Can I keep putting off fiber forever?
June 8, 2022 7:58 AM   Subscribe

ATT keeps trying to get me to agree that I should allow them to ruin my life. Can I keep ignoring them forever?

I have a landline. I like it because I'm in Florida and the power tends to go out for weeks at a time and the copper lines work when the power is out. Plus I just like it. I have a bunch of hilarious old phones including the traditional fifties black one with an actual dial. I like dialing numbers I remember since the 70s on the dial phone and having people I remember since the 70s pick up on the other end and just having a good ol' vintage experience.

Of course ATT wants to yank the copper and force me onto fiber so that all my cool old phones won't work anymore and my life will be ruined every time there's a storm. My current internet is via Uverse through ATT. ATT keeps on telling me that my internet sucks, but my internet's fine. At least it's good enough for me.

How long can I just be obstinate? Can I continue indefinitely to recycle ATT's "you-must-switch" letters, say "Thank you for your call! Goodbye!" to ATT's "you-must-switch" telemarketers, and say "Thank you for reaching out! Goodbye!" to ATT's door-to-door you-must-switch outreach personnel? Will greyrocking them continue to work? Is there anything I can actively do to prevent them from ripping the old wire out? I can't be the Only One in my neighborhood, I figure, because they'd've torn it out already if that were the case.

ATT has already explained to me how much better fiber will make my life, so I don't need additional good news about that. I need any possible ideas on how to:
* avoid VOIP, which blows
* avoid having to charge the cel in a power outage that endures past the 8-hour backup battery you get with the shittyshitty VOIP crap, which also blows, and
* keep my dear old reliable phones working reliably as they've done since 1950-whatever.
posted by Don Pepino to Technology (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have Ooma, which is a VOIP box. It DOES have most of the limitations that you already raised-- it doesn't work if the power is out, but...

The one limitation that it does NOT have is breaking your own phones. I have a number of weird old rotary phones, too, and they all work fine with Ooma.

I'm not sure exactly what AT&T would be rolling out to you, but the key is that your phones are STILL copper on the inside of your house. All fiber does is change them to no longer being copper once they leave your house.

Not a perfect solution, but... you'll most likely be able to use your old old old phones.
posted by gregvr at 8:20 AM on June 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

I would reasonably assume at some point that ATT WILL force a switch on you once the technology becomes so outmoded, stops working, you may be the only one using it in the neighborhood, etc. I would certainly gray rock them until them if I were you and keep your situation as long as possible (I get why you're doing it, makes sense), and as long as they can't force you to buy in and it sounds like so far they haven't been able to, godspeed and good luck. But it's pretty likely that at some point whatever you have going will be ended for you due to tech changes, and they'll no longer need to get your buy-in/cooperation for it. Or might be more of a case of "Your Internet connection will end on 6/2/2023 unless you give up and let us install it."

I'm basing this answer on things we had to discontinue at work because our tech was so outmoded and we were forced to upgrade or lose the service altogether. In one case we just gave up and lost the service altogether and farmed the process out to another office, in the other cases we were forced to upgrade to shittier options because we literally could not get them to service the old database any more. That's kinda how tech goes these days.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:29 AM on June 8, 2022

Best answer: There are gizmos called Analog Telephone Adapters that will let you use your analog phones on VOIP, if you're forced onto it.
posted by humbug at 8:29 AM on June 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hi! I used to work for the blue death star. Different division, but I still know how this works. Good news and bad news. The good news is, most of the calls saying you "must" switch are likely coming from sales people, who are incentivized to switch people from landlines to fiber. They will say all kinds of stuff, most of which is calculated to make the vague unspecified point at which copper may essentially stop working sound more like an imminent thing than the future hypothetical it actually is, without technically lying. They do this because they get paid when you switch. That said, the bad news is, every year more and more people do switch, and the maintenance of those older copper systems falls on fewer and fewer people. So your prices are going to go up, if they haven't already, and to keep going up after that. We're reaching a point where people aren't keeping copper because it's cheaper, they're keeping it because they prefer it, and they're going to be charging more to milk that. Still, they're not going to turn you away from buying the product, though, as long as the infrastructure still exists to provide it. They just may charge more.

I'd say as long as you are happy about what you are getting and what you are paying for it, ignore the shit out of those calls from AT&T, don't agree to anything, don't even engage.

At some point in the future, if/when you have to switch, you can see if you feel better about any of the VOIP products available at that point and/or if cellular can bridge the gap.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:32 AM on June 8, 2022 [8 favorites]

As gregvr notes, you can still use analog phones. Basically the part of the phone system that does analog service moves into your house. It's possible that some very old phones with mechanical bells won't get enough voltage to ring, especially if you have a lot of them, but they will otherwise work fine.

As it's intended to replace landline service, the AT&T box is going to have a battery backup, so it'll still work when the power is out, as long as it's not out longer than the battery lasts. I think by law any landline replacement has to be able to run for 24 hours without power, or at least they have to offer an option for that. Of course you can buy longer battery backups as well.

