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Could PSTN Go Away By 2018?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the hullo-operator dept.

Communications 305

An anonymous reader writes "If current rates hold, only 6% of the U.S. population will still be served by the public switched telephone network by the end of 2018. Tom Evslin reports that the 'Technical Advisory Council (TAC) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommended last week that the FCC set a date certain for the sunset of the PSTN rather than let the service fade slowly into oblivion as it is doing now.' Since doing 'nothing' isn't really possible, he suggests: (possibly) end(ing) the Universal Service Fund subsidies, ensuring PSTN-dependent services like E911 work on new technologies, and assuring that everyone who now has PSTN service has access to either a broadband or cellular communication alternative."

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Well (2, Interesting)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 3 years ago | (#36692898)

As someone who's programmed PSTN, it's really not needed anymore. It's so inefficient it's not funny. Both ISDN & PSTN are so archaic now that there's no logical way to justify keeping these technologies going. It's why I don't understand opposition to the NBN here in Australia.

Re:Well (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693018)

You extrapolation of the demise of POTS is just silly. Cell service does not work everywhere. Therefore no business depends on cell service as their only communication line. Cell service continues to me more expensive that POTS, have less coverage, less reliability, and less call quality. At this time to plan the removal of POTS seems like a conspiracy to reduce options, to force people to spend money on equipment, and to increase monthly costs. I note that you personal web site will not work with Windows IE. You seem to think that your personal choices are the best for everyone.

Re:Well (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693128)

Therefore no business depends on cell service as their only communication line.

No but it's not either PSTN or cellphones, there's also VoIP as an option and businesses do rely on that.

Re:Well (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693130)

Larger businesses tend not to use POTS anymore, even for "landline" phones that present themselves as such. Certainly within a building, bigger companies are almost all on some kind of soft-PBX setup these days, not running copper wires to every desk. Increasingly they're doing the backlink with the phone company directly as some sort of VoIP as well.

Re:Well (1)

sglewis100 (916818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693496)

Larger businesses tend not to use POTS anymore, even for "landline" phones that present themselves as such. Certainly within a building, bigger companies are almost all on some kind of soft-PBX setup these days, not running copper wires to every desk. Increasingly they're doing the backlink with the phone company directly as some sort of VoIP as well.

Just checked. My desk's VoIP phone still has a copper cable coming into the back of it. And it still connects to a switch that connects to a PBX that connects to a PRI (well... several actually) that pretty much puts me on the PSTN.

Re:Well (2)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693216)

"At this time to plan the removal of POTS seems like a conspiracy to reduce options, to force people to spend money on equipment, and to increase monthly costs."

What, rather then the tax payer giving massive subsidies for a service that less and less people use each year?

POTS/PSTN is fading out of the mainstream, when that happens keeping it going for the few rural/paranoid/luddite users would be a huge drain on the public purse. POTS/PSTN is only cheap now because it was mostly paid for by taxpayers in the 60's - 80's. Likely the "last mile" PTSN stuff will still be there in some areas for another hundred years, but the local exchange will be hooked into a link like the Australian NBN.

Complaining about the demise of PTSN is like complaining about the demise of the telegraph.

Re:Well (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693078)

There's one reason to keep PSTN - when the CO is 10 miles away and it's in a rural area that has lots of hills.

Satellite - not possible due to terrain
Wireless ethernet backhaul - need towers
Cellphone - no service

There's still a few people that cannot be served with new technologies without significant costs.
Once, the phone company refused to install DSL, but the location was in-range (installer didn't wanna do it...).
I had him install ISDN and he had to run an entirely new line :)
Now it's set to 1.5Mbit service when the signal quality supports 3.0Mbit.
They also refuse to increase the speed, even with offering to pay for a higher tier of service.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693268)

And as the number of folks like you fall to near zero then the economics of extending service to you changes. When I have to do it for a 100 people it's alot more of an issue when I have to do it for one. At that point subsidizing the effort might make economic sense.

Re:Well (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693424)

I'm 40,000 cable feet from the CO. I don't have a landline, but I needed to call some neighbors the other day, and they were clear as could be.. Quite impressive, that tech from the 70's.. Now if we could just get some decent, non-wireless internet out here in the sticks.. :( maybe someday..

Re:Well (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693470)

My parents and everyone who lives around them do not have access to reliable cell phone service, or broadband internet. They pay $50 a month for satellite internet, which is barely better than dial-up. They also have frequent power outages -- and you know what? That telephone always, always works -- no need to worry about recharging, or signal, or any of that. Two pieces of copper -- what's wrong with that?

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693618)

the parent is referencing NBN in Australia,
the plan of the Australian government in to replace all or 97% or Australias PSTN with Fiber

the opposition party is hell bent trying to convince the people
Fibre is a white elephant and that the copper lines are good enough and wireless is superior to fibre and copper (PSTN)

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693388)

It's why I don't understand opposition to the NBN here in Australia.

