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October 31, 2005 10:30 PM   Subscribe

"They use my lines for free -- and that's bull." The CEO of SBC Communications Inc. Ed Whitacre launched this criticism at the likes of Vonage, Google,Yahoo and MSN. Meanwhile Google is seeking some alternative paths to the Internet.Perhaps SBC should head the old adage from John Gilmore "the net treats censorship as a defect and routes around it”Or perhaps these companies need to pay the proverbial Internet plumbers; myself, I prefer more competition;my phone bill has never been lower!
posted by thedailygrowl (23 comments total)

 
Yes, it is bull. Internet companies pay for telecom access, just like anyone else. It is unfortunate that SBC's CEO doesn't actually understand his business.

In fact, backbone companies are tripping over themselves converting their voice networks to carrier-grade VoIP because you gain both cost savings and business flexibility by running voice over IP rather than traditional circuit networks. Most consumers don't realize that their long distance calls are almost always VoIP at some level, regardless of whether they pick up a payphone or use Skype. Many people associate VoIP with highly compressed (low quality) voice channels, and don't realize that you can actually get FM quality sound out of a VoIP link if you are willing to pay for it.

The key is paying for it. No VoIP company magically gets access for free. The cost differential between PSTN and internet bandwidth is such that VoIP is a great business to be in. Unless you spend too much money on marketing. (almost everyone does)
posted by b1tr0t at 10:52 PM on October 31, 2005


It's rather exciting to finally see VOIP mainstream; I remember reading about it in school and it seemed very out of reach.

Damn the cost! Everyone should have FTTH!
posted by AllesKlar at 11:00 PM on October 31, 2005


Wired 4.10: Netheads vs. Bellheads.
posted by dhartung at 11:50 PM on October 31, 2005


SBC is a dinosaur. There's a reason they've dropped their DSL to $15 a month. It's to support their now obsolete voice technology so that they can get back the capital they've put into phone switches.

This is why I switched my DSL from (SBC voice + speakeasy DSL)~$83/month to (speakeasy onelink + vonage VOIP) ~$70/month.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:28 AM on November 1, 2005


Yeah, how's that content coming along, SBC?

Oh wait, yeah, that's right. You have none.
posted by effugas at 1:37 AM on November 1, 2005


The only good news here is that SBC and Verizon are getting into TV services even as Comcast gets into phone services.

This should force an earlier adoption of TV on demand as they try and add features to differentiate (and compete with apple's new video service). IP TV may be just around the corner. I only hope this improves TV quality rather than making it worse. *shudders*
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:44 AM on November 1, 2005


In fairness, what is this guy, the CEO, supposed to say? Which doesn't mean he's not a fool. And doesn't mean SBC has the most insulting ads EVAR on Imus.

Also, Where's my electric company ISP? How is that coming along?
posted by ParisParamus at 3:05 AM on November 1, 2005


Paris: How about "We at SBC realize that many people are switching to VOIP providers because they are unhappy with the service they are getting from SBC. That's why we've decided to adopt the following program [insert details here about how they will provide better service, more robust telephony, improvements, etc]. We at SBC recognize that we live in a capitalist economy and that's why we're adapting to what the customer wants instead of trying to foce the customer to do what we want. I'm certain that when the market has had a chance to react to our new program customers will drop their old VOIP providors and return to the new and improved SBC."

That'd be a pretty good thing to say, wouldn't it? And he wouldn't be lying about VOIP providors not paying for their bandwidth either.
posted by sotonohito at 3:22 AM on November 1, 2005


Its vaguely analogous to low-cost airlines and walmart: Low-prices trump almost everything. Skype is cheaper so people tollerate the lower quality.

SBC and Verizon are sufficently close to monopolies that they should be split up anyway. A company does not need to abuse its monopolistic powers to be guilty of being a monopoly, just being a monopoly is enough for government action. We should just nationalize their networks and hold a big ass auction for the parts.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:08 AM on November 1, 2005


Where's my electric company ISP?

Being blocked, correctly, for interfering with various and sundry radio bands. See, the idea of using a wire to carry a signal is that the signal stays in the wire. BPL radiates badly.

(BTW, good reply, ParisP -- a little snarky, but hey, it's Metafilter: Teh Snark.)

The one thankful thing is that there is a little competition for getting TCP/IP to your door -- cable, in some communities, wireless.

Of course, the real question is who owns more in DC? That's why I think SBC, I mean AT&T (They're Back...) will win big -- they'll just buy everyone else, and spend whatever money in DC it takes to get the legislation needed to make it legal.
posted by eriko at 5:15 AM on November 1, 2005


SBC and every other old-style phone company wouldn't be in this position if they hadn't been ripping us off for so long. As network and switching technology has radically improved over the last few decades, my phone bill has stayed about the same (or even increased!). Now some competitors are actually using these technological advances to provide a lower-cost service to customers, and surprise, customers are going for it!

I doubt many people ditch their old-style phone service in favor of VOIP because they're dissatisfied with the quality of the service; it's all about price. Instead of threatening its customers, SBC should be working on how to use their network to provide a service that can compete with VOIP on price.
posted by sriracha at 5:29 AM on November 1, 2005


The telcos are dinosaurs, and in a market economy, the dinosaurs adapt or they die. VOIP will kill traditional telephony.

