Nor'easters Remind us why the PSTN is Useful

Rich Tehrani : Communications and Technology Blog - Tehrani.com
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Nor'easters Remind us why the PSTN is Useful

Having been one of the early evangelists of VoIP and launching the first magazine in the space - Internet Telephony and longest-running conference, etc - I think I need to take a moment and point out that one of the challenges of consumer VoIP is the need for external power. This past weekend, the northeast just endured a nor'easter where I saw massive trees buckle like dandelion stalks in the hurricane-force winds. I literally saw massive branches just shy of fully-grown tree trunk circumference shatter like a falling ice cube on concrete. Now, somewhere between 500,000-1,000,000 people are without power in the tri-state area.

As a result of this massive storm, some people will be without power for a week or longer and times like this we realize the importance of having a backup plan for communications. A PSTN line comes in really handy and thankfully the phone company is required to allow 911 calls from all PSTN lines.

Still, I wonder if the phone companies missed an opportunity to slow the growth of VoIP by touting the reliability of their lines in a time of crisis. Moreover, if they had marketed this fact, people would likely have purchased long-lasting UPS units to keep themselves in the loop while power is down.

Gary Kim tells us that IBM researchers predict that voice lines will disappear in 10 years and I have no reason to dispute this claim. Still, one of the best things about the PSTN is it is always powered and I am wondering if the next ten years will see the advent of technologies which bring this same functionality to the world of consumer VoIP. I do really hope hope so.

36 hours after the storm this tree was one of hundreds near my house still down and needing attention. I saw dozens of trees like this one, resting on power lines
noreaster-03-13-10-fallen-tree.jpg


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