Re: PG&E blackout knocks out one-quarter of Sonoma County [telecom]

Articles like this one are increasingly common, as PG&E service

> failures combined with consumer stupidity have made communications > gaps painfully obvious to the masses.

As I see it, the power problems result from three bad policies:

1) Inadequate rates for the power company to properly maintain its network; 2) Public policy that would not allow necessary tree cutbacks to protect power lines. 3) Revision of historical regulatory practices to meet so-called "modern needs" which do no one any good.

But there are a lot of varying points of view--some solely blaming modern thinking, others blaming the supposedly greedy power company.

In my opinion, the nation's power grid is at serious risk as companies evolve from the old public utility model (modest but regulated guaranteed profits) to competitive profit. Anyway, the power grid was built to help out in case of generating failures, but today, it is used to sell and transport the cheapest available power. It doesn't have the capacity to do that, indeed, it doesn't have the capacity to meet modern demands. Further, good but less efficient generating plants are being shut down to save money, leaving us vulnerable to a very hot summer day combined with outages.


Mobile coverage was never intended to be all-encompassing,

> universally available, and always reliable. Mobile communications is > inherently unreliable, as anyone who has ever experienced a dropped > call can attest. The humble landline is the gold standard in robust > and reliable telecommunications, with a "5 nines" (99.999%) > reliability that will likely never be surpassed by any other form of > civilian communications, anywhere, ever. > > Landlines are the true lifelines. The article does get one thing > right when it points out that, "Cell phones have replaced landlines > in nearly 60% of households". However, contrary to what social media > addicts might claim, it's not an "essential part of contemporary > life". Far from it. These devices were intended to be adjuncts - > complements - to traditional landline service, never a replacement > for it.

All well and good, BUT, this model is not what consumers want today. They're biggest priority is connectivity--a mobile phone--not reliability. Consumers have chosen to drop their traditional landlines. They don't want them. Consumers don't mind dropped calls, they just redial.

Their second priority is cost. Supplying the end-to-end reliability of the old Bell System was costly--by today's standards, we paid dearly to make a long distance call or have extra extensions in the house (not to mention premium sets or services). Remember when cheapo phones came out--consumer were happy to buy a cheap phone even if it sounded terrible and failed if you sneezed on it. The tough-as-tanks Western Electric sets sat unwanted at yard sales. In the business world, highly reliable classic systems are abandoned for less reliable modern VOIP stuff. Businesses realized that a few lost calls won't kill them and the network savings make up for it.

***** Moderator's Note ***** > > 2. The "concentrators" which Mr. Albert alludes to were usually > SLC-96 carrier systems (at least in NET& T). Before fiber became > widespread, they were fed over T1 lines, which ran on copper > pairs - but the power in the copper was used to feed T-Carrier > repeaters, not telephone instruments. In other words, the > reliability problem was not one of fiber vs. copper, but rather > was caused by intro- ducing active devices at midpoints between > the central office and the customers' POTS phones.

Historically, the Bell System had active devices out in the field, but reliable power was supplied to them from the central office, this included service to the subscriber. In certain cases, business telephone systems were supplied by central office power. In others, they could be arranged so that limited service could still be obtained in a commercial power failure.

***** Moderator's Note *****

I wrote "Active devices," which I mean to refer to things that required separate power supplies, such as SLC cabinets or vaults. PBX's on customer premises (They were all SxS when I started out) always had their own power, but also were equiped with battery backup.

Customers using 1A2 equipment (the old five-buttons-and-hold sets from the time before recorded history) were able to make calls when power went out, since the keysystem was designed to fallback to "POTS" mode when it wasn't powered. The intercoms, however, went out during power failures.

Bill Horne Moderator

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