Eventually they will sunset POTS in your area and you'll need to switch. They will probably offer you all sorts of incentives before that happens so it is "voluntary" but in the end, they're not going to maintain a lot of outmoded infrastructure just for a handful of customers.
posted by kindall at 8:35 AM on June 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a data point, many, many fire alarms, security alarms, and even elevator emergency lines run on POTS and there isn't really a timeline on changing that, so a lot of the "They're going to get rid of copper phone lines!" threats are pretty toothless.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:39 AM on June 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

I went through the same crap with Verizon a few years ago. I got bunches of letters telling me I had to go to fiber, they would "harvest" the copper lines soon, blah,blah.

I finally broke down and called to have a tech survey my new install, he wanted to drop the fiber to the same spot as the copper, but there was no power nearby. He suggested hanging an extension cord across the basement, or install the box on the other side of the basement. Which would involve rewiring all the phones, and digging a trench across the driveway.

I suggested he leave.

I called my internet provider to ask them about phone service. They told me to plug my phone into the jack on the back of the modem, I'd have service. Using the existing wire, I backfed this to the main terminal, all the phones worked just like that.

Bought a UPS for the modem and the router, I have phones and wi-fi during power outages. Never had a problem for three years, then killed it and went full cell.

Should I be shocked Verizon never touched any of the phone lines?
posted by Marky at 9:00 AM on June 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't know who your internet/TV provider is, but my BEAUTIFUL old black, bakelite Lucy phone plugs right into my Xfinity cable modem box and works fine (I think I have to pay an extra $1 per month for analog service to AT&T).
posted by Melismata at 10:35 AM on June 8, 2022

Rotary phones work on my fiber service as well. And if you can plug the modem and router into a UPS then you should be able to make emergency phone calls when the power is out.
posted by terrapin at 11:33 AM on June 8, 2022

Verizon switched me over to VOIP and I transferred my landline number to a provider that can handle mobile VOIP (like republic wireless or mint mobile). Now I have a mobile phone and a Grandstream adapter like the one from humbug's link so I can use my old home phones.

When the power goes out, I use my mobile phone which has a much longer battery life than the backup provided by Verizon. Plus I can take my "landline" with me if I don't want to stay at home with the power out.
posted by hoppytoad at 4:21 PM on June 8, 2022

Came here looking for a metamucil discussion. Was dissapoint.

That being said, many "POTS" lines these days are fake, e.g. it may be that your copper lines only go as far as the ATT VRAD, at which point they are converted to digital. If so, you might as well upgrade.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 5:28 PM on June 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Rotary phones work on my fiber service as well.

This is highly specific to the VOIP "ATA" that digitizes the analog signals. Some may capable of receiving pulse dial codes, while others aren't. (Some are even also able to do fax.)

There are also issues with some ATAs not being able to push enough current to ring older phones with real mechanical bells. Most will do one okay, but if you have several hung off of the same phone line, a cheap ATA may not be able to drive them all. You may need multiple ATAs, or a buffer.

I would keep the POTS line as long as you can and want to, and ignore the sales calls. If and when the price goes up substantially, it might make sense to digitize. But until the price is several multiples of the digital service, I think you're saving yourself trouble not messing with it. Mixing classic phones and VOIP equipment is almost a hobby in itself.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:47 PM on June 8, 2022

For what it's worth, if you get a sufficiently large battery backup or even better a "solar generator" (aka a big battery that accepts solar input and a solar panel) in most locations AT&T's voice service over fiber should be approximately as resilient to power outages. Unlike the VDSL service you currently have, there are no powered electronics in the field, so as long as the lines are intact you'll have service. Any issues you'd have with the fiber service you'd have on the POTS line, too, since all the actives live at the central office where they have giant battery strings and multiple backup generators.

Also, I just checked the data sheet and the BGW320 that at&t is currently using by default supports pulse dialing and can support up to 5REN on each of the two analog lines it supports on its RJ14 port. I believe that's the same as what the 5ESS and DMS100 switches that AT&T uses for POTS support. In that and every other relevant respect, you should see no difference using your old phones with the fiber service. I believe the BGW210 is the same, but can't confirm it with the documentation I can find easily. It's implied, but not stated explicitly like it is for the 320.

I actually agree with you though that for emergency use, a POTS line is better, at least until the outside plant degrades so much that it's a buzzy clicky mess. However, if you have the backup power for things like your fridge, some lights, etc anyway, using it to power the fiber gateway or ONT is totally doable. (At least in my part of Florida an at&t cellphone is a reasonable alternative, though. They have generators at enough towers to keep the network functional during prolonged power outages)

Lastly, to answer your direct question, until the notices you're getting include language telling you how to file a complaint with the FCC and a specific date they are not informing you of an impending shutdown of the copper lines. I suspect you're far more likely to lose your Internet service before that happens when at some random point the line card serving your house fails and they find themselves unable to fix it because they literally don't have any more replacements and can't get them even if they wanted to.
posted by wierdo at 4:42 AM on June 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

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