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99.99 percent reliable. Not so much anymore
Old 09-30-2015, 09:22 PM   #1
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99.99 percent reliable. Not so much anymore

Back in the day before cell phones when every home was hard wired, one could depend on ATT to deliver near perfect reliability. Pick up the phone -- there was a dial tone. Dropped calls? Nearly unheard of ( no pun intended.)
We gave that all up with the breakup of a guvmint controlled monopoly.
Now we can choose from a wide range of carriers. But the reliability and quality of service suffers. But interestingly our expectations have changed. For example, who takes issue with a poor connection or even a dropped call?

We have traded security (a guvmint sanctioned monoply) for liberty (roll your own telco provider.) Are we better off?

full disclosure: before FIRE I worked for both ATT and then a major cell phone carrier
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Old 09-30-2015, 09:44 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by zedd View Post
Back in the day before cell phones when every home was hard wired, one could depend on ATT to deliver near perfect reliability. Pick up the phone -- there was a dial tone. Dropped calls? Nearly unheard of ( no pun intended.)
We gave that all up with the breakup of a guvmint controlled monopoly.
Now we can choose from a wide range of carriers. But the reliability and quality of service suffers. But interestingly our expectations have changed. For example, who takes issue with a poor connection or even a dropped call?

We have traded security (a guvmint sanctioned monoply) for liberty (roll your own telco provider.) Are we better off?

full disclosure: before FIRE I worked for both ATT and then a major cell phone carrier
Our bills were lower too!
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Old 09-30-2015, 09:54 PM   #3
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... the reliability and quality of service suffers. But interestingly our expectations have changed. For example, who takes issue with a poor connection or even a dropped call?

We have traded security (a guvmint sanctioned monoply) for liberty (roll your own telco provider.) Are we better off?
It is true that our expectations have diminished over the years, not with just telephone but many other products and services too. My Ooma phone works reasonably well for the money I pay, but they still have not gotten my caller ID working right. When I log onto my account over the Web, it says when my call out will have my name announced, but it is never that. Initially, it said my city name. Then, when I called them to complain, it then changed to just a letter which was my first initial.

Elsewhere in another thread, I described my frustration with the health insurance billing system which did not credit my payment. It took 4 or 5 phone calls before they could fix the problem.

But back on the phone, I never had major problems with the local Baby Bell after the ATT breakup, nor did I have a problem with the Internet phone service provided by the local cable company. It was only the ultra-cheap Ooma that gave me some problems. But then, it is so cheap that I decide that some problems are to be expected.
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Old 09-30-2015, 10:00 PM   #4
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Our bills were lower too!
Are you comparing apples-apples? The old POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service in industry lingo) wasn't mobile - not really a comparison.

With my present VOIP (acts like a 'land-line'), I have virtually unlimited calls to all the US (may Canada and Mexico, not sure).

With my old POTS, I paid more and would get wacked with high charges if I ended up calling a cell phone in my area code, but outside some oddly defined 'calling zone' or something. But it was hard to know where the cell phone was registered, until after you got the bill. Long distance was another charge. Nice to pick up the phone now, and not even think about where the number is registered, or how long we talk.

I already have internet, so the marginal extra is just the VOIP. Oh, and I have a ton of call blocking options, near real-time call records, no extra charge for call forwarding, simul ring, voice mail (emailed to me as well), a 'virtual second line' (we can make receive calls on a separate phone, using the same number), and probably a few I'm not thinking of.

Reliability? Hmmm, some occasional problems, but I've been able to resolve them. Back in the 90's, our POTS phone was essentially unusable for several weeks - the 'phone company' had cut back on maintenance so much, you could not even get on their schedule unless you didn't have a dial tone (we did, but the signal to noise was so bad, we could barely yell loud enough to tell the calling party to call our cell).

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Are we better off?
YES (IMO).

No, I don't want to go back. I like progress (yes, it could be better).

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Old 09-30-2015, 10:08 PM   #5
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Our bills were lower too!

Now I am a cheapo, I confess. But I was recently pruning old files and came across a 1993 monthly budget and our phone bill evidently averaged $100 a month as that was the amount slotted. However, all our family and friends were "long distance". Now, my bill is $30 a month. I just have a dumb phone plan though. I do remember the trepidation of dropping my landline about 10 years ago. After a month, I really never gave it a thought again.


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Old 09-30-2015, 10:14 PM   #6
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AT&T used to be a very fine utility. They were expensive, but still good at what they did.
But AT&T is now a very poorly run company--with just a skeleton crew maintaining the hard wired phone system. They've cut loose of thousands of middle age, mid-level management and paid ridiculous severance pay. They also completely closed down Western Electric, their manufacturing division and sub contracted installation of phone switching equipment. They're just a shadow of what they once were.
I had AT&T broadband internet services and a hard wired phone, however the service was so slow and very inconsistent. I'm now addicted to Comcast's very fast internet service and MagicJack for home phone service.
Adios AT&T forever.
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Old 09-30-2015, 10:17 PM   #7
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Our bills were lower too!
Are you factoring the cost of inflation?
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Old 09-30-2015, 10:27 PM   #8
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Our bills were lower too!
No way. I remember back in the early 80s DW (then girlfriend) lived in NJ and my phone bills were huge! $50-$100/month which was much more back then than now. Today, I have a phone and unlimited calls in the US for $14/month. I can handle an occasional dropped call for the price difference.

That and my cellphone is only $10/month. So for me and DW, a total of ~$35/month for a home phone and two cell phones.

