WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Is It Wise for America to Hang Up on all its old-fashioned landline telephones?

Once again, Corporate America is prodding various levels of government to force change -- not necessarily in the public interest, but certainly to maximize profits.

In this case, MarketWatch's Jennifer Waters reports such telecommunications giants as AT&T and Verizon Communications are trying to get states, one or two at a time, to allow the industry to hang up on the old-fashioned, copper-wired, landline telephone system... in favor of cellphones and other modern telephone technologies.

No question, many folks - especially younger people - are voluntarily ditching landline phones in favor of wireless.

But should companies FORCE the issue through state and local governments?

Should all levels of government, up to, and including the Federal Communications Commission - which regulates telecommunications - ultimately pull the plug on the principle of universal, wireline service?

I say no, at least for now.

Sorry, the traditional copper-wire, landline phone service remains vastly more reliable than the new technologies.

How many times has your cable TV service gone out? Now compare that with your lifetime experience with a hard-wired telephone. How many times have you encountered outages, buffering problems, and/or other anomalies with your computer? Now compare that with your lifetime experience with a hard-wired telephone. Have you ever tried to place a cellphone call during a dramatic emergency? Has your power gone out so long that you couldn't charge your cellphone?

So many Americans - and the corporate behemoths peddling and marketing all that new technology - are penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Sure, hurricanes can wipe out traditional, landline systems. Just ask folks in Mantoloking, New Jersey. Of course, the Verizon folks - in the manner of vultures circling overhead - are rushing to replace that landline system with its wireless Voice Link. Residents are resisting, and even New Jersey legislators are balking (although partially for other reasons).

Bottom line: The new technology is wonderful -- when it works. Manmade and natural disasters can quickly disable it. Cellphone service crashed in parts of New York City during 9/11.

Delaware lawmakers: When and if those telecommunications companies try to persuade you, don't assume that fast-talking lobbyist has all the answers, just because he/she represents high-tech and the "future".

Remember from your own experience, or ask retired legislators what happened when Motorola pushed its 800 MegaHertz, emergency communications system on Delaware during the 1990's. Drop-outs and outages plagued the system. (Digital technology is binary; it either works or it doesn't work in any given situation.) Sometimes, emergency responders were trying to communicate from the communications equivalent of a black hole: The innards of large buildings with thick walls, and from certain "dead zones" up & down the state. Remember the story about two Claymont firefighters stranded in the basement of a burning home, when the state's 800-MegaHertz radio system failed? (State officials later said a blown-circuit breaker in a booster transmitter sparked the failure.)

It took years, extra dollars, and sweat to fix the system. The legislature had to appropriate additional funds for repairs. Where was Motorola?

Sadly, if lawmakers had consulted with "ham" amateur radio operators (and for the record, I am NOT a "ham"), the State of Delaware might have dealt with these emergency communications issues more intelligently. (I warned about this very scenario as a guest panelist on WHYY TV 12, in the days when WHYY produced a nightly telecast from Wilmington.)

Let's learn from these past nightmares. That's not to thwart progress, but it's to take every industry claim with at least a grain of salt. A whole lot of people in the country need their traditional telephones. In my book, they're a much higher priority than corporate profits. [I do acknowledge one ironic inconsistency: Senior citizens who depend on income from their stocks, including AT&T (particularly at a time of minimal interest rates), but are totally oblivious to how these corporation bolster their profits, often trying to eliminate or alter services upon which these senior citizens depend.]

From MarketWatch---


Posted at 7:39am on April 1, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Apr 1, 2014 8:57am
Allan: Well said. All that high-tech stuff is great, and wonderful.... when it works, but a real pain in the ...... neck when it doesn't.

All my monthly bills are always bugging me to be "Green" and go paperless. I've explained this to a couple of them when calling their 1-800 number for some other reason. What I tell them is this:

I will not go paperless for a couple of reason: [1] This saves YOU money, but you don't pass on the savings to me; [2] If my computer crashes, then it is MY problem to get it fixed just so I can get my bills each month. However, the U.S. Postal Service mail carrier shows up at my mailbox six days a week, so I know I'll get my bills and can write a check and use that same postal service mail carrier to get my money to you in a timely manner. [3] I realize it's probably a generational thing, but I prefer paper bills that I can hold in my hands to an image on the computer monitor. So NO, I will not switch over to paperless bills.

Tue, Apr 1, 2014 9:17am
"Is It Wise for America to Hang Up on all its old-fashioned landline telephones?"

No, it's not a wise decision... I dropped my "landline" once it was no longer a true landline. The old-fashioned hard-lined phones work when the power is out and don't crash as new technology seems to do so often.

But, it's much more difficult for the N.S.A. to spy on everyone at the same time if people use hard-wired landlines... all digital calls go to their database.
In the not-so-distant past, the government had to get a warrant for a wiretap...once the government got the warrant, the government would then tap your actual phone wire (thus the name wiretapping). Now, thanks to technology and digital/internet, all phone calls can be recorded and stored for later use in a huge database...We have entered a Brave New World.

