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AT&T, Verizon, the FCC, and (hopefully) you

2 posts in this topic

'scuse me, do you have a moment?

No, seriously. I don't mean to go all Greenpeace on you here, but do you? Because things really aren't good right now. As you probably know, net neutrality doesn't exist anymore in the US. In Europe, they made headway towards the same thing today. For a lot of reasons, including this, the future of broadband seems set to leave a very sour taste in the back of everyone's mouth. Do some research on the Netflix-Comcast deal if you don't know what I'm talking about.

As for the phone network, things might not be so much better. AT&T and Verizon have been lobbying the FCC for some five odd years now to shut down the PSTN. Usually citing things like BT's 21cn network (the upgrades only ended up applying to their broadband network; their switches are the same AXE-10 and System X gear as they've always been) and Comcast having some ludicrously low amount of switches in their network, like five (there's at least four in the northwest alone. Their switch verification number kindly verify this; 503-336-0999, 253-215-0999, 503-912-0999, 360-572-0999). Under the keen leadership of an ex-cable and wireless lobbyist, they're considering letting AT&T allow trials to do this, and in the process of accepting comments/laying out the rules for this right now.

What does the end result of this mean? Well, AT&T would be free of their common carrier status. That's the same common carrier status all the big ISPs are fighting to keep out of internet service. This would mean they no longer have to share anything with CLECs (therefore forcing them out of the market; competitive carriers work with the exception of cable on leasing incumbent facilities), no regulation on how much they can charge competitive wireless carriers for transport, they can pick and choose areas they want to leave without any service, including DSL, at all, completely eliminate equal access (competitive long distance), exemption from public utility commission oversight, and likely many more nice surprises.

The FCC seems to think it'll be like the second coming of Jesus for consumers. And maybe it can be; that's why I'm making this post. I've spoken to people at large telcos about this, and they seem to believe there's a good chance this won't actually happen. It boils down to one very simple concept: things. Not people, but things. I don't need to tell you there's a lot of things that use the PSTN. Some of the most critical being fire alarms, burglar alarms, heart rate monitors, those old people alert thingies, point of sale/credit card machines, faxes, and any number of different things. The some numbers thread has about fifty pages worth of proof of that.

There's just no way to reliably transport a lot of those things, many using modem technology, over voip or wireless. Sure, you can argue you've pushed a modem over voip before. Can you pick up damn near any phone from that provider and push a modem over it, though? Does it always work the first time? This is even assuming AT&T wants to roll out voip to their entire footprint; they've expressed a lot of interest in covering areas with a Voicelink-like cell network ATA device. Anyway, if what people in these companies have to say is true, they likely won't go ahead with this if the FCC obligates them to make these devices still work.

So if you've got a moment and you feel the PSTN is important enough that this shouldn't happen, I'd like to ask you to tell the FCC that. Comments are still being accepted until the 31st. Or if you can think of a way to reply to Centurylink's comment below (basically, their lawyers saying consumers will be much happier with shitty sounding solutions, and that they're afraid of new technology; the FCC shouldn't put too much thought into complaints), the deadline is April 10th. This only applies to reply comments, though;

If you're having trouble thinking of something to say, the most constructive (imho) things revolve around this -

* Making sure things like fire alarms and fax machines will still work. If it runs on a modem, it's likely to fit well into a comment.
* Making sure 911 will still have the same reliability as the equipment they're trying to replace; DSL and wireless aren't known for achieving five nines. If you've lived in a very remote or high crime area before, working this in can help underscore the importance. But be honest.
* Making sure it'll help consumers retain a competitive advantage. Competitive long distance - or even local service from a CLEC is something the people pushing for this are looking forward to eliminating.
* Applying common carrier status to replacement technologies if we're to rely on them as our only means of telephony
* Operator service for the visually impaired
* The Voicelink trials in Fire Island that attracted an angry hornet's nest worth of scorned consumers, and eventual discontinuation after the state received an intense number of complaints

Basically, anything that sounds reasonable, but won't work on a cell phone or voip. I can't stress enough that this may very well change the future of the phone network forever. Thanks, guys!


EDIT: My bad, net neutrality did not just die in Europe. If I understand correctly, legislation to kill it is making headway, though. The vote on it comes April 3rd.


EDIT (again): Comments are actually due on March 31st I'm a phone phreak, not a lawyer, dammit! xD

Edited by ThoughtPhreaker

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The deadline is coming up in a few days, so I thought I would give this a bump. If you have the time to slam out a couple quick paragraphs over the weekend, that'd be awesome.


Even if you do agree that we should be using just cell phones and voip in the future, take a look at AT&T's net neutrality comments made in the last few days. The moves we're seeing them make towards the FCC have way more to do with money and skating around regulations then they do network upgrades.


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