Other Talk "Otterville" plus Religion/Politics

Ditching a land-line for a cell phone?

Old 08-12-05, 10:11 AM
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Ditching a land-line for a cell phone?

First of all, is it true that owning and paying a cell phone bill will work towards a credit rating? I've been told this by a few people and it seems to be my primary reason for wanting one at the moment as I don't use the phone often. Are there benefits to keeping a land-line? It seems like I can get a cell phone plan for just as much a month and can just look to cable for broadband internet.
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Old 08-12-05, 10:14 AM
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There are 3 reasons I wouldn't ditch my landline:

1. 911
2. Phone reception (cell phones don't work well in my apt).
3. Tivo -- I'd hate to buy equip to set up a wireless network instead of using my phone.
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Old 08-12-05, 10:14 AM
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First of all, is it true that owning and paying a cell phone bill will work towards a credit rating? - Yes

Are there benefits to keeping a land-line? - Yes, cell phones can run out of battery life if your power goes out and a land-line will still work dur to the low voltage current running through the line. 911 services.


It seems like I can get a cell phone plan for just as much a month and can just look to cable for broadband internet. - Yep
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Old 08-12-05, 10:25 AM
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I won't ditch my landline because I don't want to have to carry a cell from room to room all the time. Also, since my internet is DSL I use my landline for that.
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Old 08-12-05, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by DodgingCars
There are 3 reasons I wouldn't ditch my landline:

1. 911
But cell phones can dial 911 too.
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Old 08-12-05, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by criptik28
But cell phones can dial 911 too.

true - but you can trace a land-line.....
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Old 08-12-05, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by criptik28
But cell phones can dial 911 too.
It's not the same 911. You don't get your local police department.
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Old 08-12-05, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Minor Threat
true - but you can trace a land-line.....
Newer cell phones have GPS built into them. They can pin-point your location if you make a 911 call. I've had to use it...

I haven't had a land-line phone, well ever since I've been on my own. I see no need for it. I don't use the phone much so I don't need both. Why pay for a phone that can only be used in one place.
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Old 08-12-05, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by DodgingCars
It's not the same 911. You don't get your local police department.


I've contacted 911 from my cell several times and have always been directly connected to the local PD.
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Old 08-12-05, 10:39 AM
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I seem to recall a recent news story about a 911-call from a cell phone that went awry, and somebody got killed. Anybody know the details?
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Old 08-12-05, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Deftones


I've contacted 911 from my cell several times and have always been directly connected to the local PD.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I assumed cell phones had the same problem as VOIP.

Edit: After reading more, it doesn't appear the have the same problem, however, I still wonder what happens when you call 911 with a cell. I was near the border of 2 cities when I witnessed a pretty bad car accident. I called 911 and didn't actually know what city I was in. I just remember it didn't sound like I had either Torrance or Gardena PD (the 2 cities) when I called.

However, I used to live somewhere, where if I called 911 from home, I had to be transferred. For some reason our 911 would give us the Gardena PD call center when we were actually under LAPD jurisdiction.

Last edited by DodgingCars; 08-12-05 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 08-12-05, 10:43 AM
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911 calls:
More trouble ahead?

If you bought a cell phone because you thought you could count on it for emergency calls to 911, think again. Seven years ago the Federal Communications Commission ordered the creation of the so-called wireless Enhanced 911 system (E911). But it’s still not clear that this expensive, technologically challenging project will ever be completed--let alone finished by the FCC’s November 2005 deadline.

There is some progress. As of October 2003, 18 percent of the nation’s estimated 6,000 emergency call centers reported that they had the most up-to-date wireless E911 systems, with the capability to locate wireless callers. That’s up from8 percent a year earlier. After several well-publicized tragedies, including the case of four New York City teenagers who drowned after rescuers couldn’t trace the cell-phone call they made from their floundering dinghy, House and Senate legislators introduced bills authorizing hundreds of millions of dollars to help local public safety agencies buy the equipment needed for wireless E911.

