Telecom Collapse?

That is the one and only thing keeping a land line at my home. I
have two young children, and I need to be sure that if something
were to ever happen that: 1.) The phone would work even if the
power was out, or the Internet connectivity was flaking out.
2.) 911 would function exactly the way it is supposed to, and
not be routed to some 3rd party call center which could potentially
delay a response.

I haven't found the power to be reliable, and the cable Internet
tends to go down when the power goes out. There's always cellular,
but then you have to depend on there being someone with a cell phone
around to make the call, and my kids aren't to the age yet that I
would want them toting around their own cell phones. As long as
my POTS line is more reliable than VoIP, I'll probably keep it.

Network reliability is certainly one aspect.

However, in some areas, copper is being stripped (and I don't mean stolen,
though that's a problem too), see the typical Verizon FIOS install for
example. The reliability of having a battery-backed CPE of some sort is
questionable. In an inside-CPE environment, replacing the battery is a
rough proposition. You can't expect customers to do it, look at how hard
it is to get smoke detector batteries replaced, and this would be a more
complex SLA-alike less frequently. You can't get workers to do it, just
think of the logistics. In an outside-CPE environment, you could do it,
probably. But then you might well be better off just running DSL to the
home and centralizing the battery, and um, does that bring us back to
U-verse? (Did I just make an argument for U-verse?)

It would be nice to see a program like AT&T Lifeline that was oriented
towards maintaining copper for emergency purposes, except that I suspect
that this would raise a whole new set of issues, such as periodic testing.
Regular use of a landline ensures that it works.

This raises other issues as well; E911 services are probably experiencing
an ever-higher volume of "test" calls, for example, and testing of copper-
only "emergency POTS lines" would raise that further. I suppose this
could be addressed with an automated system fronting the 911 call ("You
have reached 911. To report an emergency, please press 1 or wait on the
line. For test functions, press pound.") I'd personally like that, it
would be better for testing purposes.

Fun pics:

VoIP service is dodgy on the end of consumer grade Internet connections,
though. Around here, the cable TV tends to fail with the power when the
power supply/amps on the poles burn through their batteries in an hour
or two. DSL may be a bit better, but since everyone's got a cordless
phone that requires AC power, ...

Really, I sometimes wonder at how readily accessible 911 really is in a
regional crisis. You're probably well-covered if you have VoIP *plus*
a cell or POTS, but how many people have actually checked with their 911
dispatch to make sure that their VoIP is registering properly?

Given the tendency towards wireless, if you don't have POTS, it may be
best to just keep an old cell around without a service plan to be able
to dial 911. You can probably even teach the kids how to deal with that,
at least once they're old enough to know their home phone and address.

... JG

People have been digging up fiber thinking it's copper anyways, but yeah
that's a big problem.

In my experience with a fiber to the home deployment I feel that the trend
of moving away from the stability of POTS lines for emergency service is
acceptable for most people. Most battery backups allow for around 36 hours
of dialtone. The overwhelming majority of power outages last nowhere near
this long. In addition, when used for emergencies only, a cellular phone can
last for several days. During Hurricane Gustav my home in Baton Rouge was
without power for nine days. Between my wife's cellphone and my own we were
able to maintain emergency service for the entire duration of the outage.
Transitioning off of the POTS grid to newer technologies requires a new
approach to how people prepare for and respond to outages and disasters, but
I feel that the alternatives to POTS access are acceptible.

People generally find a way to be resourceful. During prolonged outages I've
had customers who actually hooked up generators to their ONT's to supply
their home with not only phone, but internet and video service as well. Of
course not everyone has a generator, but the option is still there. During
Gustav people lined up at the CVS near my house (which was on generator) to
use their electrical outlets to charge their cellphones. These options are
of course quite an inconvenience compared to having battery on a POTS line
during an outage, but then again maintaining a POTS line just for outages is
quite an inconvenience on most peoples' budget, too.

What about the cell site? See

  The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday its
  attempt to require backup power for all U.S. cell phone towers
  is dead for now, but it will take another stab at the issue

  The agency told a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.,
  that it will honor a regulator's decision rejecting its
  proposed requirement. Article Controls

  The FCC proposed in May 2007 that all cell towers have a
  minimum of eight hours of backup power, which would switch on
  if a tower lost its regular energy source.


    --Steve Bellovin,

Many proposed regulations are struck down before they become required
regulation. Just like the FCC mandates that POTS and fiber have guaranteed
battery, the FCC will mandate that cellular towers do the same. This is
inevitable. The telco industry is notorious for litigating to death anything
that will require an increase in operational expenses but inevitably when a
service is deemed to be critical to society it has to comply.

On a personal note, when I worked in telecom I never once saw a cell tower
that was down due to power loss. Every tower I have worked with had some
form of power generation, be it natural gas or diesel. In addition, as a
cellular service consumer I have also never experienced an outage due to
cellular tower power loss.


What about the cell site? See

Paul Bosworth wrote:

On a personal note, when I worked in telecom I never once saw a cell tower
that was down due to power loss. Every tower I have worked with had some
form of power generation, be it natural gas or diesel. In addition, as a
cellular service consumer I have also never experienced an outage due to
cellular tower power loss.

The nasty Oklahoma outage a few years ago wiped out cellular big time. In some cases it was due to power loss, in others it was loss of the backend fiber/T1's feeding it. I know one town that lost every service except for POTS, though it didn't help much since people were living elsewhere to stay warm.

Of course, life gets fun in rural America.


There will always be exceptions to the rule. Nature can be quite ugly to
service infrastructure and the best service providers can do is pull double
duty to get services back up as quickly as possible. As you said, cellular
was torn up pretty badly, but then again so was the power grid and the
hardened POTS infrastructure. You make a good point about the data lines
that feed cell towers. Of the cell site outages I have dealt with, every one
of them was due to data line loss.


Time for Power over Wireless (PoW), I guess... j/k


Large scale Tesla coils would be pretty awesome :slight_smile: