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View Diary: DOJ Dread Exposed: Destruction of AT&T (260 comments)

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  •  Meanwhile: vote with your dollars! (73+ / 0-)

    Telephone switching systems engineer here.  

    Vote with your dollars: unplug from AT&T as far as possible.

    If you run a business with 8 or more outside phone lines plus the need for broadband, you can look into competing local telcos. (CLECs, Competing Local Exchange Carriers).  
    If you're a residence or smaller business, you may not have enough lines to be worthwhile to switch your local service, but you can switch your long distance.  

    What you're looking for is called a "facilities-based carrier" and what you want to avoid is called a "reseller."  A reseller merely rents a big chunk of an AT&T switch and then resells the capacity to its clients.  A facilities-based carrier owns its own switch, so it's not renting from AT&T.  

    Also unhook from AT&T Comcast cable TV (switch to satellite), and unhook from AT&T Yahoo internet services (get a local ISP).  

    None of this will make you safe from surveillance.  It will however take money out of AT&T's pocket.  And if, when you make the changes, you let AT&T know why you're doing it, they may get the message that it's time to stop being an enabler to Bush's surveillance binge.  

    BTW, I've moved a bunch of my clients off AT&T and onto competing carriers this year.  The one we're doing next will deprive AT&T of about $15,000 a year in revenues, and the one after that, about $22,000.  So far this year I think I've cost AT&T about a quarter million bucks in lost customers, and rising.  This may not be much by multi-gazillion-dollar corporate standards, but it's probably big enough to get their attention.  


    Know what?  I miss the old Ma Bell.  I miss a unified regulated communications utility that was content-neutral and that was basically managed by engineers who cared about the quality of the network itself rather than about trying to push media content at you.  

    It stinks that the new AT&T is a shadow of its former glory.  It stinks that Western Electric is long dead, and that Bell Labs is also a shadow of its former self.  We have lost what used to be called "the world's best telephone service" and the world's leading private-sector science institution, and gained an entertainment conglomerate in its place, and that's downright tragic.  It's as if we've traded Leonardo daVinci for Mickey Mouse.  

    •  My Dad would so agree with you. (20+ / 0-)

      He worked for 35 years at Michigan Bell, in one of those now-nonexistent good union jobs.  He worked inside the exchange office, troubleshooting equipment problems and making sure the system worked for you, the customer.  He was proud of the good solid Western Electric phones that lasted forever (I still have one, my token plug-in-the-wall phone for when the power goes out.)

      The cheap phones made in China somehow aren't quite the same; neither is the service, the employee benefits, etc etc etc.  (Sigh.)

      •  Those old phones were so sturdy... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        highacidity, Freakinout daily could use the reciever to knock out an intruder.

        Try that with modern phones, they just laugh at you.

        If class war is being waged in America, my class is clearly winning... - Warren Buffett

        by dj angst on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 10:23:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  the switch techs were the high priests... (0+ / 0-)

        ...of the local operating companies.  These were the people that the average subscriber never knew existed because they kept the system working almost flawlessly all the time.  

        And another thing.  Those electromechanical switches, the Strowger or step-by-step system, and the Crossbar system, were immune to broad-spectrum surveillance.  To place a wiretap, you had to make physical connections to the switching machine, laboriously and by hand.  It's only been since the advent of stored-program-control, the #1ESS and its subsequent generations unto this day, that the "vacuum cleaner" approach to surveillance has been possible.  

        BTW about the old phones: Yes, and I have examples of those going back to the 1920s.  The sound quality, even on the mid-1930s model, is better than a modern cellphone.  

        How much we've lost....

    •  Question... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JuliaAnn, arkdem, martini, greenearth

      I own a small multi-unit building (3 units, owner occupied).

      Can I forbid Verizon from attaching their wires to the house at all? Am I required to do business with a criminal entity?

      One tenant has hardwired phone service; the other and myself use cell phones from other providers. I'd be willing to subsidize the difference (via a rent reduction) for the tenant that currently uses Verizon.

      •  Look into getting a T-1 line (5+ / 0-)

        Your building might be too small to make it financially viable, but if you can get a T-1 line into the building, you can provide high-speed internet service and phone service as an incentive for your tenants. For a somewhat larger building, 5 to ten units, it may well make sense.

        Over here, T-1s go for around $500/month. Split it by 3 and keep in mind that it would replace not just the phone, but also the DSL or Cable modem that your tenants may have, and it might just be feasible.