But 35 percent of the call centers still haven’t reached the first phase of wireless E911--the ability to display the number of an incoming cell-phone call and the location of the tower to which it’s connected.

A November 2003 U.S. General Accounting Office report on wireless E911 predicted “piecemeal availability of this service across the country for an indefinite number of years to come.”

Furthermore, the FCC has done nothing to resolve a related problem: uncooperative phone networks and phones that don’t take full advantage of the available signals to put through a 911 voice call.
e911: why so hard?

“A lot of consumers assume that a 911 call from a cell phone is just as accurate as from a landline phone,” says Gregory Rohde, executive director of the E9-1-1 Institute, a nonprofit organization established to support the Congressional E-911 Caucus, a House-Senate group promoting the development of the E911 system. “It comes as a surprise to them that it is not.”

Cell-phone users learn the realities of 911 calling the hard way. As we reported in February 2003, 15 percent of the 1,880 subscribers we surveyed who dialed 911 had trouble connecting, and 4 percent never got through at all.

Because landline phones by definition are installed in fixed physical locations, the vast majority of 911 call centers have long had “enhanced” service, which automatically displays the phone number and street address of any call. But the same technology won’t work for cell phones. Indeed, equipping the wireless networks to pinpoint the location of callers has turned out to be a monumental task involving several layers of government, local phone companies, and carriers. Here’s what those players have accomplished so far:

Carriers. They seem to be the farthest along. But they’ve chosen two different technologies to locate callers.

Verizon, Sprint, and Nextel offer handsets with the ability to locate you by using global positioning system satellites. AT&T, Cingular, and T-Mobile triangulate a location from the strength and timing of signals from nearby cell-phone towers.

If you have a GPS handset and you are calling on a triangulation system, that system may be able to find you. But the reverse isn’t true: a non-GPS handset connected to a GPS-using system can’t be located. Both systems are designed to deliver latitude and longitude coordinates to the emergency call center; the centers don’t need duplicate systems to handle all the calls.

Both systems have shortcomings, according to the experts we consulted. The GPS systems work accurately when at least three GPS satellites can “see” the handset. But anything that blocks the line of sight, such as tall buildings or heavy vegetation, can keep the GPS signal from reaching the handset.

Triangulation systems also work fine with multiple towers. Accuracy diminishes with few towers available. “There are plenty of places where cell sites are so spread out you can barely hit one,” says Steven Marzolf, E911 coordinator for Virginia and president of the National Association of State 911 Administrators.

Even the best systems don’t match the accuracy of landline E911. “The best the FCC expects with a GPS solution is an accuracy to within 50 meters at least two-thirds of the time,” Marzolf says. “There are places in Richmond where that radius could put you inside of any one of five high-rise buildings.”

Call centers. These government offices, often little more than a few operators inside a local police station, must install sophisticated equipment to receive the location information from the wireless carrier and display it in a usable form. Small centers can expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the equipment; large centers, hundreds of thousands.

A few states, including Indiana, Vermont, and Virginia, have rolled out wireless E911 to all or most of their territory by providing money and centralized technical help to the call centers. In other states, the call centers have been left to do the job themselves; those places are typically lagging behind, according to the GAO report.

Some states have collected E911 funds, through a surcharge on customer bills, but then raided them for other purposes. In New York State, a 2002 audit found that some of the tens of millions of dollars collected each year had gone for expenses such as state-police body armor and flight-safety training, even as local call centers delayed E911 for lack of funds.

Local phone companies. Deploying wireless E911 requires upgrading the local landline system to become an intermediary between the cell-phone carrier and the 911 call center. In some areas, disputes over who should pay for these upgrades have delayed wireless E911.

The federal government. The FCC has created the E911 Coordination Initiative to help solve problems and mediate squabbles. But the agency has yet to address a more fundamental issue: improving your ability to reach 911 from a wireless phone in the first place.


