Letter Re: A Multi-Faceted Approach to Post-Disaster Information Gathering

This article was very informative, well written and pulled it all together for the reader. Good job!

Radio communications has been a prepping priority for me from the days when the LAPD could be heard at the top end of the standard AM broadcast band by detuning the radio and scanners were just a dream. That aside, a recent experience of mine regarding the Plain Old telephone (POT) mentioned by D.C. might save some SurvivalBlog readers a few headaches. A POT has always been a prepping priority for me. I’ll try to keep the story brief without sacrificing detail.

About three weeks ago, I contacted AT&T customer service with a complaint that my hard wired ATT internet service was intermittent. During the ensuing 45 minute call, the helpful rep at the other end of the line found that the hard wired line into my house “had problems” at their end. After another 10 minutes, he changed lines (apparently rerouted by computer) but the problem persisted. He said that the lines in the area were getting old (in my rural foothill community 100 miles north of Sacramento) and suggested that I convert to ATT’s “U Verse” system which, he said, was a fiber optic system. He said only that the new system would also increase my Internet speed. I had heard about this system previously and what I had heard made it sound reliable and trouble free. This was before D.C.’s article was published.

The ATT rep transferred my call to the “U Verse” rep who signed me up for the system at a promotional bundling rate about 50% less than my current rate for the first year and about 20% after that. Win, win, win, right? An installer was scheduled to come out in a week but cancelled and showed up the following week. During the install, the installer admitted that he had received limited training in the new system but said that only a portion of the system was fiber optic in my area and that only the big cities got more complete systems.

As the install progressed, I learned the following: (1) The telephone was going to work off the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of my phone calls going anywhere near the Internet if I can help it, regardless of any so-called privacy systems. (2) To maintain phone service in the event of a power outage, he was installing a battery back-up unit, which would be powered at my expense, and would provide only 4 hours of phone service in the event of a failure, assuming I was able to power the computer. I can, but that’s not the point. A battery back-up for your phone, gimme a break!! In the event of an outage at nighttime, you wake up to no phone in the morning. And (3) the new system was incompatible with my hard-wired alarm system. The ATT tech and the alarm co. tech spent about ½ hour on the phone trying to resolve the problem with no results. I allowed ATT to complete the install and the Internet, at least, was lightening fast. Before leaving, the tech suggested a “line share” system which would restore the phone to hard wired status but keep the Internet speed.

Rest assured, I was on the phone to ATT the next day. After assuring the CS rep at least three times that neither the previous rep or the U Verse rep told me about the issues with the alarm or battery backup, she agreed to send out another tech to install a “line share” system, normally extra, at no additional cost. That was done with the second tech installing some sort of splitter box, removing the battery backup unit, and me rewiring the alarm to its previous status to avoid a $67.00 service call. He confirmed everything the previous tech had said and further said that he would never give up his hard wired line.

I learned from both techs that ATT is trying to phase out hard-wired phone connections as the system is aging, expensive to maintain, and Government regulated whereas the fiber optic system is not (yet).

I don’t know if these issues might occur with other telephone companies or not, but the moral of the story (at least for me) is, as D.C. suggests, get a hard wired phone if you can and, if you are considering one of the new fiber optic systems, be sure to find someone who will explain all of the bad points as well as the good ones. In fairness, all of the seven people that I talked to sorting this mess out were very helpful and the telephone company did not try to push it off on the alarm company or vice-versa. None of them had anything good to say about the new system and understood completely why I wanted to stay hard wired. YMMV. Be safe and prep as if your life depended on it. – Gary D.

HJL Replies: VOIP is the future of all phone lines. As the telephone companies upgrade their equipment, dedicated trunk lines are disappearing fast. Even the POTS line that you used to have servicing your home is only copper to the closest switch (or sub-switch) where it was digitized and injected into the system. It makes sense from the phone companies perspective as it is easier to maintain and upgrade equipment. The NSA likes it because it is easy for them to shadow the digital data as well. In the end, you are fighting a losing battle when trying to maintain POTS and you end up with a false sense of security. Your phone line can no longer be considered secure even if you have copper at your house.

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