        A few things to be aware: A T-1 is high-speed Internet, but slower than DSL or Cable. The cost is higher because T-1s are designed to be rock solid. Some providers will refund you a whole month if the service goes out for just a few seconds. Also, unlike DSL and Cable, T-1 is available pretty much everywhere, even in rural areas.

        Also, a T-1 usually ultimately comes from your phone company, so you may end up still doing business with Verizon. Do your research.

        Army 1st Lt. Ehren T. Watada, Lt. Cdr USN Matthew Diaz, SPC Eli Israel: true American heroes.

        by sdgeek on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 08:44:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  no, you can't (7+ / 0-)

        Anymore than you can prevent your tenants watching Fox.  

        Believe me there is a very short step from you doing that, to the righties doing it in the other direction but worse.  Then you would see buildings popping up where all of the stuff the tenants had access to was going through non-content-neutral carriers, and dissident media such as this very site, were either unobtainable or were throttled down so slow that no one would wait for the pages to load.  

        What you can do, is get hold of some advertising & sales material from competing carriers and leave it in a place where everyone will see it.  

        And you could, in a larger building, set up a PBX to provide landline service at a discount compared to AT&T rates.  So you could say, "your rent includes basic telephone service, voicemail, and internet; you can arrange for long distance on this service, or you can get (whoever) to bring in your lines, either way is OK..." and the simple factor of a competitve market will work on its own.  

        Aside from which, you don't want to get stuck in a situation where someone needs AT&T (or verizon or whoever) and you won't let them have it.  That makes you out to look like the badguy.  

        As I said, I've cost AT&T a bundle this year in lost customers just because I can direct my clients to another carrier that does a better job meeting their needs and does it at a better price.  The choice is ultimately theirs, but so far, it's worked against AT&T in every case but one that I can think of.  

        •  Well... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          That's not a very exact analogy -- I'd not be denying my tenants access to the content of their choice, merely disallowing a particular common carrier.

          But the point is taken; I'd be pissed off if my landlord prevented me from doing business with the company of my choice.

          Oh well.

    •  More suggestions (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Black Max, martini, bleeding heart

      First of all, you need to state whether you are talking about the original AT&T (which no longer exists), or the SBC/Cingular that bought the brand name AT&T. These are two completely separate companies.

      That also means that you may not be able to switch away from AT&T on the local level if you need a land line. But you can replace your local phone service with a cell phone.

      Also, don't get DSL. No matter from whom you buy it, it's always resold from your local carrier - usually, AT&T.

      Unfortunately, as G2geek pointed out, Comcast is also poisoned, so you may not have many options when it comes to Internet.

      Local ISPs aren't going to be much help. They either resell (poisoned) DSL, or they are dial-up, which most people today don't consider acceptable. Plus, dial-up requires a local phone line from guess who.

      If you have unpoisoned high-speed Internet, you can go with Skype, Vonage or the like to replace home phone service, or you can get phone service from your cable company.

      So: switch your cell phone to T-Mobile (which unfortunately shares parts of the network with AT&T/Cingular). Don't switch to Verizon, since they have been implicated in the spying as well. I'm not sure about Sprint. If you want Sprint and are pro-union, take a look at I'm not affiliated with them.

      Army 1st Lt. Ehren T. Watada, Lt. Cdr USN Matthew Diaz, SPC Eli Israel: true American heroes.

      by sdgeek on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 08:38:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A question (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        How does one obtain "unpoisoned high-speed internet"?

        One can go to a dish for TV, stick with rabbit ears or go without.

        One can obtain a cell phone to bypass AT&T.

        But that pesky internet . . . how?

        "You can count on Americans to do the right thing after they've tried everything else." -- Winston Churchill

        by bleeding heart on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 08:53:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Unpoisoned high speed Internet (4+ / 0-)

          depends on what you have available. Sometimes, cable modem can be independent of AT&T. For instance, Cox Cable.

          Of course, you never know whom they peer with on the back end. Very likely, at some point, Internet traffic will go through AT&T's equipment. So you can't completely help it.

          Same thing with phone calls, of course.

          Army 1st Lt. Ehren T. Watada, Lt. Cdr USN Matthew Diaz, SPC Eli Israel: true American heroes.

          by sdgeek on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 11:54:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not sure that's true, about DSL, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bara, G2geek
        at least not universally.

        Covad claims to own and operate their network:

        Would love to learn other facts, if this is somehow a cover for AT&T.