Legacy Applications that use ISDN/PSTN (Mostly notably, Certified Alarm Systems). Also, VoIP has a bad rap down here because of the poor QoS handling. In my experience the consumer views VoIP as having poor voice quality and being unreliable but cheap.

Re:Well (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693406)

It may be inefficient, but by God it works. I'd hate to see it go away in favor of something as dodgy as the internet. Imagine an internet storm that hits DDOS on key components, and suddenly grandma can't call 911 anymore.

Re:Well (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693742)

It may be inefficient, but by God it works. I'd hate to see it go away in favor of something as dodgy as the internet. Imagine an internet storm that hits DDOS on key components, and suddenly grandma can't call 911 anymore.

True enough. However, it's nothing that can't be solved through reserved capacity (if 911 calls or something else compete for bandwidth, 911 wins) - which is what switched lines are basically doing, the difference being that a packet-switched network can use the capacity for something else when it's not required by 911.

The other problem - DDOS of 911 call centers - can't be solved easily. If enough people call 911 centers simultaneously, they get jammed. That's already a problem with current centers, and it's going to be worse if they can be reached from the Internet. I don't think we can do much but hope that the various shady online groups aren't willing to expand their activities to outright murder.

In the future, however, it might be possible to man a virtual 911 center with an artificial intelligence, switching to an actual human only if required. Combine that with the oh-so-popular cloud service model, and especially its ability to bring more gear online very fast, and you could potentially have an extremely efficient and reliable service.

Re:Well (1)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693782)

PSTN is useful during power outages. When hurricane Frances hit Florida in 2004, power was out in my town for about a week and a half. No power means the Cell towers were't working and the cable modem gets shut off. Since PSTN provides it's own power, most people that I know of keep a simple, dumb old corded telephone somewhere in their house for emergency communication during hurricanes.

Just try to switch it off (-1, Flamebait)

geekrule (2354768) | more than 3 years ago | (#36692904)

Sure few user use it, but remaining users are pure Luddutes.
Just look what happened [thoughts.com] when analog broadcasting was switched off.

Re:Just try to switch it off (1)

TeRanEX (916440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36692962)

goatse warning :/

Re:Just try to switch it off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36692964)

Above Link NSFW... The picture was just wrong... wrong...

Re:Just try to switch it off (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693102)

Nice link to have!

No (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36692928)

Real business is done over loop start signaling

a comm. alternative (5, Insightful)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 3 years ago | (#36692944)

and assuring that everyone who now has PSTN service has access to either a broadband or cellular communication alternative.

I'd rather they work on making sure we have multiple broadband and communication options. I don't like the words "a" and "or" being used here.

Not that the PSTN was much better in that regard but here we have a chance to do it right.

Re:a comm. alternative (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693462)

The copper is already strung up. Someone will find a use for it, and it will most certainly be digital communications of some kind.

Re:a comm. alternative (1)

Coisiche (2000870) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693708)

The copper is already strung up. Someone will find a use for it

In the UK that's often by grabbing any that's easily accessible and selling it for scrap. And not just unused wires either, railway signaling has been affected by this.

Just try to switch it off (-1, Flamebait)

geekrule (2354768) | more than 3 years ago | (#36692952)

Sure few user use it, but remaining users are pure Luddutes.
Just look what happened [aeonity.com] when analog broadcasting was switched off.

The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#36692966)

The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but the copper to the end user is required for most broadband users. If PSTN goes who will be responsible for maintaining this.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (1)

Jimbookis (517778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693014)

Hahaha suck it USAians. Here in Australia the GOVERNMENT has solved this problem and taken it upon itself to replace every single copper pair with gigabit capable fibre into most dwellings and businesses.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693056)

Hahaha suck it USAians. Here in Australia the GOVERNMENT has solved this problem and taken it upon itself to replace every single copper pair with gigabit capable fibre into most dwellings and businesses.

Communist ;-)

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693098)

And tries to filter it every time they think they can pass a law to do so. Or just coerce private companies into doing it for them,

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (2, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693118)

First of all, we are AMERICANS over here, but that aside...

We are also talking an infrastructure that had at one point a 99% penetration into the homes in America for a population that is about 15x the size of the country your are talking about too. Some of this infrastructure goes back to before World War I and is still in use. The sheer magnitude of what you are suggesting here is akin to rebuilding the entire interstate highway system.

