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29. Disappearing Copper: ISDN & POTS Service At Risk   12/13/12 by Dave Immer

US Laws passed in 1913 required telcos to provide “universal service” to anyone requesting a telephone line. These rules have largely fallen away due to the army of lobbyists employed by the telcos and service providers to rewrite the regulations and laws covering telephone access.  Further, the boundaries separating telephone, cable tv and internet service providers have all but disappeared as these entities continue to forge agreements and merge with each other.

As ISDN users (a subset of copper wire users) well know, it has become harder to get ISDN, to repair it and to pay for it. A primary reason for this is that access to the installed copper wires that have delivered reliable circuit-switched telephone service for the last century is being phased out in favor of fiber and coax cable carrying the packet-switched internet – a protocol that is much less expensive to deliver and maintain and therefore much more profitable for the service providers.

A larger issue is the hegemony of the corporations under which our power to protest and influence their service and billing policies is steadily diminishing thanks to lobbyists and the cooperation of lawmakers and the courts. 

But don’t get me wrong; corporations, and their profit motive have been fueling our prosperity for centuries and, properly regulated, are a great benefit to us. But we need to hold these powerful, utility-sized companies to account and demand transparency and disclosure.

There is no disputing that the internet and its ubiquity are tremendously convenient and useful to the majority of those who seek to do research and communicate and conduct commerce with others.  But for live pro-audio ISDN users the disappearance of copper will, for the time being, be a negative side effect of the ascendance of the internet.

Let me know if you have comments about this.                       Thanks,

Dave