In China, traditional telephony is already essentially dead. Everyone uses VOIP, called IP here (Internet Phone). Hardly anyone can afford anything else, and IP is so cheap as to be virtually free. IP calling cards are cheap as dirt, and equally cheap IP calling centers are as common as corner stores, which in China, well, you get the idea.

VOIP is crushing the old model out of existence, and the telcos know this. SBC may very well try to fight this by using it's muscle to regulate VOIP away, but this will only confirm their inability to adapt and their ultimate demise.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:29 AM on November 1, 2005


Where's my electric company ISP?

In Cincinnati: I have it, I love it. And I think the radiation concerns are overrated, and only on the first few tests. In Cincinnati, they are doing it well, rolling out slowly, and overall doing a fairly good job.

I am getting 3 Mbps down and 2.5 Mbps up from current.net, and very good reliability.

There are some hiccups, as to be expected with any new technology. But they aren't charging me an arm and a leg, they have FANTASTIC customer support, and basically do whatever it takes to make you happy. Now that is what I call an ISP.

Why we expect something as critical as the phone system, even in its less critical days, of being an acceptable system is beyond me.
posted by benjh at 6:45 AM on November 1, 2005


benjh: That's how cable modem was when it was pilot testing. I had 10mbps down and 10mbps up though. Uncapped and free as a bird! customer service was absolutely AMAZING back then...

And then --- it got popular... More people meant less bandwidth, meant degrading support... then the RUSH of people came and that meant network congestion, routing problems, and even further degrading support...

Now we're at today - where the network is somewhere between "decent" and "good" (but capped significantly lower than 10mbps both ways), and support is mediocre at best.

If powerline internet takes off - expect this honeymoon to be over.
posted by twiggy at 7:41 AM on November 1, 2005


We dropped SBC in favor of Vonage based on quality and cost... we've now dropped vonage because of quality and now gone to only using cell phones for phone communication because, well, we've had fewer problems with our wireless carriers than either SBC or vonage (and free long-distance vs. SBC)...though not by much.

It seems funny (funny-sad) to me that as technical quality continues to increase the human side keeps getting worse -- companies (people at their root) get greedier and care less about customer service.
posted by incongruity at 8:19 AM on November 1, 2005


I can certainly say that the quality of Skype was better than any phone line I've ever used, granted you do have a persistant delay, the occasional dropped packet and voices disappearing into an endless feedback loop.

With a quality pair of headphones and wide enough bandwidth it is possible hear the net-cafe atmosphere half a globe away and half-way down the block as if it was in your room.

Their range of emoticons does need improvement though.

sock-et to 'em, sock it to 'em, sock it to 'em (as the specials doppler out of range)
posted by tzelig at 11:41 AM on November 1, 2005


"SBC is a dinosaur. . . This is why I switched my DSL from (SBC voice + speakeasy DSL)~$83/month to (speakeasy onelink + vonage VOIP) ~$70/month."

And yet, you're still paying money every month to SBC, as about $6 or so has to be paid out to rent the line from them. How much does that line really cost SBC to make available? A lot less than $6.

"They use my lines for free -- and that's bull."

Except, of course, that the public helped pay for the lines, the public gave SBC a sweetass monopoly and has the right to ask for a bit of reciprocity, and SBC and the other Baby Bells wholeheartedly agreed to line sharing as laid down in the 1996 Telecommunications Act in order to get the right to go into the long distance business.

If it were my choice, I would say that we should've prevented the Baby Bells from offering any services over "their lines" at all. Turn them into a publically-granted monopolies in charge of renting out lines instead... and make sure that there are strong incentives for them to bring fiber optical cable all the way to the house. Either they roll it out and compete, or they go down in flames.

The old copper cable must die.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:07 PM on November 1, 2005


Fiber to the home? Yes, it is pretty nice.

15 Mb down, 2 up.
posted by NortonDC at 12:19 PM on November 1, 2005


[expletive deleted] writes "SBC may very well try to fight this by using it's muscle to regulate VOIP away, but this will only confirm their inability to adapt and their ultimate demise."

I'd like to see them try this, it would be the driving force to get encryption end to end everywhere.
posted by Mitheral at 1:23 PM on November 1, 2005


The phone companies are always bitching about "their lines," they are forgetting that WE the consumer paid for them - never mind that their lines run across OUR streets and OUR sidewalks.
posted by jbelkin at 5:05 PM on November 1, 2005


It is unfortunate that SBC's CEO doesn't actually understand his business.
Worldcom's CEO claimed to not understand his business either. Look at where he ended up.

To SBC's CEO, I say bring it on! His company will die a horrible death with such anti-consumer intentions.
posted by scottj at 7:49 PM on November 1, 2005


"Verizon, which is offering its TV service in one market so far, is pushing innovative features, too. Chris Kroeger, a resident of Keller, Tex., who recently switched from Dish Network (DISH ) to Verizon TV, says he likes that he can watch one show and record another, something he couldn't do before."

Wait...recording a show while watching another is innovative? It's interesting how things I could do with a VCR and regular cable 15 years ago are now selling points.
posted by bachelor#3 at 10:34 AM on November 2, 2005


I would say that we should've prevented the Baby Bells from offering any services over "their lines" at all. Turn them into a publically-granted monopolies in charge of renting out lines instead...

insomnia_lj, I agree with you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:39 AM on November 2, 2005


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