Yeah, a concentrated and coordinated rebuilding effort could happen, but the price of copper on the world market alone would substantially suffer from such an overhaul of the communications system.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693170)

What Teancum said, and also should we be using so much resources on technology that we think is good right now but is obsolete by the time we finish setting up the new infrastructure? It would take an insanely long time to do this, a lot of money, and there are more important things to budget for than faster internet access. We're doing fine as it is right now with speed.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (1)

Jimbookis (517778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693190)

Sure. That's exactly what's started to happen here - the olde phone networke is being put out of action and replaced entirely. The NBN as it's called is already being rolled out. All the copper pairs are being decommissioned and replaced with fibre to the premises. In relation to this article the magic box they supply to the dwelling sports an ethernet port and a phone port so you can still plug in your existing analogue telephone and keep your existing phone number. So really, the PSTN is staying, it's just being replaced by fibre.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693298)

--> First of all, we are AMERICANS over here, but that aside...

By "here" you mean that whole continent outside the borders of the US too?

Seriously, you people need to come up with a more representative adjective than "Americans"...which also applies to canadians, mexicans, colombians, argentinians, chileans, brazilians, venezuelans, peruvians, haitians, cubans (there, I said it) and so many many more...

I like this USAians.... going to use it until you come up with a good replacement.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693478)

Seriously, you people need to come up with a more representative adjective than "Americans"...which also applies to canadians, mexicans, colombians, argentinians, chileans, brazilians, venezuelans, peruvians, haitians, cubans (there, I said it) and so many many more...

This again? No, "American" only refers to people in the US of A. People who live in other countries have their own demonyms, which you've used above.

Yeah, technically you could use continent-wide demonyms. But nobody does it in practice, because it's stupid. The ones using terms like "Europeans", "Asians", "Africans", "Orientals" are ignorant fools and I guarantee you that if you keep doing it you will meet some resentment eventually. The continents are too large and there are too many countries, cultures and ethnic groups for single demonyms to make sense.

Australia is somewhat of an exception, but even there you can fuck it up if you call a Kiwi or an Aborigine "Australian". Hell, call an actual Aussie "Australian" and you'll still be sneered at.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (2)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693522)

In English, America and American almost always refer to the people of the United States of America. Sure, if you speak Spanish, call us USians (estadounidense), but only in Spanish (or any other language that uses the same convention). If you call us USians, you also run into the whole "which United States" problem. Do you refer to the USA or United States of Mexico?

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693826)

America is the name of the country, and the continent. I would have thought that somebody from Australia would have understood that concept.

I sort of hate how some bigotry gets into the languages south of the border, Spanish and Portuguese in particular where in Portuguese those who live in the USA are called "North Americans" (Norte Americanos).... a term I usually fought against on a semi-polite fashion when I lived in Brazil. The term is not accurate at all and neither is "estadounidense". The proper term in Spanish (and Portuguese) would be "Americanos", in reference to the name of the country, America.

That there might be other countries on that continent, perhaps, but that is the name of my country. If it were a communist country, it would be "The People's Republic of America" or the "American Soviet Socialist Republic".

That it might reflect a sort of "manifest destiny" on the part of those who started the country, perhaps, but that is the name of my country. Those who use the term "USian" simply don't have a clue about the language they are using (English) or what this country's name actually is.

Yeah, I knew I was stirring up a fight by mentioning that, but it still ticks me off every time I see somebody using that term. Then again, the use of the term "USian" also shows the bigotry and hatred of my country that the writer has, and thus an automatic contempt already towards anything I might add to the conversation. I suppose it is a good marker for who is a troll, and sometimes I like to slay trolls for fun.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (1)

aekafan (1690920) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693328)

I do not understand why some Australians are so happy with the NBN. From articles on /. and elsewhere, I would say that what it does best is give the government the ability to dictate where you can go on the web, and track where you have been. I would rather have no internet at all than one like that.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (1)

klingens (147173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693372)

And now tell me how this is different to the NSA having special rooms in AT&T buildings. For what exactly?

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (2)

aekafan (1690920) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693440)

They can listen to our phone calls (and i am very uncomfortable with that), but they don't dictate what we can and can't see on the web. Yet, admittedly. Plus I firmly believe that the NSA should be wholly done away with. Don't get me wrong, neither side is good, its just that i find a national firewall unconscionable.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (2)

yodleboy (982200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693350)

That's nice. The GOVERNMENT is also filtering everything that comes through that fiber and is only concentrating on kiddie porn at the moment because it's easy to get buy in. It won't stop there, their original filtering plans were much broader in scope and they will slip it in a bit at a time.

Enjoy your new Great Firewall, or maybe it's the Great Barrier Filter in your case. SO FAR we have none of these shenanigans in the U.S. (not for lack of groups that would love to see it though.)

Re:censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693512)

They're doing the censoring with DNS. I've been told by TPTB that this was deliberate as it allows everyone with a clue to use the entire net whilst pacifying a certain idiot senator. Telstra and Optus are being 'encouraged' into the scheme as the NBN is offering to buy out their competing HFC networks for 'way more than they're worth'.

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693382)

USAians? Really?

Re:The actual PSTN might not be needed . . . but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693482)

..and then proceeded to ban pretty much everything on the internet that's fun.

Fuck AusFAILia.

