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VoIP Questioned 375

Posted by Hemos
from the of-course-it-has-problems dept.
87C751 writes "C|Net is carrying a very FUDdy story on the downside of VoIP telephony. Alongside the reasonable point of 911 dialing being unavailable during service and power outages, the writeup mentions broadband over power lines as a possible solution to the power failure problem. (talk about your cognitive dissonance!) It also notes that VoIP customers may not be listed in the local phone book, causing problems with "major fast food companies" (do they mean pizza deliveries?), and that Tivo requires a POTS line for initial setup (which sounds like Tivo's problem, not VoIP's)."
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VoIP Questioned

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  • by netwiz (33291) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:31AM (#9738258) Homepage
    Wow. that article is a total clusterfsck...

    Broadband over power is dead due to FCC restriction...

    TiVos can use an ethernet link and DHCP to get their updates... And besides, they make VoIP phone adapters...

    And who wants their home number in a book anyway? I've forgone the "unlisted number" charge, and as a result received more phone spam than god ever knew...

    Kinda makes me wonder who's pushing them to get this published on the website. Apparently noone interested in facts, or logic...
  • 911 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jaavaaguru (261551) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:31AM (#9738260) Homepage
    If I needed to dial 911, I'd use my mobile phone rather than the POTS/VoIP one, because it's in my pocket all the time, I'd be able to get the call made faster. I don't see this being an issue for most people. Anyway, my POTS telephone system (BT XD500 DECT) requires mains power to operate. If my VoIP doesn't work, chances are my POTS phones isn't working either.
  • by Otto (17870) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:31AM (#9738261) Homepage Journal
    If you get one of the newer boxes, plug a USB network dongle into the back of the thing, hook it up to your LAN, and use the proper codes and config and such, it can do the initial setup via the network. It's not obvious via the menus and such, I grant you, but it can be done.

    Which is anyway beside the point, as a lot of the VoIP services have boxes available that you can plug a POTS phone into, some of which can handle modem traffic just fine.
  • by slash-tard (689130) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:31AM (#9738269)
    or they wouldnt deliver to me. They wouldnt deliver to me even if I offered to prepay with a credit card.

    Other pizza places dont have a problem with placing an order through a cell phone.

    Of course this ignorant policy cost them a customer.

    I imagine a VOIP line would cause even more problems.
  • Not that FUD-dy. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:39AM (#9738380) Journal
    All of the concerns listed are legitimate, and have kept me from considering replacing my land line.

    Here in Maryland, hurricane Isabel knocked out our power for a week last summer. Land line phones still worked, so we could call around to our friends and family, find someone who still has juice, head over and ride out the storm. With VOIP, our options would be drive around the state aimlessly, or hunt down a payphone, etc.. Forget that. And if the storm had of hit us hard, knocked a tree into our kitchen or something, I'm sorry, but 911 service is not a small, inconsequential feature that VOIP-zealots make it out to be.

    The fast food delivery problem is less severe, but still there. Many pizza joints wouldnt even send a car out if they couldnt verify the address. They've been jerked around by cranks too many times. I've had friends with unlisted numbers or who were blocking caller-id have pizza joints hang up on 'em.

    It's a nice idea, but one whos time hasn't come yet. At least not as the primary phone for my residence. Not until my connection to the 'net has the same level of reliability as my land-line.
  • by mbottrell (702614) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:41AM (#9738408)
    No, I'm referring more to the fact your phone now sits on a network, and in theory is able to be hacked.

    Who will pay for the 10,000 calls ya phone racks up from 2am-6am every morning when you sleep due to the trojan/worm it's infected with.

    Sure it ain't gunna be ya VoIP provider!
  • by isolation (15058) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:45AM (#9738435) Homepage
    ...and its great. I talk with our developers that are all over the world for nothing. Its also nice because I am a 20 hour drive from the office so I dont have to go in to answer my phone calls. The Asterisk voicemail system even emails me a wav file with Voice Mail in case I am not looking at the phone.

    These articals are just FUD.
  • by Mr Guy (547690) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:48AM (#9738478) Journal
    Because it's a conflict in what you know and new information.