Why you may never reach 911

Neither GPS tracking nor tower triangulation will guarantee that your cell-phone call to 911 will get through. Part of the problem--as we documented in our own tests last year--is lack of service, either because there are no cell towers nearby or because your service is incompatible with the service in the area through which you’re passing. “If you can’t call your grandmother, you can’t call 911,” says Marzolf.

Another problem is “lock-in,” which arises because your cell phone is programmed to preferentially seek out the signal from the home carrier even if another carrier’s signal is stronger.

Phones that have both digital and analog capability are required by the FCC to abandon the home carrier’s signal in favor of another if they can’t get through while in the analog mode on a 911 call. However, the FCC no longer requires carriers to provide an analog signal, and the agency has not updated its emergency-calling rules to cover digital-only phones. In fact, in response to a class-action lawsuit over the emergency-calling issue, carriers are challenging some parts of the FCC’s existing rule on wireless 911 calls.

Requiring companies to make their digital technologies talk with one another--as CU has advocated--would help ensure that when someone dials 911, the phone would quickly switch to whatever usable signal is available to make the connection.

http://www.consumerreports.org/main/content/display_report.jsp?WebLogicSession=QvzELMwZiYrMMcn9mJyp9zZ1B1PhiduOIe1OU1UFeeJ6jCBRa9yL|-3895762684307218403/169937902/6/7005/7005/7002/7002/7005/-1|-7049831673023001615/169937913/6/7005/7005/7002/7002/7005/-1&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=378647&bmUID=1123861548759
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Old 08-12-05, 10:48 AM
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VOIP and 911:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2106424/

This Is an Emergency
911 is a joke for VoIP customers.
By Ben Smith
Posted Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2004, at 3:00 PM PT

When I called 911 one recent evening to report a mugging, I expected one of those fast-talking emergency operators. Instead, I got a lecture.

"Hello," a woman said.

"Hello," I said. "Is this 911?"

"No," she said.

After some prodding, she revealed that she did work for the New York Police Department. "911 is near here," she added unhelpfully.

Before I could report the mugging, the officer had her own report to make. "Is your carrier Vonage? Someone needs to make a complaint about them," she said. "I'm not an emergency operator. If you was to become unconscious, I don't have your address. This isn't good."

I've been a happy Vonage subscriber for a bit under a year now. Vonage is the leading American provider of Internet telephone service (also known as Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP). The base of my phone, a standard cordless model, plugs into a featureless black box, which in turn plugs into my modem. That black box turns my voice into packets of data, which are carried over the Internet, then linked back into the regular telephone system. I pay $15 a month, down from the more than $40 I was paying Verizon. Plus, I can plug in my black box when I travel, allowing me to make and receive local New York calls if I'm in Texas or Latvia.

Verizon still beats Vonage in an emergency, though. When you dial the magic three digits from a standard land line, your call travels to a local switching station, then bounces to a dedicated network reserved only for 911 calls. This special emergency circuit also links the call to the "Automatic Number Identification/Automatic Location Identification" database of phone numbers, names, and addresses. Plugging VoIP into this system isn't easy.

While land-line 911 calls travel on the copper wire that makes up your local phone system, a Vonage call starts online. VoIP calls enter the phone system through a local gateway that converts digital packets of sound into the analog signals that make up a typical phone call. If police responding to a VoIP 911 call tried to link the gateway's phone number to a physical address, they wouldn't find an emergency, just a room full of humming servers plugged into telephone lines.

VoIP companies have come up with a solution to the gateway problem. Vonage has figured out how to program its servers to attach caller ID to outgoing calls—my calls, for example, show my 718 area code and phone number. But that only works if I don't take my black box to Texas or Latvia.

At this point, creating functional 911 service means sacrificing one of the most attractive features that Vonage and the other inexpensive VoIP providers offer: portability. Phone and cable giants like MCI and Time Warner Cable that have recently jumped on the VoIP bandwagon have made 911 work by restricting their service to home use. MCI, for one, provides emergency call centers the phone numbers of its VoIP customers along with the assurance that they won't move their phones around the country or around the world. But without that portability, VoIP is pretty pointless—nothing more than a (slightly) cheaper version of regular telephone service.

