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FCC Preparing Transition To VoIP Telephone Network 250

mantis2009 writes "The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a request for public comment (PDF) on an upcoming transition from the decades-old circuit-based Public Switched Telephone Network to a new system run entirely with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. This is perhaps the most serious indication to date that the legacy telephone system will, in the near future, reach the end of its life. This public commenting phase represents a very early stage in what will undoubtedly be a very complex transition that makes this year's bumpy switch from analog to digital television look relatively easy."
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FCC Preparing Transition To VoIP Telephone Network

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  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:51AM (#30309582)
    Well, I guess we know where the opposition to this plan will come from...
  • by jibster ( 223164 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:55AM (#30309614)
    I don't think you need to have BB to do VOIP, afterall if you have enough bandwidth to do voice, you have enough bandwidth to do voice (over ip.) I think your mistake is in assuming they mean any change in the physical infrastructure when in actual fact they only intend to change the protocall operating on that infrastructure.
  • by TimeElf1 ( 781120 ) <> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:55AM (#30309616) Homepage Journal
    With only 60% of the US having access to broadband I'm thinking opposition is going to come from everywhere.
  • by SlappyBastard ( 961143 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:00AM (#30309654) Homepage
    At this stage, we're about where the FCC was at in deciding what format DTV was going to be. We're around 1992 if we're comparing the VOIP timeline against the DTV timeline. It's gonna be a few years.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:05AM (#30309686)
    You do realize that shipping things by rail is WAY more efficient that doing it by truck don't you?
  • by Peter Simpson ( 112887 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:08AM (#30309704) that the user terminal (the phone) is totally passive - no power needed, it's a totally dumb terminal, and very robust (at least, if it's a Western Electric product!). The POTS system is the result of some careful design and decades of improvements to increase reliability. That's not to say that there aren't benefits to be had from VOIP, just that we should think carefully before deciding that everyone will be converted to VOIP.

    Disclaimer: In addition to my nifty 2.4G multiple handset cordless phones with built-in caller ID and voicemail, I have two POTS phones which work fine when the power goes out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:10AM (#30309724)

    Freight rail is still in use, and is a hell of a lot more efficient than trucking. And if it weren't for the boondoggle called the Interstate system, we'd still be shipping most freight by rail.

  • by PuddleBoy ( 544111 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:19AM (#30309780)

    VoIP, while an interesting and disruptive technology, is not quite ready for ALL voice applications. Some thoughts;

    It is frequently easy to tell when you are speaking to someone using VoIP. Clipped high and low tones, often choppy like a bad cell call. Most businesses will not want their customers having that experience talking to them. Residential is fine - those customers are just looking for cheap, cheap, cheap. Many businesses are concerned with appearances, and a bad call experience can sour a sale in a competitive marketplace.

    Many (most?) alarm companies cannot successfully run alarms (fire, elevator, burglar) over VoIP lines. Not sure if it's latency, compression or what, but I have heard this complaint MANY times from various security (alarm) company people. In some states, doing so is actually against the law.

    911 routinng - have all the 911 PSAP routing issues been resolved with VoIP? This is a biggie that most people switching to VoIP don't consider.

    Your Internet connection goes down, your voice is gone. One thing you can say about the PSTN is that it is pretty dependable. In all my years (I have some gray hair) it has been rare that I have trouble with a POTS line.

    VoIP has its uses - I'm not denying that. But the landline network will not disappear overnight, this year, or even this decade.

  • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:20AM (#30309784) Homepage Journal

    But can you do dial-up over VOIP?

    I mean, sure, you'd think that if the phone network was IP-based, you'd be able to get general Internet access through it, too. Is that really the case, though?

    First issue, is this VOIP-to-the-home, or just VOIP-to-the-switch-box? A logical first step would be to switch over to VOIP just before the last-mile, to allow people to keep their existing phones - which (I think) would kill dial-up and faxes. A later second step would be to move the final transition point to the telephone box at the house.

    And even if it is running VOIP all the way to the home, you have to assume that the telco will allow people to connect to the Internet via their network. This is something regulation can solve (by forcing the issue), but still, that means new equipment. And most likely new fees. And quite possibly a loss of choice over ISP.

    So there will have to be some concession to people still using dial-up - especially if they're not planning on moving the entire network to VOIP all at once.