Just try to switch it off... (-1, Troll)

spacedotter (2354990) | more than 3 years ago | (#36692982)

Sure few user use it, but remaining users are pure Luddutes.
Just look what happened [aeonity.com] when analog broadcasting was switched off.

Just try to switch it of... (-1, Troll)

spacedotter1 (2354994) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693006)

Sure few user use it, but remaining users are pure Luddutes.
Just look what happened [thoughts.com] when analog broadcasting was switched off.

Re:Just try to switch it of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693030)

Sure few user use it, but remaining users are pure Luddutes.

Just look what happened [thoughts.com] when analog broadcasting was switched off.

Good one, Sir.

Re:Just try to switch it of... (1)

coaxial (28297) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693070)

You know, perhaps it's just my years of hanging out on slashdot, and the age of the meme, but instead of being shocked and repulsed, I got nostalgic.

Re:Just try to switch it of... (0)

spacedotter1 (2354994) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693086)

Thats exactly why I post these kinds of posts. Thats a tradition and I stand to preserve it!

confused (1)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693016)

Freely admit I don't understand most of this, but, doesn't mobile phone traffic (once it gets to a tower that is) get transferred to the PSTN?

Re:confused (1)

CoolGopher (142933) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693038)

Nah, it typically gets put onto ATM links for the back-haul. It only breaks out onto the PSTN if the destination is a land line.

Re:confused (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693138)

If the PSTN network is up to snuff, the conversation likely stays ATM up to the nearest PSTN "switch" for the landline customer.

Re:confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693140)

Not quite. Any call that is between two companies traverses the PSTN.

Verizon User calls AT&T user? It transverses the PSTN. A VOIP subscriber calls a cellphone user? Yep, traverses the PSTN.

There is a lot more of the PSTN that just the copper that comes out of the wall.

What happens when the power goes out? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693020)

Here's a potentially stupid question.

My family's gone cellular; we only have a landline for DSL. Last night we had a power outage in my part of Philadelphia. Not too bad, perhaps 20 minutes or so, but the outage apparently also took out the cell my phone connects to. As I recall, the PSTN works even if the rest of the grid is down. So what happens if, during an outage that also eliminates cellular connectivity, someone has, say, a medical emergency? With wireline redundancy on a separate system, I can call 911 and get an ambulance to my location in a hurry. Without it, I'm SOL.

The question, therefore, is: How do we mitigate the risk that some related service interruption leaves us completely disconnected at a moment of crisis?

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693062)

I seems to me that cell service goes down in times of crisis. Major power outages, 9/11 etc.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (1)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693068)

Obvious: don't have a crisis when the power is out.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693110)

Let's now be silly here. PSTN operates on a separate grid + backup power basis so that it works even in the case of a (normal) power cut. There's no reason that cellular or broadband networks can't be required to do the same and/or don't already do that.

I've never experienced a cellular "outage" except through something other than simple power - i.e. oversubscribed networks, busy periods (e.g. New Year Eve), or just plain stupidity of someone changing settings they shouldn't. So there's nothing to say that the cellular network isn't already backed in terms of additional / temporary / emergency power.

It's like saying what would have happened during a PSTN outage even if the normal grid wasn't affected? Same problem, and would have happened just as often (PSTN networks aren't somehow infallible, and sometimes HAVE to be shutdown for safety reasons if they are still supplying power to places that could be dangerous - e.g. fires, gas leaks, etc.). All that happens is that instead of PSTN you use cellular, or broadband (which is still essentially running on the same PSTN copper/street cabinets/exchanges).

The only "problem" is that cellular isn't a guaranteed service in that it could be up and running but far too busy to let you call rather than, say, the emergency services. Although they have a QoS for such emergency services, you won't necessarily be able to get signal in an emergency purely because of the sheer number of people near you trying to do the same. But broadband? That's a different matter.

PSTN was just "a" network. What did you do before you had cellular and there was an accident? You relied on PSTN or "something else" (i.e. your neighbours PSTN, or CB radio, or whatever). Now you just shift your expectations and use other methods.

To be honest, in an urban environment, I've never had quite so many completely independent ways of contacting people in an emergency. The loss of one, albeit one of the most reliable, is hardly a loss at all in terms of safety. There are at least three different methods of Internet connection available to me just sitting at home - cable internet, phone-line-based internet (e.g. ADSL, etc.) and 3G internet. They are all more-or-less independent of each other so if the 3G goes down, SOMETHING else will work and if the ADSL goes down, I can always hook up a 3G dongle (on any of 5 major networks that all run seperate infrastructure and frequencies).

If I was out in the sticks, I'd be slightly more worried but your basic landline phone isn't going away - it's just changing its underlying technology. There's still plenty of options open to anyone that needs them. It's not like it's the 40's anymore where the next phone is several miles away and you have no other backups at all.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693192)

TL;DR

The POTS system has had a hundred years of experience to work out issues like redundant power supplies. Cellular networks haven't. So POTS often works when cell doesn't; the reverse is almost never true.