        •  They do, but the last mile is regular copper (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bara, G2geek, Coherent Viewpoint

          owned by the local phone company. Which often is SBC aka AT&T

          Army 1st Lt. Ehren T. Watada, Lt. Cdr USN Matthew Diaz, SPC Eli Israel: true American heroes.

          by sdgeek on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 11:52:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Perhaps local communities (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek, sdgeek

            need to not grant exclusive rights-of-way to monopolies anymore. The utility poles generally occupy public land, and hence should be reasonably open to competition.

            Of course the FCC, telco lapdogs that they are, will disagree. Fuck them; the Communications Act of 1934 that created them was geared solely toward regulation of the RF spectrum. Subsequent expansion - absent a reauthorization by Congress of the entire Act is invalid IMO.

            Of course I'm not a judge; I'm too rational to hold such and office.

            •  That monopoly is here to stay (0+ / 0-)

              because it is plain not practical to have each competitor string its own wire and put up its own poles. Just as it is not practical to run ten electric cables (with their associated poles, or street digging), ten water or sewer lines, and so on.

              One could argue that the last mile should possibly be a public utility like power and water are in many places.

              Army 1st Lt. Ehren T. Watada, Lt. Cdr USN Matthew Diaz, SPC Eli Israel: true American heroes.

              by sdgeek on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 07:20:52 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  danger: no 911 service on some of those... (5+ / 0-)

        Skype and Vonage, for example.  

        You can't dial 911 in an emergency.  

        There are few things in life as terrifying as having a life/death emergency, dialing 911, and discovering that the call will not go through.  

        Vonage used to be pretty shitty in the sound quality department.  A few years ago I installed a PBX for a client to replace a bank of Vonage lines.  However they have gotten better, and at this point they're acceptable.  Except you still need another landline to dial 911.  

        Do not use XO Communications if you need fax or dialup modem for any reason.  I use dialups to the remote programming ports on our clients' PBXs, and the ones who are on XO (or Allegiance, which was bought out by XO) simply cannot connect.  The voice quality is OK, but modems do not connect.  

        As for T1, actually it's faster than DSL but it slows down when it's shared.  

        Ohboy I could go on for ten pages about T1, split T1, split PRI, dynamic split PRI, and all the rest of it.  

        Know what?  I still use dial phones at home.  My home office extension number rings on a 1930s era English dial phone.  And for y'all fellow phone geex out there, I'm designing a 1a2-ish thing that will use 1a2 keyphones, operate purely on central office battery, and not require any AC mains power.  This because even though the latest home office PBXs use relatively little power, every watt counts when added up over a year, and I expect to be on offgrid power in a year or two unless/until we can get a wind farm or nuclear reactor built in the area where my group is buying land.  Last but not least, I'm also designing manual cord switchboards for use after the proverbial shit hits the fan.  "Number please?":-)

        •  Aside, offgrid... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Anna M, Coherent Viewpoint

          Have you read the Earthseed stories by Octavia Butler?  She does a nifty job describing an offgrid community in a post-smashed-up Los Angeles near future.  Uh, the community is well north of LA, possibly Oregon.

          •  not that one but... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ...plenty of other stuff.  My group & I have been doing our research in excruticting depth & detail, our skills list is impressive as hell, we are actually very well prepared for all of this.  I could write a whole series of diaries on the subject, and will when we get our first 100+ acre parcel of land and the permits approved to start building (that's the threshold of skepticism for most observers: "do they have land and permits?", so I can wait until we've gotten to that point, and then start publishing).  

            If you're interested in learning more about what we're doing, post your email address in spamproof format here (e.g. instead of "," it might be "bobkangaroo at domaincrows dot com, remove the marsupial and the birdies") and I'll get in touch.  

        •  Vonage does have 911 (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bara, G2geek, Coherent Viewpoint

          They had to implement it by federal law. The only catch is that if you move the equipment to a different location, you have to register the new location so that the 911 database can be updated.

          T-1 is, by definition, always 1.5 MBit per second, or 24 telephone channels, or any combination of it (it can be split into 12 telephony channels and 768 MBit/s, for instance, or 8 phone lines and 1 MBit/s, or in most cases, even change the allocation as phone calls are made). T-1 is always symmetric, same speed for download and upload.

          You can get DSL up to something like 6 MBit/s download by now, and Cable even faster. The upload speed is usually no more than 1 MBit/s, though.

          When you say "slows down when it's shared" you may be thinking of Cable. That's largely a thing of the past, though.