The VoIP providers that allow portability, like Vonage and AT&T's CallVantage, are relying on a stop-gap solution. After I plugged in my black box, I logged on to Vonage's Web site and entered my address in an online form. When I dialed 911, Vonage used my address to search a database of call-center numbers maintained by a Colorado company called Intrado. During a short pause on my end of the line, Vonage translated "911" into the 10-digit number for a Brooklyn call center that Intrado identified as closest to my house.

This system has run into problems, comical and scary, around the country. The worst arrive when customers take their black boxes on the road. Recently, puzzled Nashville, Tenn., emergency operators struggled to find a caller's address—until they realized that they were responding to an emergency in Texas. The call-center solution is also fallible because it counts on individual public-safety agencies to provide 10-digit numbers. Some pass on numbers that lead to administrative lines, like the one I got. Some provide numbers that are answered only during business hours; at other times, callers get a message telling them to dial 911.

Unfortunately, the 911 call centers—aware that Vonage can't reliably tell them what address I'm calling from—have been reluctant to integrate VoIP numbers into their ANI/ALI databases. They've also been loath to share the secret, direct numbers for their emergency call centers, rather than administrative lines like the one I was given. Plus, their old-line computers can't read the digital information about my address that Vonage is capable of sending.

The VoIP/911 problem isn't totally insoluble, though. Legislation could be passed to force VoIP providers and local telephone companies to enter VoIP numbers into local address databases and/or to force emergency call centers to share their secret, direct numbers with VoIP providers. Consumers, however, would still have the burden of passing on their location every time they took their phone to a new city, even for a weekend. Alternately, emergency call centers could upgrade their computers so they can process the digital information that travels with VoIP calls—everything ranging from a caller's address to his medical records. But emergency call centers are local institutions, and either of these imperfect solutions would require the kind of national standardization that it's hard to imagine without federal carrots and sticks.

Meanwhile, a Florida company, VoIP Inc., is touting a self-consciously low-tech solution to the problem. It's a gizmo that links your VoIP phone to your old, unused land line (if you have one), which local phone companies are supposed to maintain for emergency use. I hadn't gone that low-tech the night I called 911. But the operator and I did rely on an old-fashioned method of pinpointing my location. "We're near Macy's," she told me. "Are you near Macy's?"
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Old 08-12-05, 11:19 AM
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Well, like I said, I don't use my phone often.. so battery life and carrying it around the apartment don't bother me. Credit, good, good. I need to get SOMETHING on my credit report. The 911 thing, hmm.. good thing to think about. Thanks for the replies. I think I may get a cell phone this weekend if only to get the credit rolling and decide whether or not having 911 is worth the extra $20-$30 a land-line will cost.
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Old 08-12-05, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by PixyJunket
Well, like I said, I don't use my phone often.. so battery life and carrying it around the apartment don't bother me. Credit, good, good. I need to get SOMETHING on my credit report. The 911 thing, hmm.. good thing to think about. Thanks for the replies. I think I may get a cell phone this weekend if only to get the credit rolling and decide whether or not having 911 is worth the extra $20-$30 a land-line will cost.
You can try calling the provider and ask them about 911 calling. If there is an office # for your police dept, you might even call them and ask about 911 calls coming from a cell phone and how they're handled.
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Old 08-12-05, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by DodgingCars
You can try calling the provider and ask them about 911 calling. If there is an office # for your police dept, you might even call them and ask about 911 calls coming from a cell phone and how they're handled.
That's exactly what I had going on in the gears of my mind!
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Old 08-12-05, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by DodgingCars
1. 911
-All Sprint phone have GPS in them for the E911 functionality. They have been like this for the last 2 years.
-All GSM carriers (Cingular, some of Verizon I think) have E911 location capability built into the network itself, using triangulation and distance from towers, sort of thing. GSM has this more or less built into the system anyway, for digital phones.

