Alexandria Online


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Internet: Property of Bell Telephone

Although Bell Telephone was broken up over thirty years ago, we cannot escape its legacy. It worked brilliantly for a long time because it was one giant network using all the same technology and design. Here is a relic straight from my own kitchen that still works.

My grandmother's phone.

Yes, you can still dial someone up on that rotary phone. My kids' friends love to. But check out the bottom:
Written on the bottom of my grandmother's phone
Back in the day we paid for our phone line and then we rented the actual equipment in the house. You youngsters probably don't remember those days. (Paid extra for insurance against damage by roaming dinosaurs too.) If you wanted to move your phone to another room you couldn't do it yourself - had to call Bell Telephone and have a technician come out. After all, it was a piece of equipment on their network even though it was inside your house.

Then came the break up of Bell in 1982. My parents bought this phone from the Bell system on 7/25/83, as you can see below:

Sold to the consumer after the breakup of Bell

Now jump to the Fall of 2014. Episcopal has a fiber optic connection to the internet provided by Sunesys to carry our data, but our voice and backup data line goes over an old-fashioned copper cable carrying two T1 connections.

During construction of the new campus, that copper line was damaged and water leaked in. The cable is rotting, but as long as Verizon can find a good pair of wires that connect they have fulfilled their legal obligation to provide us with phone service.

After a lot of pushing and prodding, we got an additional fiber optic cable. But with no help from Verizon. Our vendor is a Philadelphia company called Digital Speed. I will try to describe clearly how this works

Digital Speed bills us, but actually a company called Windstream carries our phone service and bills Digital Speed. Windstream relies on Verizon to carry our service over the telephone poles, but Verizon must collaborate with XO to get the signal onto campus.

One day a guy from XO shows up in my telecom closet; the next day a guy from Verizon shows up. But when I want to talk to someone, I call Digital Speed.

Nor do I exaggerate when I say they just show up. We had about 24 hours notice that a company was coming to campus to get started on the project of pulling a fiber optic cable from the street to replace the copper cable. Three trucks showed up and drove into the middle of campus. We carefully shepherded them across the campus green, watching out for kids throwing frisbees.

But these guys were just the duct pullers. Verizon subcontracts the job of running innerduct through the ground. The slippery sleeve, called Maxcell, protects the actual fiber optic cable and makes it easier to pull through.

Then Verizon popped in with their trucks to open up the man holes again and pull the cable. Not much warning then either. The XO people called me to ask where to park; I had no idea they were coming. They installed the equipment in the telecom room that receives the signal. A few days later I noticed the door was open to the telecom room and discovered a stranger in there looking at cabling. The Verizon guy had let himself in with no notice.

Why do these guys feel so free to just walk into my closet? It's their house. It's property of Bell Telephone. This is the mentality of people who work on networks. They think they own the street, the poles on the street, the holes in the ground, the equipment in your closet. Unless they have access to every part of the network, it's not really a network.

The Verizon guy took a key out of his pocket and opened a case containing the equipment that receives the signal from the old copper cable, the T1 lines. He has the key; I don't. Digital Speed had asked me once to reseat the cards in the equipment, but I didn't have access. Why not? Property of Verizon:
Verizon's locked equipment

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