    In otherwords:

    Point A: VoIP fails if the power is off.

    and

    Point B: Broadband over powerlines is better.

    conflict because the base condition does not change: You can not communicate if your COMMUNICATION DEVICE itself does not have power. Cognitive dissonance is the need to rationalize or otherwise explain away information that contradicts information they already believe. In this case, it actually works both ways: VoIP must have flaws so I'll think of some whether or not they make sense. As well as: VoIP isn't as good as some other technology because it would fail in a certain condition THAT ALSO MAKES THE OTHER fail.
  • by BrainStop (671027) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:50AM (#9738505)
    It could possibly be that you live in an area with lots of credit fraud. The fact that your credit card goes through for them doesn't mean it's not a stolen credit card that hasn't been reported yet .... But then, it's still crap that you need a landline. Just my 3 cents.
  • by jgman (136006) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:56AM (#9738570)
    I have been using my GSM standard digital phone exclusively for 4 years. I have dealt with most everything listed in this article. None of those things are of concern to me. While I can't help but wonder why TIVO needs a standard phone line to set up, thats TIVO's fault. If I really want, I'll just slap a TV Card into my computer, problem solved, one less sale for a company with an idiotic policy. And for that matter, like most Americans, I could probably do with watching less TV.

    I used to have problems with some companies not accepting that I did not have a land line (Video Rentals, etc...), but have found in the last couple years as it has become increasingly common for people to drop their land lines, that companies have adjusted. For that matter, I always figure if they can't accept I don't have a land line, they can do without my business, that is capitalism after all. Those compnaies that adjust to the new world of cell phones and VOIP will survive, those that do not, won't. I for one have never had a problem going elsewhere if a video store or pizza parlor is so backwards as to not want my business over a telephone number. I'm usually all too ready to drop a polite note to that companies management explaining why they lost a customer. But again, It has been at least 3 years since I ran into any problem like that. As for not being in the phone book, I find that to be a definite plus. As I am on a "cell" phone, I almost never get telephone solicitations. Those rare times I do, all I have to ask is if they are aware they are calling a cell phone. At that point the solicitor profusely apologizes and asks if there is a better number to reach me at, to which I gladly respond, no.

  • by cynic10508 (785816) on Monday July 19, 2004 @11:59AM (#9738607) Journal

    Yesterday, my daughter told me that she was having trouble hearing me because her next door neighbor's phone conversation was too loud. She even recognized the voice! Don't think for a minute that no one can hear. Even if you are on a wire connection, the other end may not be.

    The ramifications go far. Lawyers can't legally demand attorney-client privilege for any information discussed over cell or cordless phones. I wonder what, if any, further legal statutes are needed?

  • by wfberg (24378) on Monday July 19, 2004 @12:04PM (#9738652)
    Almost nobody cares that anyone can eavesdrop on their cell and cordless conversations. Why should they care any different about their VOIP ones?

    Cordless phones and analog cell phones sure -- care to tell me how to eavesdrop on a digital (CDMA/TDMA/iDEN/GSM/etc) conversation using John Q. Public equipment?


    There have been reports (for ages) of $10K suitcases that can eavesdrop on GSM conversations. I imagine the price would have gone down considerably. After all, all you need is a hacked-up phone that can tune into the ether, spit out the bitstreams, and feed that into your laptop with some customized software. The underlying encryption mechanisms of GSM are really very weak. I'd imagine that iDen/CDMA/TDMA technologies suffer from the same lapses in encryption.

    There's no John Q Public for eavesdropping on wireless LANs, but then, given a suitable permissable WiFi card and wepcrack, you can get quite far - which is why they came up with WPA.. The GSM algorithms have been cracked by fine upstanding scientists who aren't selling complete kits to do this, which is quite possible (alongside with installed base) the reason nothing's been done about GSM's horrid insecurity.

    Now, I've never seen one of those GSM eavesdropping kits, but then, I've never bought a gun in a bar from Hell's Angels - but I know the latter is quite feasible.
  • by DeadSea (69598) * on Monday July 19, 2004 @12:04PM (#9738658) Homepage Journal
    I recently moved to a new town. I made an appointment with Comcast to install the works: broadband, cable, phone.

    The guy came, and my internet and cable were fine. But I forgot to check for a dialtone before he left. It (of course) didn't work. Turns out they don't offer phone service in my area but hadn't informed me of the fact, or the fact they had cancelled my order for it. Anyway, no phone line and I'm sitting here with my TiVo 2.

    Ok, no problem, I'll go get a wireless card and hook it up to my network. Done. No problem. Its downloading guides but it still thinks I live in the next town and the guide is the wrong one.

    Ok, no problem, I call my friend who work for TiVo. He says I need to do a system reset. A system reset to change my service? A system reset.

    Ok, no problem, I do a system reset. It starts asking me for my dialing options. Crap, it was just on the internet. Why is it asking for this now? I can't get it to work. I call up my friend at TiVo and he says they do the initial TiVo setup over the internet all the time with the latest firmware version (and I should have that version). However, they use wired ethernet. It might make a difference. He then told me that he was tired of answering my stupid questions and if I had any more I should read the bloody TiVo forums.