By the end of 2005, the FCC is requiring E911 Phase II to be implemented for all wireless carriers, which basically means that 95% of all subscribers must be locatable to within 50-300 meters. They have granted a few waivers for slight delays, but they're being pretty hardassed about it.

Now, admittedly, the call centers are being upgraded much slower than the cell phone networks themselves are. Which will eventually be remedied. Also, that article you posted only refers to 2003. I know a lot of progress has been done since then, but don't have any facts or stats on how much.

Also this:
If you have a GPS handset and you are calling on a triangulation system, that system may be able to find you. But the reverse isn’t true: a non-GPS handset connected to a GPS-using system can’t be located.
Doesn't make much sense. Systems that use GPS enabled phones don't generally work with GSM phones anyway. So while it's true that a GPS using system can't find a non-GPS using handset, the odds are that those two won't connect in the first place.

All GSM networks used the triangulation method. It's built into GSM. GSM has gotta know the distance from towers to accurately tell the phone what power levels to use. So it's not like a special case, they just used data that was already there. Other networks, like CDMA or PCS, don't generally have this info readily available, thus their use of GPS enabled handsets.

Originally Posted by DodgingCars
2. Phone reception (cell phones don't work well in my apt).
Agreed, but this is an individual thing. Depends on where you live.

Originally Posted by DodgingCars
3. Tivo -- I'd hate to buy equip to set up a wireless network instead of using my phone.
If you have a series 2 unit, the new Tivo Download functionality that will be introduced in the next several months will require broadband anyway. If you have an older series 1 unit, then yeah, it's a bit of a pain, but with S2 boxes, it's just a matter of attaching a $30 USB dongle.


In any case, I have no landline. Haven't had one for over 2 years. Don't have any need for one. Cell phone works great at my place, and everywhere I go. Cable modem supplies internet, Tivo is hooked to that, don't have any other need for a land line.

Last edited by Otto; 08-12-05 at 11:40 AM.
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Old 08-12-05, 11:38 AM
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I'd go cell-only in a second but I need the landline for my Replay-TVs (at least my older one, which doesn't have broadband) and to buzz people into the building.

I don't use my landline to make calls and I think only my mom and my sister have the number and they almost always call my cell anyhow. I don't even bother getting up to answer the phone because it is always a telemarketer.
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Old 08-12-05, 11:41 AM
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I don't watch TV, so no need for one for a TiVo thing.
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Old 08-12-05, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
I'd go cell-only in a second but I need the landline for my Replay-TVs (at least my older one, which doesn't have broadband) and to buzz people into the building.
My building buzzer thingy works with my cell phone. They just asked for a local number, and when I got my local number cell phone, I gave them that number. Works fine.
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Old 08-12-05, 11:43 AM
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Thanks for the info Otto, you're swaying me to give SBC the middle finger even closer.
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Old 08-12-05, 12:22 PM
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I won't be ditching my landline, because then I wouldn't have any phone (no cell).
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Old 08-12-05, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Minor Threat
First of all, is it true that owning and paying a cell phone bill will work towards a credit rating? - Yes
Can you please explain how this works? I've never heard anything like this before.

One easy way to build credit is to get a credit card and keep a low balance (relative to your limit) that you pay off every month.
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Old 08-12-05, 12:42 PM
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I haven't had a landline for 3 years. Cell phones are much better.
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Old 08-12-05, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Otto
If you have a series 2 unit, the new Tivo Download functionality that will be introduced in the next several months will require broadband anyway. If you have an older series 1 unit, then yeah, it's a bit of a pain, but with S2 boxes, it's just a matter of attaching a $30 USB dongle.
I hadn't heard of the series 2 thing, bit it would cost me more than $30, right? I need one for my tivo and one for my computer and a router, right?

In any case, I have no landline. Haven't had one for over 2 years. Don't have any need for one. Cell phone works great at my place, and everywhere I go. Cable modem supplies internet, Tivo is hooked to that, don't have any other need for a land line.
If I had good reception, I'd consider it.
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