I just came across your post and wanted to tell you I agree. From the perspective of an audiophile, we have lost ground for years in the quality of our music recordings. MP3 audio or even a 16-bit 44k CD does not have the quality that tape or vinyl had. I kind of bought the hype for years, but it's been decades and music quality is still marginal.
I also miss the call quality and reliability of POTS. Cell phones are acceptable, and you point out that "acceptable" is the apex of cellular company quality. Not great, not better than 50 years ago, just passable. I sometimes use VOIP and the inevitable delay drives me crazy.
You make a compelling argument for the existence and enforcement of those pesky government mandates. Without public intervention to improve call quality, the best we get is marginal quality. Kind of a "market rules" scenario. I think it was former FCC chairman Newton Minow who once commented that the free market does not always serve the public interest.
Even if you still have a POTS line to your house, it doesn't necessarily mean that the phone call is being handled in the traditional way end to end. Some companies are now using IP telephony for the long distance links.
The other problem with POTS is that the telecom companies are no longer maintaining the infrastructure properly. Service that is intermittent in bad weather is a common problem, and the phone company won't fix it; the usual pattern is that they send a technician after the weather has cleared, find no problem (because the wiring is no longer wet), and go home without fixing anything. Rinse and repeat until you get tired of it and disconnect your landline.
I had POTS service at home in NYC, and my original broadband was DSL from what is now Verizon. Getting DSL was not fun: Bell Atlantic screwed up everything that could be screwed up in the installation, and it was three months and much back and forth before I had a working install. It was also fun confirming that I could get it over my existing pair. My building had renovated and upgraded the electrical system. In the process, the contractor had blocked access to the box in the ceiling in the hall the tech would need to get to to run the second line for DSL I planned to get. Fortunately, it could be provided over my existing pair with a splitter.
I subsequently upgraded to cable modem service (which had not been available where I was when I got DSL), and after having both for a bit dropped the DSL line. My cable company kept pushing a package deal with cable TV, Internet, and VOIP, but VOIP was only a cost savings if I made lots of LD calls, and I almost never did. VZ's basic local loop charges finally got higher than the VOIP cost and I switched. (Immediately after, I found myself in a project that involved living on the phone LD to points south for a month.)
In general, I've been pleased. There were early rough spots, but it's been a long time since I've had a problem. (The last time, it was a failing cable modem, as the original one I got finally failed after years in service.)
Now I couldn't go back to POTS if I wanted to. Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, and trashed a good bit of VZ's infrastructure, including their main hub at 140 West St. (Photos of the damage made me happy I wasn't a frame tech workign on getting it back.) VZ took it as an opportunity to make copper go away. IF you have existing POTS service, it still works. If you had it and it stopped working, it won't be fixed. Your options are VOIP and/or cell phones.
I have no idea how successful Alcatel-Lucent's offering will be, but the stake is already being driven through the heart of POTS by the industry. I'm quite certain VZ isn't the only telco that wants to make copper go away and substitute fiber, and I can't say I blame them.
For a long time I had Comcast for cable and internet, but I never switched to their phone service because whenever the power went out Cable was the first to go and the last to come back, while Verizon POTS was the last to go and the first to come back. With POTS suppling power to the phone over copper it took an actual break in the line somewhere between our house and the CO to lose service.
Also, when Comcast first switched to Digital we got crappy TV signals because the older coax was smaller and attenuated the signal too much. I really hated Digital TV because what might have been a little snow on the screen or static in the speaker became large blocks of color or no picture at all on the screen and silence on the speaker. They upgraded the cable, but we could never keep it in one piece. They never buried it deep enough to avoid a shovel in the garden or a snow plow in the driveway. Once a truck ran over a boulder my neighbor across the street put in to keep cars from running over his plants. The boulder cut the cable; the two techs dispatched to find the break were gambling lunch on who would find it first -- the one with the sniffer or the one with the TDR. The TDR won ("Large chicken cheese steak large fries, and a large drink."). Later, when another break caused me to spend two weeks awaiting another outside plant cable install and another week awaiting a hookup I finally answered a Verizon phone call and had FiOS put in. I can't remember having any problems since.
My neighbor installs FiOS for a living and when he moved in he had a conduit run under the street when they installed his service, so we were able to use that to get under the street to install ours. He also told me that they have used the backup battery for the FiOS premises equipment to jump-start their trucks in an emergency, which tells you a little bit about their capacity. Since I have a back-up generator for long outages I'm not worried about a phone outage as long as the fiber itself is not cut somewhere along the way. Verizon was, after all, originally a Telco before it became a cable provider, so they know POTS, and it's newer equivalent.
My neighbor also had a cell hot spot on his home network and once or twice the work phone I had, a Verizon, would pick up his hot spot to complete a call when the cell tower signal wasn't good enough. Maybe I should switch the cell phones from ATT to Verizon ...
I have a company-provided VoIP phone and I must reboot it every day becuase it loses connection to the server. How does it get that connection? Over a DSL service that runs over POTS wires.
