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Is Traditional Phone Service Doomed?
July 24, 2004 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Verizon goes Vonage? ATT, announced this week that it's giving up on residential phone service. And here, from the look of it, Verizon is starting to offer what I believe is Internet-based phone service. Is the Internet the future of phone?
posted by ParisParamus (27 comments total)

 
I'm fairly sure, ParisParamus, that this site is, in fact, not your personal chat room. Try AskMeFi.
posted by BlueTrain at 7:10 PM on July 24, 2004


No, but the whole issue of "The" Telco throwing in the towel and going Internet has vast implications.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:15 PM on July 24, 2004


Then why not link to these stories?
posted by BlueTrain at 7:23 PM on July 24, 2004


Because you just did, and audience participation is good!
posted by ParisParamus at 7:29 PM on July 24, 2004


a one-link pepsi blue triumph of fartalicious intensity! you'll visit again and again!
posted by quonsar at 8:13 PM on July 24, 2004


Man, don't be so harsh guys.

I don't know if it is the internet so much as cell phones. We haven't had a land line for a year, and I have never once missed it.
posted by Quartermass at 9:18 PM on July 24, 2004


Is the Internet the future of phone?

Yes. And it might even be worthy of discussion.
posted by weston at 9:30 PM on July 24, 2004


how do you phone someone over the internet ?

links would be very welcome.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:36 PM on July 24, 2004


sgt.serenity VoIP. Voice over Internetworking Protocol. You just take a regular
phone call and put it through an ATA
(Analog Telephone Adapter). The ATA just wraps your call in an IP packet and
sends it across the Internet just like this web page or some nasty porn video.
The signal then gets unwrapped by the service provider and sent over the local
phone loop to the person you are calling. Of course if that person is running
VoIP then the local phone loop never gets touched. Vonage
is the company I use. (I have no connection to Vonage)
posted by arse_hat at 9:57 PM on July 24, 2004


The Telco throwing in the towel and going Internet

Telcos respond to demand.
posted by stbalbach at 10:33 PM on July 24, 2004


Some coverage of the drawbacks: The price of VoIP's thriftiness. Looks like I'll be staying with a land line for now.
posted by page404 at 10:44 PM on July 24, 2004


Telcos respond to demand.

Telco responsiveness to any sort of customer-related pressure is news in itself.

page404, that's a good article you've got there, and some of those objections are probably worth discussing:
If you have a home alarm system, need to dial 911, use TiVo or simply want your phone number included in the phone book, you're likely to be out of luck...Also, there's still no way to guarantee VoIP phones will work when power is lost.
.

Does anyone know if TiVo and its ilk really have to rely on dialup only connections? Why wouldn't they or any digital device be able to take advantage of broadband.

As for power loss, if you have a cell phone, this is probably not an issue.

And 9/11... well, I can see this being a problem, at least for traceable calls, but again, a cell phone could be the solution here.
posted by weston at 12:22 AM on July 25, 2004


They are also apparently getting into the home fiber business.

I haven't had a home phone in over five years, and I suspect many are joining the "mobile only" revolution. Unless you need DSL, why pay around $50 a month for a land line? Unless you make a ton of calls, it seems like a waste to me. My mobile plan allows me something like 3000 minutes anytime, anywhere in the U.S. for about $50/month. And since about half my calls are to my wife, who is on the same plan, those calls don't even count against it. I don't think there's been a month where I've used even half my minutes. I know some people who call internationally a lot do get better rates with a land line, though.
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:27 AM on July 25, 2004


Does anyone know if TiVo and its ilk really have to rely on dialup only connections? Why wouldn't they or any digital device be able to take advantage of broadband.

I'm sure people who know more about this - like Matt - can give more info, but I've looked into it. A couple of years ago it was a hardware hack, but I've noticed the newer TiVos and some other PVRs have an ethernet port. So one assumes they can be configured to work over any type of connection. We currently have DISH TV and their low-end PVR. There's no ethernet jack, but the only function that requires a phone line is pay-per-view movies, which we don't care about. Everything else (the guide, firmware, etc.) is updated over the satellite.
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:34 AM on July 25, 2004


weston. Tivo and Dish network satellite set top boxes DO need an analog phone line. If you have Dish you can’t order on demand movies or new services online without it. Cable boxes use in-band management and so do not need an analog phone line.
posted by arse_hat at 12:36 AM on July 25, 2004


Unless you need DSL, why pay around $50 a month for a land line?

Tivo and Dish network satellite set top boxes DO need an analog phone line.

It's my understanding that a Series 2 TiVo can use broadband for all its vital functions, and that a DirecTV TiVo doesn't need dial-up except for pay-per-view and for software upgrades.
posted by kindall at 1:14 AM on July 25, 2004


Whoops. Forgot to fill this in:

Unless you need DSL, why pay around $50 a month for a land line?

Even that requirement's going away. Speakeasy is rolling out DSL without dial-up service nationwide. (The cost of the local circuit to Speakeasy seems to be about $6 a month, at least for Qwest, as this is the difference in price between DSL-with-voice and DSL-without-voice.)
posted by kindall at 1:16 AM on July 25, 2004


People have been trying to push VoIP for years. Unfortunately, it always has sucked, and always will suck.
posted by reklaw at 4:08 AM on July 25, 2004


As for power loss, if you have a cell phone, this is probably not an issue.