Much cheaper today.
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Old 09-30-2015, 10:43 PM   #9
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I remember when away in college, couldn't really afford many long distance phone calls home. No such thing as the internet (at least not for public use). Well, maybe a call to splurge on a birthday, but otherwise communicating was good old US Postal mail. Odd now remembering that "news" would take a few days to arrive by paper mail instead on instantly like today.
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Old 09-30-2015, 10:51 PM   #10
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We have smart phones. They always work when we're at home, and work pretty much all the time when we're not at home too! And, they have all the extras that come wit smart phones.

I think we're much, much better off than we were pre deregulation.
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Old 09-30-2015, 11:04 PM   #11
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My AT&T phone bill was over $40 without any long distance calling... I did not have a LD plan... line was crappy and had static for most to the 5 years we lived in this house...

Their crap DSL line was another $40 something with also crap service... speed was dicey at 2.5....


Now have Comcast running at 59... can call long distance anywhere in the country.... bill is now in the $50s... but will go into the $90s after a year... still, for about $10 more per month I get MUCH better service...
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Old 09-30-2015, 11:25 PM   #12
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I don't think a wired landline will drop calls. Just get rid of the cell phones and VOIP and you'll be fine. Get a fax machine too.
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Old 10-01-2015, 02:42 AM   #13
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When you think of all of the millions of transistor circuits firing off millions of times per second, and the millions of lines of computer code required to run some of this stuff, every bit switching perfectly, and all of this tied to millions of other equally complex systems, and using physics unknown a few decades ago, it is hard to imagine why any of this stuff works at all. I have been in the software business since the first microprocessors came out (until 18 months ago!), and I still an in awe when I turn on one of these devices. When I was a kid it was so expensive to call from California to New York, we called our relatives there only once a year, at Christmas. And it was certainly not sure the operator would be able to make the connection at all. Now my wife talks for hours with relatives on the other side of the globe, with video, for free. I think we imagine a 99.99% world in the past as if it really existed.
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Old 10-01-2015, 06:56 AM   #14
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I haven't paid for a long distance call in nearly 5 years ... omma.

Yes I am better off.
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Old 10-01-2015, 07:14 AM   #15
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I used Google Voice for a few years for free long distance and "zone" calling until I cancelled the land line all together a few months ago. I bought a bluetooth adapter that rings the handsets in the house from my cell phone and find it acceptable.
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Old 10-01-2015, 07:28 AM   #16
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How soon we forget. Anyone remember Lily Tomlin as the insufferable Bell operator? People disliked that "my way or the highway" smug and unyielding attitude then just as we dislike the cable companies now. The public was convinced MaBell was eavesdropping on every conversation.

Part of the reason for the break up wasn't what they did, it was what they didn't do - invest in developing technologies.

The cost of domestic long distance has fallen by more than 90% and the cost of international calls has fallen by 95%. The cost of a monthly land line now might be higher than it was 40 years ago, but now it's priced like a cash cow and that business is an ATM for AT&T to get into some other business. That's the real problem - they have no incentive to do better.
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Old 10-01-2015, 07:51 AM   #17
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....... People disliked that "my way or the highway" smug and unyielding attitude then just as we dislike the cable companies now. ........
Many years ago, I installed a second receiver in my apartment without Ma Bell's permission (or paying an additional fee) and they actually called me and said they'd disconnect my service if I didn't remove the unauthorized handset.
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Old 10-01-2015, 07:53 AM   #18
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No way. I remember back in the early 80s DW (then girlfriend) lived in NJ and my phone bills were huge! $50-$100/month which was much more back then than now.
I lived in NJ during those years and it seemed like every call was a toll call. My husband's calls to his office (and he made many) were all toll calls. After we separated in 1997, I was still in the house and couldn't get landline service in my name because he'd run up a bill of over $1,500, which I refused to pay. (It was paid from his share of the proceeds of the house when we divorced.) I got a clunky cell phone and by being VERY careful I was able to keep the bills under $100/month. Remember when they charged for incoming calls, too?

Now I have an iPhone with the cheapest data plan and it runs me $52/month. Well, last month it was $65 because I set it up for International while we were in Iceland! I think what's really run most people's monthly bills up is that now everyone has his/her own line, including the kids.

But competition is good!
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Old 10-01-2015, 08:01 AM   #19
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I don't think a wired landline will drop calls. Just get rid of the cell phones and VOIP and you'll be fine. Get a fax machine too.
Good suggestion -- however, in my state the Bells have successfully lobbied the state legislature so that in 2017, the Bells will no longer be required to provide POTS (traditional non-voip) land lines. Thus they can then dismantle all the (reliable/expensive) infrastructure that currently supports POTS. The thing that I will miss the most is the ability to get a POTS dial tone not matter how long the local electrical power has been out.

This is perhaps a larger negative impact than the 1984 breakup, but perhaps the ultimate result of it (and of course the onward march of technology).

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Old 10-01-2015, 08:49 AM   #20
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Back in the day, our landline phone with long distance averaged $100-125/mo. With inflation, that's a huge number today. You could only call from your home. Unlimited "local" calling in weird zones that no one understood and constantly changed. And maybe 20-30 minutes per month of DW talking to her mother in another state.

Today, we have Obi+GV for free and unlimited VoIP on the landlines, plus two smartphones on Ting which average $15/mo per phone. We only use Ting data (no voice or text) as we use Hangouts for unlimited mobile voice and text. GV offers ultra-cheap international calling (typically 1-2 cents per minute).

IMHO, "back in the day" sucked. Of course, we have internet now, which should be factored into the equation. But internet service powers so much more than voice communication. The reliability difference (if there is one) is completely inconsequential compared to the difference in capability and cost. YMMV.
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