Even when the VoIP phone is connected to the server, I often get poor voice quality on calls that last longer than a few minutes. My voice comes through clearly to the person on the other end, but the incoming voice often breaks up after a few minutes.
I'm keeping the POTS line. Without it, I'd have to rely on Comcast for internet service.
VoIP and (to a greater extent) cell phones are all about getting customers used to an ever-degrading level of service, call quality, and reliability, and doing it over a long enough period of time so that they don't realize what they have lost.
All the claims about VoIP are the same claims, promises, and lies I have heard for 20 years even from back in the day when I was working with H.323 video conferencing systems and the beginnings of VoIP.
"It uses better codecs so the audio quality will be better than POTS G.711"
"If you get lousy VoIP performance, it's always problems with network latency, UDP packet drops, packet reordering, insufficient bandwith..."
"You'll see. The networks will get better and then this will be great."
Yeah. All that's true. And this is 2015, and I'm still waiting. The only thing that has changed is that the spotty, crummy digital audio and video services are everywhere now, and many are free, and there's enough bandwidth for everyone to have them. But are the quality problems fixed? Nope.
And they never will be. It will never be in a carrier's best interests to provide really great, low-latency, loss-free networks to get rid of all the glitches in the call audio. You're going to get just what we get now: phone audio that "sorta mostly kind-a works." Because people are buying it that way and using it that way. And if a carrier has more money to invest in a network, there are much better ways for them to make profits on that money than by building out your network gear so your phone calls sound as good as they did in the 1960s.
Yes, I know that a lot of POTS calls are pushed onto VoIP shortly after they leave my house. And you know what? POTS call quality is much worse than it was decades ago, too.
Nothing carries audio better than a dedicated wire from your house to somebody else's house. It gets switched through a zillion network switches, and yes, there could occasionally be hardware failures. But the notion that all that maintenance-intensive hardware was failure-prone is bunk. The now antiquated phone system was one of the most bullet-proof reliable pieces of technology ever made.
It's all about money. Believe me, as customers, you WANT conventional old-fasioned (non-VoIP'd) POTS. It's the providers who don't want you to have it because it's cheaper and easier for them, and they have been doing their level best for 25 years to convince you that VoIP is better, er, "just wait... it will be better... you'll see".
We are trading convenience and economics for quality. Our devices are easier to make, cheaper to build, and more portable. But the video and audio experience that we as consumers are enjoying gets worse with each passing year.
Look, I love technology. How about we use it to build devices that really do improve the level of service? Don't swap in VoIP for analog phones, or flat panels for hi-def glass-tube TVs, or 16-bit sampled CDs or digitally compressed audio files for vinyl records, and keep telling me that what I have now is "better". It is not. It's CHEAPER. It's EASIER. But it stinks.
I've been using VoIP successfully for the past three years at home and I have to say I am really quite happy. Interestingly it is with the businesses that I deal with that the most difficulty is apparent. The telcos in the UK have depreciated the asset of ISDN sufficiently that the rental for an ISDN competes favourably with VoIP DDI termination rates. Why move to VoIP when you can have ISDN for the same price?
I have VoIP because I get great international calling rates, better than a traditional phone provider could give a domestic user but I am now so dependent on my mobile that I don't need a landline really.
I think the thing that this article highlights yet again is how terrible the telco service in the USA is rather than how good or bad the technology is. BT in the UK initiated a thing called the 21st Century Network many years ago and that moved their core network from circuit switched to packet switched and no one noticed. What it did do was increase the competitive market for DSL because the 21st Century Network enabled more ISPs to offer virtual connectivity through more flexible back-end aggregation without fixed circuits.
Elizabeth said: I'd prefer that when my sister calls and wants to talk for an hour that she call the VoIP "landline" number instead of the cell. [Same for answering machine messages.]
VoIP is very effective when one party does all (or almost all) the talking, since you don't have the latency turn-around delay. It also makes best use of bandwidth, since data packets are almost all going in one direction. Do they still call that "mother-in-law mode"?
Perhaps, but here's the irony. That FiOS service I mentioned is, in fact, FTTH. But otherwise, cable companies in the US, the other typical broadband provider anymore, use a hybrid fiber-coax infrastructure, to save money. Because the biggest expense, for these companies, is to make "house calls." If you can retain the existing cabling to homes, you save lots of truck rolls.
So, you say, how wonderful Verizon might be. Right? Going FTTH without so much as a government mandate.
And that would be wrong. Verizon saw what "expensive" really means, and they decided to call it quits on FTTH. I think finally, they will only cover 20 percent of their subscribers, with this FiOS service. The rest either get ADSL, or they are free to use their local cable TV network.
But if you are in a FiOS area, Verizon decided to force you onto FiOS, the quicker the better.
With that in mind, I'm not so sure that the Abbott government got it wrong? Perhaps Tony asked Verizon just how much they enjoyed spending their own money on FTTH, before committing taxpayers' money to that end.
And by the way, interestingly enough, our current FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, is also taking this approach. For rural broadband, rather than force the FTTH issue with taxpayers' dollars, he is engaging the rural telcos in the decision making. Sounds like a more sensible approach to me.