TECH: Re: Telephones & DSL: Can we lose the phone?

From: Brian D Williams (
Date: Thu Mar 22 2001 - 08:23:59 MST

>From "Robert J. Bradbury" <>

>In one of my rare introspective moments, I was thinking to
>myself today, how I so rarely get phone calls that I could
>probably turn off my telephone service and not notice it.
>Then it occurred to me that I've got a long-distance e-phone
>call-out capability (with some vendor I can't remember the
>name of, who may no longer be in business...). I've also
>got an eFax account for incoming faxes. All I'm missing
>is an eFax type "voice" supplier so that people could
>call me over my DSL connection.

>Now I think the USB-computer telephones are running a couple
>of hundred dollars, but the implication is that I could
>completely cancel my telephone lines and use virtual
>telephone numbers instead. The savings in telco billing
>should pay for the cost of a handset in a year or so
>(a remarkably fast payoff for a technology transition).

>Now, if people move to this en-mass is the phone company going to
>"wise up" and insist that you pay for voice service on any
>DSL connection? Will the telephone company "disconnect"
>your DSL line if you close your voice line? (Are these policies
>already spelled out or will they be determined by letters to the
>commission overseeing the Telco and potentially lawsuits?).

Disclaimer: My opinions are my own, I do not speak for
SBC/Ameritech or any of it's partners/associates.

The future is out on DSL. Here in Illinois, the Illinois Commerce
Commission recently ruled DSL as a mere extension of existing POT's
service and said all provisions of the '96 telecom act applied. The
regional carrier (us) disagrees strongly, saying DSL is a new
service and not subject to the Telecom act, as a result, we have
currently suspended all new DSL facilities here in Illinois.

Essentially under the current agreement anybody can buy your
account from Ameritech for 20% less than we charge ourselves for
the same service, in other words at a loss to us. The original idea
was that when there was sufficient market penetration by so-called
competitors, we would be allowed into long distance.

As everyone knows, this has never happened. Hundreds of competitors
have entered the local loop, but are only interested in business
services, where the money is. All those who lobbied for this access
knew this in advance, the public was sold a bill of goods.

Obviously we have no intentions of providing DSL service at a loss.
Most of the so-called competitors don't even own any DSL equipment,
they rent it from us, as provided by law.

Well, now the telecom act is about to sunset and the mad scramble
is on to see what comes next.

>A related question would be does anyone understand IPv6
>sufficiently to tell me how I can get my house allocated
>a permanent block of numbers and lean on the Telco to
>stop charging me for my block of fixed internet addresses
>(something they seem to be playing the "buy" and
>"bump-the-price" game with).

Robert, I don't know where you live, but in my area and I'm pretty
sure in the whole U.S., we (the RBOC's) do not currently use IPv6,
therefore it is unsupported.

>Now, for the prediction-oriented out there. Clearly
>at some point, it should become feasible for a company
>to assemble an electronic box (probably a couple of chips)
>that does Ipv6 routing over frequencies anyone has access
>to for free. If you get the frequency hopping algorithms
>correct, everyone should be able to put a world "router"
>in their house. So for the up-front cost plus the electricity
>to run it you should have access to the local "hub" for free.

The problem with routers is of course routing tables and how to
update them (what happens when a route is lost?). This very soon
completely overwhelms a software based router, which is why routers
and networks are built in hierarchical networks running various
protocols, then connected to the Internet routers with Border
Gateway Protocol.

>I.e. no telco bill (obviously this buries the telcos
>as we know them). The barriers to this are
>the design, the limited market (once everyone has
>one they are unlikely to buy two), and the need to
>get "sufficient" mass in cities (1 house per block?).
>However you could develop a B-plan where you give
>away 1/block and sell to all the other people on
>the block to access it.

Who's going to build and maintain the network on which this all

>Under this scheme, you pay some monthly fee to the
>inter-city hub traffic carrier (you pick the amount).
>They route your messages strictly on a priority basis
>based on how much you are paying per message unit.
>(In other words, you gets what you pay for.) Presumably
>they have to build the net so that traffic of the highest
>paying customers gets routed responsively at peak times.
>If you choose to communicate at the "off-peak" times,
>you reap the benefits of the people willing to pay
>the "big bucks". Now the interesting thing about this
>is that it becomes "self-balancing".

Self balancing how, because someone else has built in all the very
necessary backups to this?

>Related to this would be an interesting P2P concept
>where cell phones become routers. If everyone has
>a C.P. why do you need the base stations? You
>obviously need the B.S. for interstate calls, but
>perhaps not for local calls (which are presumably
>the majority). [Of course there is a battery/electricity
>cost to using your phone as a router, but can you provide
>an accounting for this. I.e. when you leave your C.P. in
>the charger so it can serve as a local router, you accumulate
>call time that is deducted when you actually use the phone.
>It becomes quite interesting that people might actually
>derive an income from sticking their C.P. routers in critical
>intercity locations so you capture some fraction of the
>revenue that would otherwise run over the optical links.

As I pointed out this involves a very simplistic idea of routers
and what they do, but don't take my word, visit and
see for yourself.

>As Harper, from Andromeda (
>might say -- "Am I not a genius?" (or am I simply so
>stupid that there are a dozen companies working on this
>as I type these words and I'm simply unaware of it?)

You are a genius! And yes there are hundreds of companies working
on some of these same ideas.

In 1991 I was involved with Project Lightwave, the stated purpose
of which was to have fiber to the home/business at every Ameritech
location by the year 2000. Then the long-distance carriers, the
interexchange carriers, the cable companies, groups like CUB
(citizens utility board) and the local commerce commissions got
involved, and when they were finished regulating, the whole plan
had to be scrapped.

Read that again, if it weren't for the actions of these groups, you
would already have fiber to the home.

The best thing that could happen for us the consumer as far as
telephone rates is this, let the RBOC's do long distance. Telephony
is already a commodity and the only thing keeping the whole thing
from collapsing into a lowest denominator flat rate service is the
artificial separation of local/long distance.

Your mouths would water if you could see the plans for our next
generation network sitting on my desk right now, all optical, fully
meshed terabyte scalable to pentabyte nodes..... beautifull, and we
could start building tomorrow, but will we ever get the chance?

Why would we build such a network if all we are allowed to do is
local telephone service?


Extropy Institute,
Adler Planetarium
Life Extension Foundation,
National Rifle Association,, 1.800.672.3888
Ameritech Data Center Chicago, IL, Local 134 I.B.E.W

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