    Problem - the forums say I'm screwed. My options are to buy ay wired usb etheret for my TiVo, or go door to with my TiVo under my arm and find a neighbor who will take pity on me. I don't know the neighbors. Crap.

    So an hour later I'm in the living room of the 80 year old woman next door. I hook my TiVo into her VCR and spend about half an hour trying to figure out how to get the picture through. Turns out it needs a tape in the VCR. Ok. Picture. Great. Just plug it into the phone and we're good to go. But wait. No jack. Crap. Her phone is 50 years old and hard wired into the house.

    An hour later I'm at some other neighbors with my TiVo, and my own VCR trying to fend off their cat, while my TiVo goes through its hour of setup. Whew. Finally.

    I get it home and it works with my wireless network. Great.

    Still have to get a phone though. Maybe VoIP is right for me? I find 1TouchTone.com and order it. $15 a month. Not bad. It comes, I plug the box into my router, and the phone into the box. It works! I go rip the phone companies wires off the outside of my house, and plug the phone box into a nearby phone jack. All the phones in my house get dial tone. Sweet.

    I've really gotten addicted to the voicemail features. I get emails saying that I have a new voicemail. I get SMS saying I have new voicemail. The light on my phone blinks saying I have new voicemail. The email has an attachment with the wav file of my voicemail.

    Comcast hasn't complained - yet.

  • Re:Not that FUD-dy. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gerardrj (207690) on Monday July 19, 2004 @12:15PM (#9738742) Journal
    I'm sorry, but 911 service is not a small, inconsequential feature that VOIP-zealots make it out to be.

    But you apparently didn't call 911 during the hurricane. When was the last time you called 911 for a true emergency: "endangered life or crime in progress"? If you're like the majority of people... never or a long time ago.

    Calling 911 doesn't stop a person from dying and it doesn't stop a crime in progress and it doesn't bring help any faster: it will still take 5 to 15 minutes for responders to arrive depending on your area and the "emergency".

    If it weren't for federal requirements to implement 911 service it would probably be optional and a pay-per-use service, and frankly it should be anyway. It should cost $100 to call 911, billed directly on the phone bill. If your call turns out to be an emergency your fee is refunded. If not, then you just paid for your stupidity.
  • by hirschma (187820) on Monday July 19, 2004 @12:45PM (#9739016)
    I have Vonage for home, Voicepulse for business. They both work mostly well, but both have big issues:

    1. Faxing - simply not reliable in general, forget about fax modems.

    2. The directory listings issue is definitely just that - I almost couldn't open a bank account for my business because of it, and then was initially rejected for a company credit card.

    However, with proper documentation, both of these things were overcome.

    3. Online ordering? A _few_, thankfully not most, ecommerce outfits do a 'sanity check' on your phone number to see if it 'matches' your address.

    4. Regional info line: can't dial 311 in NYC, which is pretty kick ass. You can, however, put the 10-digit 'out of area' version in your speed-dial.

    5. Most of the services don't have in-code-7 digit dialing. Of course, we lost in that in NYC a while ago anyway for POTS.

    6. Orphaning. As your VOIP provider starts using the newest, greatest, most bandwidth efficient VOIP adapter for new subs, earlier adopters with older adapters won't get the same features, or even the same level of service. This is definitely an issue with Voicepulse, may they burn in hell.

    7. Roach motel portability - or no portability. You can port your phone# to vonage, but not out. You can't port your number to/from voicepulse.

    Jonathan
  • Re:Not that FUD-dy. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Detritus (11846) on Monday July 19, 2004 @01:21PM (#9739326) Homepage
    It should cost $100 to call 911, billed directly on the phone bill. If your call turns out to be an emergency your fee is refunded. If not, then you just paid for your stupidity.

    In many communities, there is no non-emergency number for police/fire dispatch. If you call the local station, they will tell you to call 911, because they have centralized all of their assets in the 911 operations center.

    Some communities have added a three digit number (311) for non-emergencies. See here [911dispatch.com] for more information.

  • by jjhall (555562) <slashdot@@@mail4geeks...com> on Monday July 19, 2004 @01:25PM (#9739375) Homepage
    But to take your comment a little farther, the telephone network wasn't designed to send digital data. POTS "should remain a system for transmitting voice, and any devices that want to send digital data should send it across" digital lines.