  • by jibster ( 223164 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:26AM (#30309840)
    Look, its a simple question of bandwidth. If you can squeeze 56kbs of data down a phone line then it MUST take 56kbs to transmit voice in analogue. It does not matter about the encoding. If fact it does not take 56kbs to transmit analogue voice but something closer to 28k will get reasonable quality if I remember my shannon equations from college. Now you do have a point that there is extra overhead in the packetizing the headers but not an unreasonable amount. No you could not trasmit "internet traffic" at the same time, but who is proposing that you would do that? Your phone doesn't do it now does it?
  • Network neutrality (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vvaduva ( 859950 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:30AM (#30309866)

    I wonder if their providers will apply the true "network neutrality" principles to whatever sip trunks they have serving them, or will the fcc traffic get priority, since they are the fcc and everything?

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:36AM (#30309926) Homepage

    POTS is a mature, robust technology that provides remarkably clear and reliable voice service throughout the country (nearly the globe) at an affordable cost.

    Of course we're going to replace it.

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:45AM (#30310028)

    Right now, when internet goes down, even in corporate settings, it can take up to a freakin WEEK to get it back.. and that's just in every-day non-disaster type situations.

    If the phone service goes out (that's a BIG if, i've only seen it happen 3 times in my entire life) it's never down for more than 3 hours.

    Until they bring internet up to this level of reliability, I don't want to see it behind the one device in my whole house which is capable of summoning paramedics.

  • POTS is Powered! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:46AM (#30310050) Journal

    POTS works over low voltage DC. As I recall, it's somewhere in the vicinity of 48 volts, but don't quote me on that. It's entirely feasible to have a cheap, dedicated VOIP chip that runs on 48 volts and draws perhaps 50 to 100 miliamps of current - well within the normal range of today's POTS power draw.

    VOIP doesn't have to be VOInternet. They coul just as easily have a dedicated IP network for telephony, then run something like PPPOÈ or VPN to gateway to the public Internet and do away with separate SL MODEMs.

    You'd still probably need a long distance plan, even though the point of one is technically idiotic.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:50AM (#30310090) Homepage Journal

    Most of Maine suffered a massive ice storm [] in 1998. I was without power in Souther Maine for 11 days. My sister in Coastal Maine was without power for 17 days.

    Verizon succeded in maintaining telephone service wherever there were wires up by swapping batteries in the SLCs and recharging them as needed.I wrote about this here [].

    Even a VOIP system requires wiring. Battery *could* be provided, since PoE is used successfully, but frankly the telephone company is probably glad to get rid of battery. Hey, if you're devious, this [] would be a way to take advantage of that battery voltage, another reason for telcos to get out of the DC business. ps- If you're thinking of converting your datacenter to DC voltage, ask the telcos how large-scale DC voltage service works. pps- I wonder how hard it would be to rig a cell phone charger like that? Not too hard, I think.

    But VOIP could be supported during power outages. It would take cooperation and better hardware from the telco, and they would need to be prodded. Is the FCC considering this as a solution to lost 911 service in outages? Is the FCC considering this at all?

    Me, I think I could keep a VOIP phone going for a while with a decent UPS. A 600VA unit should do for a while. Might be a nice business to get into.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:58AM (#30310192) Journal

    I have broadband but I oppose disconnecting the old phone system for the following reasons:

    - When my DSL stopped working a few weeks ago (DSLAM needed replacement) I then used dialup to access the internet. 50k is slow but still useful for emailing, listening to online radio, or even watching youtube.

    - Dialup is portable. I can use it any place and any hotel that has a phone line. No need to pay the outrageous $5-10/night the hotel charges for wireless or wired access.

    - If a three strike law happens, my DSL or Cable ISP might pull the plug, but my dialup will still be there for backup.

    - This morning when the electricity died, the wired phone was the only thing that still worked. Good to have for emergency.

  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:58AM (#30310204) Journal

    Google would be well-served by implementing WiFi now, and I think it would be fun if they did it in the same sort of participatory manner that they do everything else - they ship you a cheap or free GoogleRepeater, you put an antenna on your rooftop, and in certain areas Google pays for an Internet connection that they can connect to the GoogleRepeaterGrid. The network spreads as people are willing to install and run GoogleRepeaters, and remains fast based on them adding fiber connections at strategic points along the GoogleRepeaterGrid.