In another seventy years, this will probably not be the case.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (2)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693218)

Let's now be silly here. PSTN operates on a separate grid + backup power basis so that it works even in the case of a (normal) power cut. There's no reason that cellular or broadband networks can't be required to do the same and/or don't already do that..

yes and no, yes, technically you are right (although my guess is cell tower transmitters would require a lot more battery power than the POTS network)

but no, that kickass reliability was engineered into the landline network back when AT&T was a very fat and happy, and heavily regulated, monopoly.

The mobile network providers have to constantly think about undercutting competitors while delivering maximum shareholder value. Also a big difference between then and now; politicians who express belief in the concept of government regulation can expect to be accused of being a follower of Pol Pot by Fox news and their sycophantic viewers..

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693360)

Ever been to Austin during SXSW? A couple years back, you could not make a call on networks there during the festival.

Had there been an emergency, you would have had to go searching for a pay phone, or perhaps someone nearby who actually had a POTS line.

Cellular networks are relatively delicate. All our cell networks have been designed during a relatively quiet time of sun activity. A good solar flare can do serious damage, if not cook a good chunk of our wireless networks if it hits in the right spot.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693498)

Sure, you couldn't make a voice call during the festival. But did you try to make an emergency call, instead of an ordinary voice call? Your phone and the basestation both know the difference, and emergency calls outrank voice calls for admission control, power control, interference budgets and so on.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693142)

It'd be interesting to known what percentage of people even with landline phones already have this problem, given the prevalence of cordless phones. When the power's out, the only thing that works is an old-fashioned phone with a cord directly plugged into the wall.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693574)

that's why we still have two of them sitting around the house. One near the NID when I need to verify whether a line problem is inside or outside the house, and one on an upper floor for when the power's out.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693582)

I live where there is hurricains. We keep an old style phone just for that issue. You can get them for about $10. It is very nice to have.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693174)

Make sure your telephone can run off the line power, we've got a DECT phone and I think the base station requires a separate power supply so in case of a power outage the phones would stop working.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693180)

That is exactly why I insisted on keeping a separate copper line for my home telephone when Verizon came and hooked up FIOS. I know, the fiber-network phone comes w/ a battery backup, but I don't want my 911 service dependent on whether or no a battery is in good condition and charged.

The other consideration is that I don't want my doctor, plumber, dentist, lawyer, HVAC contractor, &c. to be able to disturb me when I'm not at home, so they get the home #.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693188)

I think this is a valid point. Quite often the PSTN is the one utility that I can count on functioning even when other utilities (particularly the electrical grid) is shut down. This isn't to say that the telephone network has no interruptions, but the "uptime" is usually of such quality that it sets the standard in my opinion for what ought to be expected from utilities in general. Even cable television service has more outages. That isn't accidental too.

Then again, I still have a landline which I still use on a fairly regular basis. My family also helped to install that network, at least in America, where both my father and by grandfather were former employees of the old Bell System companies. I'm having a hard time imaging what life would be like without it.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693324)

That seems odd. When the power went out to Northern Alabama for nearly a week in April it took almost 24 hours for the cell towers to start dying. They have pretty substantial battery backups. Within 12 hours or so of the towers starting to die, someone from AT&T seemed to realize that the power wasn't coming back anytime soon; and they either set up a battery rotation schedule or put generators on the towers. All in all the system was only really dead for about 12-14 hours of the week long outage. I used my car to keep my phone running and had internet/phone service for almost the whole experience. Honestly I don't think POTS would have been much better. My Vonage phone on the other hand was completely useless. I was awful glad I had my cell.

That's the bigger issue in my opinion. Cell phones are fairly reliable in power outages. Not quite as good as POTS, but fairly reliable. VOIP solutions on the other hand very quickly become useless. If you take POTS away from people who live outside of cell range (not hard to do in the mountains northeast of here) they need something at least as reliable as cellular. Making sure everyone has access to broadband is all well and good, but VOIP solutions, even with a battery backup, aren't as reliable as cell systems in a power outage, let alone as reliable as POTS.

Re:What happens when the power goes out? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693612)

During our last hurricane we lost cell service in 18 hours stayed down for 5 days. Power went out for a week, Phone service never went down. Cable TV.......

I hope it doesn't go away! (0)

DogcowX (888899) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693026)

How will I get my 2400 bps modem to connect up to American Online?

PSTN: low-latency and reliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693042)

At least here in Europe, PSTN is extremely reliable and in general has low-latency and low-echo qualities. VOIP are often unreliable, high-latency, and (as a result) have terrible line echo. I'll switch back to PSTN.

Too bad (5, Insightful)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693082)

I happen to like and trust PSTN. It just works. Always has. And it is simple. Sometimes simple is good.