    Data over analog POTS is just a hack anyway. So why not emulate that same hack? Here is how it can work. Make your ATA and provider end point "speak modem." When you need a data connection for your PVR, modem, Analog IP Toaster Oven, etc..., your device picks up the line and dials as normal. When the remote end detects the modem answer tone, the remote end connects to that modem, and informs your ATA to provide a local modem connection to your analog device. Your ATA then sends its own modem answer tones and establishes a connection to your PVR. The ATA and endpoint establich a TCP connection in place of the voice UDP connection so no data is lost, and they exchange the data between themselves and emulate the modem connection on each end. There would be a slight delay on the data, but that would be no worse than a slow (noisy) POTS connection.

    That same scenario would resolve the fax problem too. Have the ATA "recieve" the fax and send the data stream to the provider. Their system then dials the remote fax and transmits the stream.

    The thing is, VoIP is a great replacement for POTS. 2 months ago I switched to straight VoIP (using Broadvoice) as I don't have anything that needs POTS, other than my Dish PVR. I don't order PPV, so that doesn't matter either. My wife and I both have cell phones to call 911 if needed. By using VoIP, I am saving 25-30 every month. Quality is just as good, if not better, especially when calling other people using VoIP (vonage, packet8, FWD, etc.) For that savings, I am willing to put up with some quality and reliability glitches, which so far have not been much more than I got with my POTS lines.

    For most people to switch however, it needs to be a drop-in replacement, meaning the basic digital communications people are used to (alarms, PVRs, faxes, and even modems) need to work. A reduced speed is fine, but they still need to work.

    The ATAs currently being used have the processing power to support this, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal to implement. Memory for buffer space may be the speedbump, I'm not sure.

    Jeremy
  • Re:Not that FUD-dy. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by focitrixilous P (690813) on Monday July 19, 2004 @01:33PM (#9739450) Journal
    But you apparently didn't call 911 during the hurricane. When was the last time you called 911 for a true emergency: "endangered life or crime in progress"? If you're like the majority of people... never or a long time ago

    I think the 911 people had a clue the hurricane was in the area already. If something had happened to his house, then he could have called 911.

    Calling 911 doesn't stop a person from dying

    Doesn't it, though? If there is an accident and you are losing blood, a transfusion within 5-15 minutes from an ambulance may well keep you alive, a lot more likely then waiting for someone else, who can't bypass traffic with sirens and such, taking 20 - 30 minutes for medical attention. 911 isn't a perfect service, but saying it can never stop a person from dying is a shortsighted statement, ask some car crash victims if you don't believe me.

  • by mla_anderson (578539) on Monday July 19, 2004 @01:34PM (#9739451) Homepage

    I have almost completely replaced my phone system with VoIP. I say almost as I have DSL for my broadband and therefore need an actual line. All my voice is over the Vonage system even 911.

    • 911

      I register my location with Vonage for 911 service

    • Power outages

      I plug my equipment into a UPS. For last resort I can use the van and inverters as a crude generator

    • Tivo

      Well since I'm using DSL I do have to pay for an actual phone line. Tivo gets its own line for whatever it wants to do.

    • Phonebook listing

      I was unlisted long before I switched to Vonage

    I have been very happy with my VoIP system. I had all sorts of trouble with the analog line after SBC put in the DSL. Even before then I had a lot of trouble with SBC (Pacbell at the time). Now I don't have to deal with them.

  • by shayne321 (106803) on Monday July 19, 2004 @01:47PM (#9739543) Homepage Journal

    Related issue: there really ought to be a way to test 911.

    I agree there should be an automated way to test 911, as you described.. That said, I work for a large multi-city real estate company and we are deploying Cisco IP phones to every new office we complete.. We always test 911 service, because there was one time when we first deployed IP phones in our corporate office we had not tested it and found out the hard way it wasn't working (luckily we were still migrating from a legacy PBX, so there were still legacy phones around to dial 911 with).

    We set our IP phones up so that 911 or 9911 will work (since people are so used to dialing a 9 first). We try each number and when the operator answers we start with "THIS IS NOT AN EMERGENCY CALL, we are testing a new phone system installation and need to know what number and address we are posting". Every one I've talked to has been happy to help and not acted put out in any way. They'd rather KNOW you have working 911 service than have to deal with answering emergency calls with the wrong phone number or address associated with the call.

    Also, for those curious about how E911 is handled with VoIP in the enterprise market, cisco has a product called Cisco Emergency Responder [cisco.com] that adds on to the Cisco Call Manager Infrastructure and can do intelligent E911 routing. If someone picks their phone up and moves to another office (happens all of the time with real estate agents) the Emergency Responder figures out where they are and intelligently routes their 911 calls appropriately. It can also send you emails or automatically call your building's security team when someone places a 911 call. It's just a matter of time before someone conquers this in the residential VoIP arena.

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