    If they can find a channel, the long-haul connection between GoogleRepeaters could be handled on a longer-distance higher-bandwidth frequency or range of frequencies, and the local repeaters could output standard WiFi. But they wouldn't have to pay to put up towers, because there are a good number of people who would be more than happy to install the repeater gear at our houses and help spread the signal. Google? Are you listening? You can ship it to me now. I've got a primo spot on my rooftop antenna tower with your name on it.

    As to the rail thing, it's still used for a lot of transportation of goods. It's amazingly efficient compared to any other way of moving product (except maybe floating it downstream on barges, but rail doesn't have to worry about river flow directions). You might be surprised at how much of the stuff you use every day was hauled at least part of the way by rail. It's more efficient than barging it, and almost ten times more efficient than hauling by the next-most-efficient method that's not dependent on current (trucks).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:05AM (#30310262)
    Look, any comment that begins with "Look" is guaranteed to be a pigheadedly oversimplified assessment that ignores important subtleties.
  • by datapharmer ( 1099455 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:19AM (#30310458) Homepage
    That is fine and all... but why? Isn't that just more crap to break? What happened to the kiss principle? I'm fine with the telcos doing this on their end, but going digital all the way makes no sense unless you are upgrading the last mile in the process and providing some sort of SLA. POTS used to be very reliable, VOIP definitely is not. Is it cheaper to run and maintain and have better features? yes! Do I use it? yes! Do I think it is fair to make grandma add an electricity-eating privacy stealing converter box for every friggin thing she uses in her house without providing any benefit to her? Hell no!

    This sounds like the Clipper Chip [] all over again.
  • by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @01:46PM (#30313098) Journal

    Do NOT confuse Voice over internet with Voice over IP. They are not necessarily the same.

    Your existing POTS lines today ARE running VOIP under the covers. The last mile is all that's really still a traditional POTS service in most cities. Once the calls hit central hubs, most of it is packetized traffic.

    Your home VoIP service likely sucks because either your internet connection is spotty, you're too far from reasonable servers, your VoIP modem is not properly installed and QoS (likely because it;s begind a router in your home instead of being directly connected to your modem), your modem is old and doesn't properly recognize and prioritize VoIP traffic, your ISP is purposefully degrading your ViOP service, or your VoIP provider (Vonage likely) is using a poor protocol and providing poor service quality themselves.

    I've been installing VoIP systems since 2001. MAJOR firms use tens of throusands of VoIP lines between offices worldwide with far superior call quality, routing capabilities, and redundancy, and for less money, than using PRIs and POTS lines.

    Having your local telcom switch to VOIP as a core solution has NOTHING TO DO with the VOIP service you are used to over the internet ala Centrex style.

  • by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @01:50PM (#30313162) Journal

    Please do not confuse provider based VoIP services as a replacement for POTS with VOInternet services. These are seperate things that happen to use the same call letters. It is entirely possible for a local phone company (not an ISP) to offer VoIP services direct to a compatible SIP device. This can be on a dedicated connection or chanel from internet exactly the same way a cable company can seperate analog, digital, and internet traffic on the same cable line.

  • by norminator ( 784674 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @02:04PM (#30313392)
    If separate long distance service blows your mind, then wait 'till you hear about "local toll". That would normally be a call that's within the same state, so your LD service doesn't cover it, but it's not in your metropolitan area, so your local phone provider charges you by the minute... but usually at a higher rate than an actual long distance call.

    I remember running into that in college and being totally pissed at the phone company (Qwest). For the next few years, Qwest gave me tons more reasons to hate them. I switched to Vonage (now I'm on T-Mobile's @Home service for $10/month), and I'll never go back to crappy Qwest again.
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @02:32PM (#30313872) Journal
    I am also 44, and I 100% agree with you.
    VoIP requires broadband internet connectivity. We can't even manage to get decent dialup internet service to everywhere in this country (the USA), let alone 100% broadband penetration. We might get some form of wireless broadband sooner (like WiMax), but even then I'd think that we'll have 100% cellphone coverage before we have 100% broadband coverage. Also, I haven't been too impressed with VoIP thusfar, I think there needs to be improvements to it before you can expect 100% adoption of the technology.
  • by unitron ( 5733 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:22PM (#30317578) Homepage Journal

    My cell phone always works when the electricity goes out...

    ...provided that the cell phone towers near you are still powered. Most of them don't have their very own generator to keep them going after the UPS battery is dead and the power company's people are still 2 days away from getting service restored in that area because some severe weather event took out several counties worth of transmission lines and transformers.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun