Friday, February 17, 2012

The Cell Phone Follies

When you have elderly parents, you learn the importance of maintaining your landline. There are going to be periods of time when your cell phone is not receiving signal, and when the parental health is spotty, it's good to have a fallback.

The Chez sits on a high cliff overlooking the Smalltownland city park. It's a beautiful view clean to the next county on a clear day, but it presents some technological issues. My parents' ISP insists that they can't provide their ultra high-speed DSL service in that exact spot in the county because of signal problems. Seriously? Cell signal goes in and out; the house overlooks the timeline between the Central and Eastern time zones, and it truly depends on where you are at any given moment which one registers on a phone that adjusts based on location. Oh, and I have AT&T, so if I'm in the driveway and the wind is blowing the correct direction, I have a digital signal. If I'm inside on one end of the house, I have analog signal. If I'm on the other end of the house, I have, you guessed it, NO SIGNAL.

The brain surgeons in our state legislature have introduced a bill to completely deregulate landline service so that the carriers can effectively strand the areas that aren't profitable. These carriers have gone so far as to suggest that cellular and Internet service will pick up the slack. Well, that's just fine and damn dandy, but what about occluded hollers where snow stays on well into May because the hills shade it so effectively? What about the house in the middle of my home county where my best friend's grandparents lived and she got NO service while visiting? Well, it's a business, certain of our elected officials tell us, and we shouldn't infringe on their right to run it as they see fit.

If I'm not getting signal with an iPhone, you'd better believe that there are a lot of people back home who aren't getting any signal with a cell phone. Far be it from the telecom companies to take into consideration the elderly and sick who rely on the stability of landlines to reach police, firefighters, emergency medical services, and their relatives when something goes awry. The irony of this is that we're from the center of the state, where it's neither too hilly nor too flat, but rather something kind of median. If it's that bad in the middle, what's it like at the extremes?

After spending all this money on 9-1-1 enhancements, too, how many times have you called from a cell phone and heard, "9-1-1, what city or county please?" because your cell signal is deflecting off God knows how many towers before it reaches a 9-1-1 operator? That doesn't happen with a landline, especially in an area that has enhanced 9-1-1- the address is pinpointed, even if the caller can't speak. Emergency services are dispatched to the address. What happens if residents in an area are stuck with relying only on cellular service? In short, people will die. I'm paying taxes on my cellular bill to fund this. Hmmm.

I thought about discontinuing my landline service several times over the last few years, but after being unable to reach my sister (who only has cellular service) at critical moments, I've scratched that idea until now. This is a turf war waged by an industry that's upset because its slice of the pie is ever-decreasing in size- and they can take it somewhere else. These are my parents; these are my friends, their parents, grandparents, and children. They shouldn't be dismissed as insignificant.

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