Monday, February 3, 2014

Bye Bye POTS

Well, we finally exited the analog telephone age.  We cut the figurative cord.  We got rid of our analog voice telephone land line, sometimes referred to as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) from the local AT&T affiliate phone company.  Our vestigal POTS line, which only served our FAX machine (another anolog relic), got "ported" to our Voice Over Internet Protocol telephone provider (Voipo).  No; porting has nothing to do with either Dr. Who or Scotty.  It just means we had Voipo take that phone number from AT&T. The number exists "in the cloud", but the line itself is but a memory.

This is the "end of the line" for POTS service for us.  Whatever would Alex G. Bell think?  He took "binary" telegraph lines and made them analog voice telephone.  Now analog voice lines have gone back to binary (digital).  What goes around, comes around, I guess.

Don't get me wrong, we still have telephones - lots of them.  If you dial us up on our old voice number that we have had for decades, we will probably still answer it on our Voice Over Internet Protocol phone system.  I say "probably" because VOIP is not nearly as reliable as POTS.  There's many a slip twixt VOIP and lip, but it's what we've actually been using for voice service for years now.

Dumping POTS was the phone company's own fault:  AT&T persuaded us several years ago to convert our voice line from POTS to their "Call-Vantage" VOIP phone service because it was cheaper and had more features.  Then AT&T did away with their Call-Vantage service before they had the U-Verse replacement, forcing us to go to another company, never to return.  The phone company shot themselves in the foot on that one. I'd have a hard time imagining they could be that stupid except that Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, learned about corporate idiocy right there at Pac-Bell.

We still had a POTS line because until recently, our Internet line was via DSL, and the phone company would only provide DSL over a POTS voice line.  You had to have POTS voice service to get DSL.  So, we had a POTS line in order to get internet service, but the POTS line was only connected to a FAX machine.

Then, about a year ago, AT&T did a "mandatory transition" of DSL internet service to "U-Verse" (partial fiber optic) internet.  With U-Verse, they no longer require the POTS line for internet.  We kept the POTS line for a while because it was convenient to have it on the FAX machine, but the cost kept going up.  POTS finally just priced itself out of the market.

So now, if you send us a FAX for some reason (not sure why you would do that, but some people still do) it gets received by Voipo somewhere, converted to a PDF file, and forwarded to us by email.  You won't know the difference, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper for us; we can get your FAX without being home; and those daily junk faxes advertising cruises and recreational pharmaceuticals won't be wasting paper.

It's amazing that FAXes still exist.  The main reasons FAX machines are still used at all is because they are simple to use and relatively secure against hacking.  I'm sure FAXes could be hacked if anyone tried.  Given that our FAX machine is actually a combination printer, scanner, FAX and is connected to the Internet, it would be pretty easy to hack into.  NSA probably has a copy of every FAX sent in the last five years.  But no self respecting pirate hacker would stoop so low as to try to hack into a FAX line.  It would be like a hot rodder souping up a horse and buggy.  Mostly what they'd get would be junk mail faxes anyway, so why bother?

So now, we have obsolete FAX technology, which has been around for over 50 years, still barely clinging to life via internet simulation, but the analog voice POTS line it was designed to function over is gone.

It's a symptom of the passing of an era.  Those of you who tend toward nostalgia for some former age when supposedly things were better may sorrow for the days of wind-up watches, monochrome 12 inch TVs with vacuum tubes you had to replace and only got 7 channels, "simple" cars that got 14 mpg and overheated on the Grapevine, 2 bedroom 1 bath homes that only had one black dial telephone that you rented from the phone company, hand written letters because long distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive, wringer washing machines & clothes lines, home sewn clothes with patches, shoe repair shops, typewriters with carbon paper and erasers, getting paper books from the public library, and doing arithmetic with a pencil.  You know, back in the Good Old Days, when people were moral,  politicians were honest and government could be trusted. Yes, that last sentence is just pure fantasy, but I don't mourn for any of the rest of it either. The reason that other stuff is gone is because better stuff replaced it. There were no Good Old Days.  Bye bye POTS.  I won't miss you.