Monday, October 06, 2008

All Phone Services Can Fail

Well, it didn’t take Cincinnati Bell long to call attention to the fact that Time Warner’s Digital Phone service was more prone to failure than good old Ma Bell’s hard wired service. While both services require some sort of wire either on poles or underground, digital phone service provided by a cable company like Time Warner requires each household to have electric power in order for the system to work. While Cincinnati Bell’s service also requires electric power, the power is provided by the phone company.

What the Cincinnati Bell advertisement didn’t mention is that during the recent wind storm both services had problems with downed lines. It makes little difference if you don’t have electricity if the wire connecting you to the phone system goes down. Standard “Ma Bell” phone systems or cable delivered services can be put out of service by a big tree falling across the wires or wind felling utility poles.

Many people found out the hard way that even if they had a regular Cincinnati Bell line their phone did not work. Many of the new phones used in homes have tons of features like caller ID, call holding, integrated answering machines and more. Many of these new phones require electric power in order to work. Many of us also have cordless phones. These too need electricity to work.

If you maintain Cincinnati Bell service, it is a good idea to have at least one “old fashion” phone that has a cord which plugs into the telephone jack and requires no other source of power. You can get one for about 15 bucks at most discount stores. Sometimes simpler is better.

I heard from some readers that they lost cell service during the recent wind storm. I did not have any problem with my Verizon service but it understandable how there could have been some interruptions. Cell towers can be buffeted by the wind, and while most have back up power, these back up systems can fail. Also many of the cell towers are interconnected with line-of-sight microwave radio systems. High winds can cause the dishes to go out of alignment thus making connection to the telephone network difficult or impossible. Some cell towers use the same hard wired circuits that you use in your home. Again, if the lines are down they don’t work.

Those with cell phones found that they had no way to charge the battery. Remember, you can use your car to charge up the battery and since the chargers take so little current, you won’t harm a good car battery even if the car is not running.

Internet access is another casualty of power failures and downed wires. Even if you use Cincinnati Bells DSL service, you need to have a DSL modem in your house and that requires electricity. Same for Time Warner’s Road Runner. About the only Internet service that can work with power out is a lap top running one of the Internet services provided by the cell phone companies.

The good news is that the recent storm was a once in a 100 year phenomenon. We are fortunate that our phones, internet and TV really do work most of the time no matter if they are delivered by Ma Bell, Time Warner or though the air.

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