POTS is dead, it’s just being kept on life support by the SBC’s, AT&T’s and BellSouths of the world until they figure out how to extend their monopoly rents up the IP stack past the wire.
This is in a blog entry about John Robb’s essay that proposes that parallel communications networks for first responders may spread as more general wireless networks, thus subverting the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) gerontocracy. John Robb is no stranger to networks, having spent some years as COO of a successful network monitoring fim. He is normally so realistic in using network science to explain terrorist activities that he may appear the be the most Casandra of pessimists, so it was a little surprising when I earlier encountered his prediction.
I hope John Robb turns out to be right, but there are two problems with his prediction:
- There’s still the backhaul problem. Brewster Kahl has been recommending for several years now a variant on the same solution Robb proposes, but the problem no one has found a business model for is how do you interconnect the municipal area networks to each other without going through a wide area network that is controled by one of the same companies that is also an ILEC? Or, alternatively, how do you feed enough money back to some other backhaul network to make it worth its while to interconnect, while still keeping access low at the user’s end?
- There’s the problem Howell points out, that even given a working municipal network in New Orleans, that sprung up because the ILEC, BellSouth, couldn’t manage to get even its POTS service back up in a timely manner, and didn’t offer a wireless service; even for New Orleans, the local state legislature seems likely to vote to take down the municipal wireless. In other words, how do even separate municipal wireless networks survive when the ILECs have a lock on politics? This is a market demand, and the company that can implement a business model that makes a profit as one of several national and international scale interconnectors for municipal, county, and other disparate and distributed local wireless and wired IP networks will win big.
One of Howells’ readers has taken him to task for thinking wireless is robust enough to replace POTS. Remembering what happened in NYC at 9/11, I’m not impressed: the Internet was what continued to work while the POTS network was overloaded and basically nonfunctional. Plus New Orleans, where once again the POTS network was knocked out by Hurricane Katrina, and wireless Internet was faster to spread afterwards even though there was no municipal wireless infrastructure before. Besides, all of the big telcos are moving everything beyond the first mile to IP, and as Howells points out in a comment, IP isn’t just wireless.
IP can be decentralized in ways that POTS cannot. Decentralization is good risk management. This is a market demand, and the company that can implement a business model that makes a profit as one of several national and international scale interconnectors for municipal, county, and other disparate and distributed local wireless and wired IP networks will win big. The question isn’t whether to do what’s profitable or what is right; the question is how to make what’s right profitable.