For those comparing this to the switch to digital TV - yeah, I hear you but you know what? The promise of digital TV was over-sold. The picture may be great *most of the time* (not going to discuss the programming - crap, alway was/is/will be - see "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" by Jerry Mander) but it isn't reliable either. My beautiful HD tv breaks up as often, if not more, than the analog signal I used to receive.

I don't have any confidence in cell or IP service. There are too many ways to make it not work for me to feel comfortable - especially on a "dark and stormy night"...

Luddit? Maybe. I've been an IT manager for over 20 years, use all the toys at work, but still don't trust them. Sometimes simple is good.

PSTN:Trustworthy & Reliable (1)

Announcer (816755) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693178)

I totally agree with you; you nailed it. It is a tried-and-true, proven technology. One of the first casualties of major events, such as storms, floods, etc is the cellular network! Unless the wires, themselves, get damaged, Ol' Ma Bell still works. Power goes out, and stays out for a week? Ma Bell's phone still works.

Re:Too bad (2)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693266)

It just works. Always has.

I disagree [ncl.ac.uk] that it has always worked; the PSTN is generally very reliable, I'll give you that. I will agree with your apprehension about maybe seeing it go.

When it does fail, it fails very badly, and often takes other things with it.

Personally, I often find myself longing for the higher sound quality of a fully-wired phone line versus that of a cell phone. Isn't that ironic?

Re:Too bad (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693642)

Personally, I often find myself longing for the higher sound quality of a fully-wired phone line versus that of a cell phone. Isn't that ironic?

Agreed! Cell phones exist now for texting, apps and ringtones at teh expense of reliable *phone* service. The voice call side has been left in the dust which is one more reason I like my PSTN line.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693608)

First of all, PSTN is like anything else and can fail. Second, even when it works reliably, it's not because of any intrinsic reason (such as simplicity). It's simply that people decided to make reliability an important criterion and pour resource into it to make sure it's highly available. Now, it's not going to have that resource. I switched away from PSTN because one day my land line died for 6 hours. That's longer than the *combined* outage of electricity, cable, internet, and my VOIP in 10 years. That's when I realize, they can't keep the whatever number of 9s they promised or hoped for.

Re:Too bad (1)

WebSorcerer (889656) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693680)

I live on the Gulf coast in Texas. It's hurricane territory. If the power is knocked out, the cable modem has no power, and in a few days the cell towers stop functioning. That's why we kept our land line phone.

Poor cell voice quality (1)

jhecht (143058) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693868)

Good point, but that's not all. Cell-phone connections are poor, as becomes painfully evident when you try to talk with people with thick accents. That poor quality effectively impairs your hearing, and can make it hard for people with mild hearing impairments to carry on conversations. I'm on the phone a lot, and do a lot of interviews on the phone, so I always use my land line and only call cell phones reluctantly. Often when I do call a cell., the voice quality is poor enough that we eventually switch to a landline. The bottom line is that cell connections are not good enough for many purposes, especially for many people who have mild hearing impairments but can use the PSTN. Can you say handicap access??

911 access (4, Interesting)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693108)

Today the government requires VOIP providers to warn people about the unreliability of 911 access by any means other than copper. Now the government wants to take away the copper since it is obsolete. What??

Re:911 access (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693430)

My "landline" comes over my cable connection. It has a battery backup but many times when my Internet is down so is my telephone.

So, if the mobile network is down and/or strained and my cable is out too (likely in a severe situation) what the fuck am I going to do? I guess I'd have to walk to the nearest fire station a mile away.

Re:911 access (1)

drussell (132373) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693484)

Then it is not really a "landline". You are using a type of VOIP service which requires a relatively fragile network to function.

won't happen (3, Informative)

genner (694963) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693134)

Doing this by 2018 is pretty much impossible. There's still huge chunks of land without BB service or even decent cell phone coverage.

Re:won't happen (3, Insightful)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693402)

That was my thought as well. They're probably making assumptions based off those same old faulty broadband maps that count an entire zip code as having broadband if one person in it has broadband. I just got DSL service last week for the first time, and I have no other options. My area is fairly rural I'll admit but the United States has large swaths of space that are just like here.

2018 seems completely unreasonable and sounds like the myopic suggestion of some one that has lived entirely in high population density areas. And I'm not even going to go into the change averse nature of our large elderly population who statistically are going to need reliable 911 service the most.

Power Outages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693156)

In many areas (including mine), they still haven't solved the issue of power outages dropping out your VoIP service. In contrast, during the long power outages we sometimes have to endure in the Northeast US, the PSTN still works. This is an issue not only for emergencies, but also to buoy dial-up services such as alarm systems.

Yes, some alarm companies like ADT have 'approved' certain VoIP providers (such as Time-Warner's digital phone) for use with their alarm system.

Yes, this is from political pressure, not thorough testing of the system in every area during a power outage.

