VoIP vs POTS (was Re: Operation Ghost Click)

Brandt, Ralph ralph.brandt at pateam.com
Thu May 3 14:59:47 UTC 2012

"I also am concerned about 911 service.  When dialing 911 recently from
my mobile, I should have dialed it from my home phone as I was routed a
few times to get to the right fire dispatch team."

I am a "second responder", a member of a Search and Rescue team.  The
reason for "second" is because we are not generally called till other
agencies have tried to find the person. Hazmat falls into the same
category because they are not generally called till another agency sees
the situation and rolls them.  I am also an COML (Communications Leader
- IS-300 is a pre-req for this.) and a member of the South Central (PA)
Task Force AWG.   

I am frightened about the availability of anything that falls into the
category of "emergency services".  

In PA most of the fire services are volunteer.  Funding for everything
is being cut at almost every level.  The 911 hysteria that brought
massive money, some of which was squandered, is over and now it is the
shoe string.  Our SAR team operates on a budget of $2,700 a year, yes,
TWENTY SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. Our team members supply their radios,
clothing, boots, etc and the gas and transportation to searches and
training. Although others get significant dollars it is never enough
even for the most frugal companies and quite frankly, the York,
Lancaster and Lebanon Counties in PA are hard headed Dutchmen
Conservatives that generally get the most out of a buck.

That issue aside a second issue is rampant in the area.  More and more
the Emergency Operations Centers are going to VOIP.  The internet is not
that reliable!  I am not aware of a 911 that has gone to VOIP but
pricing is dictating a look at this.  

During a Peach Bottom (nuclear power plant - one of our two in the area
- the other is Three Mile Island) several of the EOC's lost phone, FAX
and radio connectivity (repeater failures) to County EOC because of
thunderstorms and tornados that blew in during the drill.  The ham radio
operators at these EOC's and County provided communications to the sites
for both the drill and live events. They happened to be on site for the
drill. The site I was at was vacated except the hams, the government
evaluators and the public works guy because of a fire, all of the other
players in the EOC including the EMC were firemen!  A lack of volunteers
means people wear multiple hats. 

But let's get to the big item.  When the bad day comes, cellular is
worthless.  I was at work the day of the earthquake in Virginia, a
couple hundred miles south of us.  The ground shook and some masonry
buildings in the area sustained cracks that needed to be repaired.  Ten
minutes after the quake cellular was either useless or had up to fifteen
minute waits to place a call.  Everyone was on discussing the quake.
And cellular company pronouncements aside, it isn't going to get better,
even if they get more bandwidth that will be eaten up in 2-4 years. The
total migration to cellular, the unlimited use, the tendency for people
to yack when a bad day comes all makes for a disaster.  We need
solutions, not cell company hype, not government catering to special
interests, but real solutions that fix problems without introducing

One of the first things cellular companies can do is stop overselling
cellular.  The second is end or raise the price significantly on
unlimited plans, both voice and data.  Go to what the landlines called,
USS, that is you pay for every minute....  Even if that charge is small,
it will drive usage down.

Otherwise on a bad day people will die waiting for the yackers to get
off the call phone so they can call 911.  Hopefully it will not be on
VOIP and the internet is down.

Ralph Brandt

-----Original Message-----
From: Jared Mauch [mailto:jared at puck.nether.net] 
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2012 4:15 PM
To: Eric Wieling
Cc: NANOG list
Subject: VoIP vs POTS (was Re: Operation Ghost Click)

On May 2, 2012, at 3:52 PM, Eric Wieling wrote:

> I doubt the g729 or GSM codecs used by VoIP and Cell phones can
compare to a POTS line.

This is why many people use g711ulaw or other codec.

Personally I would not work with anyone that doesn't do g711ulaw
(88.2kbit when IP packet overhead added in).

There are other codecs such as G.722.1 & G.722.2 but the support isn't
as broad as g711ulaw/alaw.

Regarding landline service, this can fail for many of the common reasons
it does are the same reasons that IP service may fail.  The failure
modes can depend on a variety of circumstances from the physical layer
(e.g.: audible static on the line) that cause your ear to retrain, which
may cause a DSL device to comparably retrain.  The same is true for
shared medium such as CATV but this has other problems as well, if not
well isolated, somebody can short out the segment or send garbage at the
wrong channel, etc.

Personally, I'm thinking of ditching my ISDN (gives clear dial tone at a
long-distance from the CO) for something like the Verizon Home Connect
box.  Gives a few hours of built-in battery backup, but would fail once
the tower loses power (usually 8-12 hours).

I also am concerned about 911 service.  When dialing 911 recently from
my mobile, I should have dialed it from my home phone as I was routed a
few times to get to the right fire dispatch team.

Oh well.

- Jared

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