[has sudden urge to set up one of those MeTa polls: Who does and who doesn't have a cell phone?]
posted by JanetLand at 5:20 AM on July 25, 2004


it always has sucked, and always will suck.

I made the switch to VoIP when I moved back to Connecticut in April. For a flat $35 a month, a no discernible difference in the quality of service as compared with POTS these past three months. My phone bills in NYC, with all the crazy rate structures for local long distance, tri-state long distance, regular long distance and overseas calls, were usually 5-6x that. No complaints from me so far. * knocks wood *
posted by psmealey at 6:50 AM on July 25, 2004


From the article that page404 linked to:

If you have a home alarm system, need to dial 911, use TiVo or simply want your phone number included in the phone book, you're likely to be out of luck.

That's absolute bullshit. I have a home alarm and it works just fine with my Vonage service.

I've had service with Vonage for a little bit now, and my bill last month was a whopping $4.20 (a friend of mine signed up, and I got a free month). Everyone seems to squawk about what happens when the power goes out (which it seldom does where I live), but I have a battery backup for my computers, router, ATA device, and switch. If I turn off the computers, the battery backup (1000VA) can power the Internet-related hardware (cable modem, router, switch, ATA device) for over a day (I've tested this). And then, most people have cell phones anyhow.

Sorry to sound so salesy about it, but I really, really like the service. Future of the phone? I have no clue. But it's certainly gone through some growth recently.
posted by adampsyche at 6:59 AM on July 25, 2004


Cell phones don't necessarily work when the power is out either: "In cases of a power outage, cell phones may not operate. Cell phone companies rely on sending and receiving signals from towers, which depend on electricity and are not required to provide backup power." - OH Consumers' Council
posted by stopgap at 10:47 AM on July 25, 2004


The 9-1-1 call issue with providers like Vonage is a very real and very scary problem for both for consumers and for emergency service providers. It is the number one issue among law enforcement communications agencies and emergency operations centers.

Look very carefully at Vonage's 911 statement. The call goes in to the 911 center all right, (on an administrative line, NOT a dedicated 911 line) but they have no way of locating you and no way to execute true "callback" in the event that the call is abandoned.

Let's say you're having a heart attack and you dial 911 from your Vonage phone. Assuming that your phone is static and you haven't moved it somewhere (like a hotel with broadband, or a regional office or something like that) then they might have a proper record to give the 911 center (called a PSAP) and they might find you.

If you've moved that phone, you're screwed. They can't find you, and if you can't tell them where you are, help may never arrive.

My company and several others are looking into ways to remedy the problem, but at the moment, there are gaping holes in the way 911 calls are processed from IP networks. Those problems will be solved eventually, but they're not there yet.

This is far bigger problem for public safety than locating a cell phone ever is/was.
posted by TeamBilly at 8:13 AM on July 26, 2004


I run TiVo updates through a wireless/USB adapter from the back of the machine. You can't do the startup wirelessly (as of when I setup), but all the updates can be done wirelessly. The adapter is really small for 30 bucks, but it works quite well.

Vonage is echoey and it drops calls occasionally. I suspect that it has to do with the local cable internet monopoly's service. Vonage sure is cheap, though. We save 55 bucks a month to make the same moderate amount of long distance calls. That pays for the cable internet and then some. It seems that as long as you keep your address up to date with Vonage, your 911 calls would be answered accordingly. I do feel uncertain about this though.
posted by mblandi at 2:53 PM on July 26, 2004


The 9-1-1 call issue with providers like Vonage is a very real and very scary problem for both for consumers and for emergency service providers

Back in the days before 9-1-1 existed at all, people must have been frickin' terrified that they didn't have it!
posted by kindall at 4:34 PM on July 26, 2004


No, they weren't. Prior to Bell rolling out the first 911 systems in the 1960's, people just called their local police and fire departments.

However, neither the telephone network nor emergency service agencies in major metropolitan areas have the infrastructure to handle calls in that way. And the call control 911 services provide (yes, I'm in that business) saves lives. Period.

That said, I have been in many a rural PSAP where they still do take emergency calls on regular lines because certain parts of the population, especially the elderly, sometimes refuse to call 911. They call the local number instead.
posted by TeamBilly at 5:59 AM on July 30, 2004


It seems that as long as you keep your address up to date with Vonage, your 911 calls would be answered accordingly. I do feel uncertain about this though.

Yes and no. One of the big headaches is that Vonage allows you pick your number from an assortment of area codes all over the country. Let's say you live in Atlanta (404,770) but you want a number out of Los Angeles (213, 310, 818, etc.)

Because of the way the network is set up, that call you make from Atlanta could end up in LA 911. That's a problem, my friend. It doesn't usually - they have a decent routing table set up. But if someone moves that ATA (and they can't make everyone re-register the address, no matter how often they hammer into user heads) the potential exists.

They talked about putting GPS chips in the ATA unit, but those don't work so well inside certain buildings.
posted by TeamBilly at 6:03 AM on July 30, 2004


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