services - Milwaukee, WI -
"We call it the 'one bite at the apple' rule. Give me one chance [and] then I
won't contact you again." - Direct Marketing Ass'n position on e-mail spam(CNN)
With 24 million small businesses in the US alone, that's way too many apples.

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