New technology is great, but do we really need to discard all "older tech" simply because it's not cheap and uber-fast? We should integrate the two rather than ridding ourselves of the old just because it's not new. I really liked having my hard-wired phone line as a back-up system...and was willing to pay the extra money for that protection, but once it was no longer available, I couldn't get it back.

Tue, Apr 1, 2014 11:02am
I get your point, but I actually have a completely different experience. You ask how often the old land lines "went out" versus new technology. Ironically, when I was still using the old copper wire into my home for phone, I had a Verizon tech out every other month because I suddenly had no dial tone. They'd do something out at the panel outside my home, and it would be back... until a rain storm, or breezy day, or errant squirrel, knocked me out again. I'm not exaggerating the frequency, either... I had someone at my house every other month.

When I upgraded to FiOS, they took me off the copper line in, and I'm using digital voice on my home phones. And I haven't lost my land line once. It comes with a battery back-up, so even when power goes out, my phone still works.

So no, I don't have the positive experience of the old-fashioned technology... my phone service has been exponentially better since I switched to digital voice.

BUT, that doesn't mean I like the forced upgrade. Let consumers choose what works best for them.

Tue, Apr 1, 2014 11:28am
I still have landline service, but have not used it in several years. In fact, the wire is not even plugged into the phone. It is there strictly for an emergency.

Tue, Apr 1, 2014 8:23pm
If you can afford it, then it's wise to have both. However, if you can only afford one, I think wireless is the best choice because burglars and other criminals cut landlines so you can't call the police when they break in on you.

Tue, Apr 1, 2014 8:45pm
Mike from Delaware: I'm moving my response to our last communication on the weekend forum to here since it may be overlooked because it's now been three blogs ago.

Anyway, my take on it is that first of all, I believe it's the Democrats who are the threat to Social Security and that the Republicans are the ones who will ultimately save it. But let's say for argument's sake that you're right and I'm wrong.

I still will not vote Democrat because I vote the greater good of the country over my own self-interest.

The Democrats are very clearly the party of criminals being turned out on the street to terrorize society, the party of 4000 babies a day being slaughtered in abortion clinics, the party of radical homosexuals forcing their twisted values on the church, the party of if we just be nice to the terrorists they'll be nice back to us, and I'm sure I could go on, but these are just a few of the reasons why I vote Republican.

While I get your point about not testing the Lord thy God, I consider the above reasons to trump any self-interest issues and to me voting Democrat is the equivalent of Judas selling out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Apr 1, 2014 9:28pm
Mrpizza: Interesting reply. I don't see how you figure the G.O.P./TEA folks would save Social Security since they are the same folks who want to get rid of it & force folks to do 401K plans.

I've voted Republican for many elections in hopes they'd do something about some of those moral issues you mention. Problem is, those things have been deemed to be Constitutional. So it doesn't matter if Congress & the Prez want to make those things illegal; the Supreme Court would simply overrule the effort as the Justices have already done numerous times.

The other issue is you want to force your religious views on the nation. You want your beliefs to be the only thing considered. It can't work that way, as our government IS secular & is supposed to represent ALL Americans.

EarlGrey & I offer a doable plan to save Social Security that is a win/win for everyone, yet you ignore it and instead accuse me of bring a Judas, which is a cheap shot. I vote my conscience & I'll not vote for folks who would hurt those decent hard-working Americans while pandering to the wealthiest 2%. From where I si,t that makes you a suck-up or boot-licker of the wealthy. You've swallowed all the crap the likes of Rush, Beck, & Hannity have spoon-fed you. Sure, they're protecting THEIR self-interest, that is of the wealthy (they are part of that 2%). Sadly, they've suckered folks like you & Jensen to be their water boys. But it is a free country; feel free to vote for their best interest, but don't be surprised that when you need help, they'll not be interested. So I guess, sir, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Tue, Apr 1, 2014 9:46pm
No Mike, I'm not accusing you of being a Judas. I just meant that was my personal conviction. If your conviction is different, that's okay. It's all a matter of conscience.

As far as Rush, Hannity, Beck, Jensen, etc., they only affirm what I already believe. I was listening to Marlin Maddoux (Point of View) back in the 80's before anybody ever heard of those other guys. If you want to say I've been duped, then you'll have to blame the late President Ronald Reagan.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Apr 1, 2014 11:38pm
Mrpizza: Reagan famously said one cold winter night, when questioned about those homeless folks who were sleeping on the subway grates in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House: "Oh, those people want to be there." Or that ketchup is a vegetable. Yep, he was so right on so many things.

Wed, Apr 2, 2014 8:15pm
Right. And those "folks" who lost their insurance because of the Obama health-care scam wanted to lose their insurance.

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