Thursday, June 05, 2014

Opposing viewpoint: the case for keeping landlines, and the tricky FCC self-classification problems

Jon Brodkin has a detailed op-ed (“When the Landline Is a Lifeline” about the landline v. WiFi debate on p A23 of the New York Times today Thursday, June 5, 2014, p. A23, link here
Brodkin offers arguments that in remote areas, conventional landlines (or fiber-optic) can turn out to be reliable, especially for contacting emergency services, than cellular services and Internet phone.  He talks about prolonged power outages.  True, conventional phone lines don’t depend on the same power source, but physical destruction (and falling trees) can bring down conventional lines, too. And remember the plot lines of most “noir” mystery movies predicated on rural murders: cut the phone lines first.  Wireless service has the advantage that it can’t be attacked at the location of a particular residential target.  (Along these lines, it’s better if home security systems are connected to central monitoring by cellular wireless than land lines.)
He mentions that the FCC, in the tangential but different issue of net neutrality, still hasn’t come around to reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications, rather than information service (the latter is what really matters the most to me in practice).  He also discusses compatibility problems (in connection to fax or to emergency services) of some VoIP and Voice Link.
When I returned to Virginia in 2003, I found my mother had gone to ATT for her land service for a better rate.  I got cable and high speed Internet quickly, then on separate lines.  In February 2005, a freak storm caused a neighbor’s tree limb to bring down the landline but not the cable line.  It took three days to get the landline back up because ATT had to go through cumbersome channels with Verizon.
Comcast Xfinity usually encourages customers to switch landline to digital voice, which makes landline service more vulnerable to cable service outages than they were before, when stand alone.   

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