IN CAHOOTS !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693158)

Landline is cheaper than any cell plan w/kids !! A lot cheaper !! Need another extension ?? Just add a phone !! And it's so easy to listen in !!

I will die with my analog phone... (1)

dwex (143870) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693172)

They are going to pry my analog phone from my cold, dead hand.

In 20+ years, my analog phone has never not worked. Power goes out, cable goes out, DSL went out routinely (when I had it before cable). Cell coverage is a pathetic joke, and I live 1 mile outside the DC beltway. The voice quality on mobile technologies is beyond pathetic due to over-compression and crappy connection quality.

I haven't switched to FiOS because they'll take away my copper loop if I do.

It's not that I'm a luddite. It's that I expect the phone to work, all the time, with reasonable quality. Is that too much to ask?

Re:I will die with my analog phone... (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693628)

I live in Tokyo. When the Great Sendai Earthquake hit, everybody decided to call home simultaneously.

The phone network was, for all intents and purposes, crashed for two days. We have ISDN at the office, POTS at home and cell phones. None of them worked.

Our internet connection kept chugging along. I could call the US over VOIP but couldn't make a phone call inside of Japan. We run our own e-mail server so that kept going, though the ones run by the big ISPs overloaded.

It will be dead in Australia in about a decade (2)

ras (84108) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693182)

I don't know about the US, but with the completion of the NBN [wikipedia.org] in Australia the PSTN will be history here.

History means all copper land lines gone and all the analogue gear the copper is connected to in the 1200 exchanges becomes land fill, along with all the ISDN based switch gear. The 1200 exchanges will be reduced to 120 point of interconnects. We are talking scorched earth here.

The only thing left will be the analogue phones in the house. They connect to SIP ATA's, so by the time the voice leaves the premises it will already be IP, switched by internet routers, being transmitted in ethernet frames over fibre or fixed wireless. Our resident teloc's will all be become SIP providers.

It might be someone's theory the analogue PSTN will disappear in a decade or so in the US. In Australia govenment lawyers crafted iron clad agreements, the contracts are signed, the opposition has admitted defeat, and the money is committed. They are digging up the ground now. The PSTN's death here is almost a certainty.

Re:It will be dead in Australia in about a decade (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693678)

We have fiber to the home in some parts of the US. Verizon's POTS service on FiOS is a hybrid option. The transport to the home isn't IP based, the connection at the CO is either legacy PSTN or VoIP depending on what service plan you subscribe to.

Reliability (1)

rcoxdav (648172) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693196)

I live in a small town in rural Illinois. I have cell, but service stinks in town due to being close to a boundary between two different providers (the small family owned one goes nutsy whenever the big company signal hits their turf). There is only one provider that has good service in my town. I have a phone through the cable company, which sounds good and has a lot of features, but has an unacceptable amount of down time (we have some medical problems that make it so that we need something reliable). What is left, PSTN through the phone company. The only time we have lost access, it was only long distance when a contractor cut a fiber line. Until broadband reliability is in the many 9's category like PSTN, I want to keep it.The entirety of the US is not big cities, there is a lot of middle of nowhere with a decent amount of population also, and, along with that, unreliable wireless and broadband infrastructure.

KISS (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693210)

Im no expert, but every time the topic came up in a networking lecture the "simplicity" of PSTN compared to its more modern counterparts was the explanation why the tech is still widely used

I still have a plain old telephone (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693232)

I do not like cell phones. They are devilish devices that encourage the stupid to be even more stupid behind the wheel of a car. They are possibly the worst invention thrust upon mankind. That said, I do own a pay-as-you-go cell phone for cases of road-side assistance. I spend about $20 a year for it. The mobile phone plans in the USA are monstrosities. They are convoluted and expensive. I keep my old telephone because it works, even when the power goes out. When the hurricane blew through Ohio and places lost power for days and weeks, I still had phone service while my neighbor's cell phones died and the local cell towers lost power. My big old phone has excellent voice quality, a big old speaker in the handset to hear the caller.

I will not go quietly. You will not take my phone service.

The broadband quality in my rural area sucks, big time. I can barely stream Netflix movies, let alone consider making phone calls with it.

Bad Graph (2)

Dishwasha (125561) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693234)

Is it just me or does the graph do a steep and then gentle curve in the actuals and then take a linear nose dive in his projections? I'm not a math genius but that totally looks like somebody making up their own agendas and skewing the evidence to support it.

Something's gotta happen first (2)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693296)

I telecommute full time as do almost all of my co-workers. PSTN is a requirement primarily because of the audio quality on skype/magicjack/cellular is not as good as a good ol' land line. I know some of you skype fanboys are going to cry "yes it does" but I assure you that you are mistaken. We've got several folks on the team that use it and it is consistently a problem.

There may be great business class solutions along the lines of getting a T1 or better line and setting up some kind of service across a direct connect, but I don't see that replacing pstn either. Cell phones are great, and voip is OK in a pinch but neither are "up to snuff" in my opinion.