          T-1s are never shared.

          Oh, and if you rely on the central office "battery", you aren't truly off grid.

          Army 1st Lt. Ehren T. Watada, Lt. Cdr USN Matthew Diaz, SPC Eli Israel: true American heroes.

          by sdgeek on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 12:00:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yes and no.... (0+ / 0-)

            You're right about Vonage; my mistake.  OTOH it's also "local battery service" which means, when there's a power failure, your phone stops working.

            Re. CO battery & offgrid:  Oh my, split hairs shall we, eh?:-)  Strictly speaking, analog dialtone always comes with central battery, so any talking or signaling function you can support with it is legitimate.  And a latching hold relay that operates on CO power is also legit because that's part of the talking function (keeping the line held so the conversation can continue from another station).  If I was parasitizing CO battery to run unrelated items such as an LED desk lamp, that would be a no-no, for other reasons.  

            In any case I'm not an ideologue about offgrid power.  I'll gladly hook up to the grid if it's available where we are.  That way we can also feed surplus power back to the grid, putting more renewables into the mix at least for the neighbors.  And I'll even-more-gladly hook into the grid if it's climate-clean, e.g. wind, solar, nuclear.   If we're totally offgrid it'll be due to pragmatic necessity, i.e. the grid not reaching our property, or if everything collapses faster than anticipated.  

            (Next day: I forgot to post this last night, oh well anyway..:-)

      •  Sprint so far is ok (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lurks a lot

        I asked them a legal question about their compliance to the privacy laws (I've posted above on this), and got the right answer from their legal department.  That was about 1 year ago, and I haven't checked since.  QWest is also ok.

        •  Peering could still be a problem (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          with any carrier. No carrier handles all traffic internally, they all hand it off to each other. Even when you have a Sprint customer in New York talking to a Sprint customer in Los Angeles, in between it may well run through AT&T equipment.

          But I agree with you that we just have to do what we can.

          Army 1st Lt. Ehren T. Watada, Lt. Cdr USN Matthew Diaz, SPC Eli Israel: true American heroes.

          by sdgeek on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 07:23:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  As soon as my cell phone contract... (0+ / 0-) up, I'm getting rid of AT&T. It was Cingular, but now that they are owned by AT&T, I'm gone.

      The sleep of reason produces monsters.

      by Alumbrados on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 09:00:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you! Also, TMobile is ok, right? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Coherent Viewpoint

      At least, when I was researching them & moving away from AT&T, TMobile seemed to be a completely separate company, and bonus, staffed with nice, helpful people.

    •  Meanwhile: Make This Into A Diary (0+ / 0-)

      Your suggestions are excellent!

      Please consider making a diary out of this and galvanizing the site towards action.

    •  Wrong solution to the right problem... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bara, Bensdad, Coherent Viewpoint

      Also unhook from AT&T Comcast cable TV (switch to satellite), and unhook from AT&T Yahoo internet services (get a local ISP).

      Unfortunately, while that may put a dent in AT&T, it isn't going to do a lot for overall privacy, as I still suspect that other ISPs/Telcos have similar mechanisms in place (or use AT&T backbones at some point).

      Instead, we should be focusing on ways to make Internet and VoIP activity "snoop-proof". Mandatory use of strong-encryption and open-source client software that's undergone multiple third-party security audits. Use of anonymizers and other routing platforms to thwart the use of traffic and social-network analysis (which is based on the premise that even if I can't read your mail or phone calls, knowing who you call, when and how often is still a valuable source of information). And alternative communication infrastructures such as WiFi/WiMAX mesh networking, possibly ran as local co-ops.

      These days, it's not enough to assume that the Internet is simply "untrusted", but in fact openly and aggressively hostile. And not just by spammers, phishers and the like...

    •  There ARE no competing careers (0+ / 0-)
      for an individual in the Cleveland area. I loathe AT&T. A few years back, I had it with them and switched to SBC. Everything was fine for two years -- and then SBC was absorbed by AT&T. All my problems started again. I hate this company.

      We're retiring Steve LaTourette (R-Family Values for You But Not for Me) and sending Judge Bill O'Neill to Congress from Ohio-14:

      by anastasia p on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 01:09:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry, should have been "carriers" n/t (0+ / 0-)

        We're retiring Steve LaTourette (R-Family Values for You But Not for Me) and sending Judge Bill O'Neill to Congress from Ohio-14:

        by anastasia p on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 01:10:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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