Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Vonage, Take II

Well! 15+ years after we all failed to get AT&T the least bit interested in the Internet, I, ex-Bell Labs employee and long-time AT&T customer, have at last given up on Ma Bell and its recent mutation/resurrection. I made my first Vonage phone call today.

It was sort of a non-event, though the notion of getting a dial tone from router-appendage is taking some getting used to. BTW please raise your hand if you really understand where dial tone really comes from and what it's for.

It's taken many years and "The Will to Fail" (as Andrew Hume used to put it), but AT&T has at last managed to plow itself into the ground.

For a while in the 90's I was rather amazed to be getting 4 or 5 bills from AT&T. Let's see, there was my phone bill, my cable bill, my Universal Card bill .. there must have been more. That all vanished except for my silly insistence on keeping A&T for long distance. All of $10/mo or so.

When I moved to Si Valley last year, I was fairly insistent on getting DSL. Static IP, known upstream bandwidth, all that. It took a goofy, unwanted router and psychotic customer non-service to disabuse me of that notion. That was SBC, which has since bought the AT&T label and calls itself The New AT&T.

My internet comes through Comcast (don't get me started), yet my SBC/AT&T bill was $100 for two lines with voicemail etc. I expect to pay $15/mo for VoiP .. and I'm only doing that because I want to accept incoming POTS calls.

The old AT&T's worst fears have come to pass. Back when telecom was starting to lose its regulation, AT&T wanted to charge extra for data. Never mind it was using 64Kbps to transmit your voice at 8KHz. Actually, it mattered quite a lot, because this was AT&T's equivalence for purposes of calculating rates. If you leased a T1 line (1.4Mbps, or 24 times 64Kbps), AT&T wanted to charge 24 times the rate of a voice line because you could use it to bypass their network.

As Sandy Fraser (who invented Virtual Circuits) used to say, they were afraid that if they had to charge a reasonable amount for data, they'd have to give voice away. That pretty much sums up the state of things now - AT&T retreated from everything except Long Distance, which became a worthless commodity and was AT&T's epitaph.



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7:11 PM  

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