Making predictions can be misleading (5, Informative)

PuddleBoy (544111) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693332)

"If current rates hold, only 6% of the U.S. population will still be served by the public switched telephone network by the end of 2018.

(Disclaimer: I work for a landline company)

You are assuming that 'everyone' wants this, including retirees, people in rural areas, people who just don't need broadband and know it. You assume that the cellular/VoIP offerings will be as robust as the PSTN. You also assume that, if the landline business is 'dissolved', these other networks can take over the load.

Do you know who connects those cell towers? Those towers don't talk to each other wirelessly, they use terrestrial copper/fiber. If you sunset the network that keeps the copper/fiber infrastructure in reasonably good shape, the economics of maintaining the cellular network change, driving up costs significantly.

And please, don't maintain that there is quality parity between these types of services/networks: I have had so many conversations with business owners who tried using VoIP-based services for their dialtone and came running back to the PSTN because their customers complained about voice quality and dropped calls. Also note that while many government agencies have adopted VoIP internally, they recognize that they must have a reliable network to serve the public, especially for emergency services, and thus the vast majority stick with the PSTN for dialtone.

The PSTN and the Internet are both great networks, but they were built on different premises and with different (internal) priorities. One is really good at low-latency communications, one is very good at network survivability.

I'm not a Luddite suggesting that we throw away new technologies, but I'm also not some knee-jerk hype-meister of What's Hot Now. Both networks have their place and will coexist for many years to come.

Another takeover (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693414)

Ok I'm all for moving to a better technology, but this is not merely just a technology switch, its another federal government intervention into something they have absolutely no business in. Why must we keep switching from one subsidized tech to another? PSTN has WORKED for very well for long time why not just keep up the same slow phase out process?

Nonsense (1)

MrVictor (872700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693416)

Great idea! Let's put all of our telephone traffic onto the Internet where there is no guaranteed quality of service. No, that's a terrible idea. The best effort paradigm of the Internet doesn't work for all applications and that especially goes for telephone type services.

No plans to do away with my PSTN service (1)

Xian97 (714198) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693542)

I have no plans to do away with my PSTN service.

1) I like having a phone in most every room instead of having to always carry one around
2) I get a LOT better international calling rate with my PSTN provider than their cell phone international rates, even with the same carrier
3) My DSL broadband line uses the same wiring. It is still going to have to be maintained even if the PSTN goes away
4) Ever try to make a call with a cell in a regional emergency such as an earthquake, tornado, etc? No cells available. The PSTN lines get full too at such times, but not usually to the extent that the cells do. Local weather events can disrupt cell coverage. Once during a hurricane I lost electricity for 2 days, yet never lost my telephone signal.
5) Quality. In nearly 40 years of phone service, I can't remember a single dropped call, where that is a weekly occurrence on my work cell phone. While I have had some occasional bleedover and humming at times on my regular phone, the quality of the sound is still a lot better than my cell.

Wait a minute, what the hell? (1)

The O Rly Factor (1977536) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693544)

So, they want to shut down the PSTN in favor of cellular service?

What the FUCK do these dimwit politicians think is the mechanism that actually transmits their cellular call after it leaves the NSS? Magic and unicorn farts?? Or are they just in bed with the broadband/cable television companies who want to see even more critical consumer data pushed across their cheap last mile infrastructure so they can append it to people's data caps?

"Oh, you're being robbed and need to call out to 911? Sorry, but you have exceeded your monthly data cap and can't do that."

It's not going anywhere. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693670)

HUGE numbers of small companies have neither the money nor the desire to modify their decrepit PBXes, etc. Unless virtual PRI, etc., are brought to them, with assurances of transparency, I see no reason whatsoever for them to feel motivated to make changes. Don't get me wrong: I *could* see telcos doing that -- it would be to their benefit -- but right now, their margins on a PRI-provisioned T1s are sky-high, and I doubt they're feeling much incentive to modify that structure, either.

I'm not holding my breath. It'll happen -- but by 2018? Seven years is forever in Internet time -- and a blink of the eye in the land of telecom, where T1 was first conceptualized in the *50's*.

Then apply the same protections as PSTN (4, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693700)

That's fine, but first the wireless and broadband carriers must be made common carriers like they are over telephone. That is one of the biggest differences between the systems. Telephone companies are not permitted to delay, degrade, alter, or record telephone conversations or modem signals. But no such protections exist over broadband or wireless. They have no requirements for call quality, nothing stops them from inserted advertisements or charging you differently depending on who you call.

Those same protections need to apply to other services, in addition to deregulating them so we have choices.

I normally don't make "I misread that" comments... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693786)

Could PSTN Go Away By 2018?

I read that as "Could the PSN go away by 2018...". I was thinking: "Only if the script kiddies hit puberty!"

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