Story 2015-08-21 J38J FCC voting on rules for abandonment of copper phone landlines

FCC voting on rules for abandonment of copper phone landlines

in internet on (#J38J)
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to require that phone companies warn residential customers three months before they abandon a landline/copper network. The rules would prohibit companies from retiring a copper network through neglect. Phone and cable companies would also have to warn customers with newer technologies that the phone will go out with the power, so people can get replacement alarms and backup batteries if necessary.

Many people already scoff at the idea of a landline. About 45 percent of U.S. households just use cellphones. But outside of cities, cell service can be poor. Even among households with wired phone service, about half of them have already ditched copper-based landlines for an Internet-based phone service. Estimates say that about 80 million people as well as several million small businesses still rely on traditional copper-based phone service, but the march away from copper appears inevitable.

But a home phone that relies on the Internet will go out when the power does. With copper networks, the phone line delivers its own power source and will continue to work. In addition, many home burglar alarms and medical alert systems require the copper network, so people need time to get replacements. The agency would also require that phone and cable companies sell customers backup batteries with eight hours of power. After three years, batteries would have to last 24 hours.

This coincides with the $10.54 billion sale of all of Verizon's landline (copper & FIOS) service areas in California, Florida and Texas, to Frontier Communications. The deal which will affect millions of customers, is expected to be completed in 2016. The cash being used to fund investments in Verizon's far more profitable wireless/cellular services business.
Reply 7 comments

Solar panel recommended (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2015-08-21 20:53 (#J3DA)

For anybody without a landline, a cheap solar panel is a good investment.

You can use it to charge your cell phone (with any 12V car charger), or to charge your FIOS/U-Verse/cable-modem battery (requires in-line diode). And even without a ($40!) battery, you can use the panel for power directly, but only during daylight hours. It's equally useful to charge flashlight and radio batteries...

You just have to be careful about duty cycle with solar. In winter, with just 8 hours of low-angle sunlight, possibly over-cast weather, you might only get a very small amount of power from it. So be sure to always significantly over-spec.

Re: Solar panel recommended (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2015-08-22 05:17 (#J473)

That's great for your devices - but if the cell towers lose power, you're going to have to shout loudly.

My sister lives up in Washington. When they had a rash of bad fires in her area, folks sometimes had power, but all the cell towers were out and there was no phone [inter]connectivity. For whatever reason, that doesn't seem to happen so much with the old copper wires.

I'm not against bailing on copper. But there are pros to it.

Re: Solar panel recommended (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2015-08-22 10:46 (#J4QH)

Since hurricane Katrina, the FCC has required all cell sites to have backup power.

Cells can potentially be more reliable than landlines... When one goes out, your phone can ramp up its power to reach a more distant one. Or at worst, you can get up higher or walk down the street until you get a signal. But to reach that point requires the FCC to take things a few steps further than they are currently willing to.

Re: Solar panel recommended (Score: 1)

by on 2015-08-22 18:09 (#J5HS)

That's good to know - so at least there is some time before the juice runs out. How long are they supposed to have battery for, I wonder...

Re: Solar panel recommended (Score: 1)

by on 2015-08-23 05:10 (#J6GD)

"LECs and CMRS providers should maintain emergency backup power for a minimum of 24 hours for assets inside central offices and eight hours for cell sites, remote switches and digital loop carrier system remote terminals that are normally powered from local AC commercial power."

That may not sound like much, but that's just the legally required minimum. Many have generators which can keep them running indefinitely:

The FCC keeps threatening to require generator backup with days of fuel for all cell towers, but hasn't followed-through on it.

don't scoff at my landline (Score: 1)

by on 2015-08-24 03:01 (#J8M7)

We use the phone a lot for business and it's usually obvious when someone calls us on a cell/mobile phone -- the quality is obviously worse with clipped words and whole phrases often missing. VOIP is often similar. On the other hand, calls from other landlines are almost always good quality audio.

Sometimes we have to call out from our suburban location on a cell. We must be between towers or something, the quality is always terrible.

Re: don't scoff at my landline (Score: 1)

by on 2015-08-24 20:39 (#JB6S)

VoIP is usually pretty good. Over a slower internet connection to a 3rd party, the service might not always be great, but VoIP directly from your cable/telco can have higher quality audio than copper phone lines, and with very little latency.

There's work on higher-quality cell calls with "HD Voice" (and VoLTE). You'll still have more latency than any kind of land-line, but the sound quality can be far better than traditional cell calls.