Dr. Weeks Comment:
AT&T wants to dismantle all telephone lines in the
entire country, leaving EIs cut off
by Steen Hviid
In a note to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecom company AT&T asks the commission to mandate the total dismantling of all telephone landlines in the entire United States.
The note was filed with the FCC on December 21, 2009 as a comment to the National Broadband Plan (GN Dockets 09-51, 09-137 and 09-47). The note stated that 22% of American households have already cut their landline and rely exclusively on cell phones for their telephone service. The number of residential phone lines has fallen from 139 million lines to 75 million (though most of that reduction is the elimination of second lines for fax and dialup internet). Meanwhile, 66% of households subscribe to broadband (fast internet) service and 86% own a cell phone.
AT&T sees the trend of fewer households using regular telephones as continuing, with the local phone companies eventually being unable to afford maintaining their phone system for the remaining subscribers.
The company suggests that the FCC speed up the transition to wireless and internet-based phones by setting a firm date for eliminating all landlines in the entire country. The company believes such a sunset date would free up money for extending fast internet service to rural areas.
AT&T uses the recent conversion to digital TV, and the earlier transition from analog to digital cell phones, as examples to follow.
Telephone service is essential to everyone, especially people with disabilities, for whom it may be their only link to the world. This link is now in danger.
With the removal of regular phone service, the only alternative in many rural areas is cell phones. In more populated areas, it may also be possible to use digital (VoIP) phones connected to landline internet connections (such as DSL).
Many people with environmental illness are hypersensitive to the radiation from cell phones and digital electronics, making them unable to use these alternative phone types. Some may be able to use them briefly, but not for long phone calls, and may also need to keep them turned off when not used, so they cannot receive incoming calls.
The dismantling of the regular phone system will leave people without telephone service, often people who are disabled and who have a low income.
The growing use of wireless communication is a public health issue of possibly staggering proportions, which is likely to take decades to fully manifest and become apparent.
Like the tobacco industry, the cell phone industry keeps producing reports that show there are no health problems, while independent research paints a different picture.
Once the public is fully aware of the health risks, they will wish to wean themselves off their cell phones, just as they did with tobacco. However, with the landlines gone, they may not have that choice any longer. Once the lines are abandoned, it will be very costly to restore them. It simply will not happen.
Forcing people to use their cell phones more will benefit the cell phone providers, such as AT&T. According to some sources, it costs 80% less to provide cell service compared to landline service. A cost savings that is not passed on to the consumers, who are used to paying premium prices for cellular service. Cell phone service is not regulated like regular phone service, and it is unlikely to become more regulated, so there will be fewer protections of the customers in the future.
The telephone landlines may eventually be phased out in any case, if more people vote by moving to exclusively rely on cell phones. However, some already prudently limit the use of their cell phone, and hopefully more will do so as the true health impact becomes more known. Hopefully the dismantling can be delayed long enough.
Any phase-out should be voluntary for each telephone company. A mandatory phase-out is a gift to the cell phone companies, simply taking business away from smaller telephone companies.
AT&T claims in their comment that it is much simpler for a cell phone operator to route calls through interstate trunk lines than it is for a landline telephone company. This difference is due to different regulations, according to AT&T. If this is true, that could be fixed by the FCC, and is not a good reason to dismantle the telephone system.
This subject needs to be debated publicly and really thought through, not suddenly mandated without the public being aware of its implications.
When the telephone lines are dismantled,
people with disabilities may be cut off
by Steen Hviid
The telecom giants are promoting a total dismantling of the telephone system and a move to people using cell phones and internet phones exclusively. The world’s cell phone industry is concentrated in Sweden and Finland (home to Nokia and Ericsson) and these countries are at the forefront of these new technologies. The telecom company TeliaSonera has already started dismantling rural telephone lines in those countries, and in the United States AT&T is actively attempting to get the Federal Communications Commission to mandate a rapid phase-out of all telephone landlines.
There have been protests in Sweden, petitions and meetings with the Minister of Communication, but to no avail. Swedish law mandates telephone service as a right, but the authorities reply that the law is “technology neutral”, it does not guarantee a certain type of phone.
The United States has no laws guaranteeing phone service, and the authorities generally favor the corporate interests more than they do in Sweden.
The big money wants the landlines cut, so it will happen. The question is how to cope with it.
The transition to digital television may serve as a guide in some aspects. The FCC was concerned about putting the burden of buying a new TV on people of low income, so the industry produced converter boxes that were sold for about $50 and people of low income could apply for vouchers so they were free.
In Finland, the Ministry of Transport and Communications set 12 conditions for allowing TeliaSonera to dismantle their phone lines. They were also concerned about fairness to customers, and stipulated that TeliaSonera must ensure that “special groups” are not left out.
They also stipulated that TeliaSonera must make sure that their cell phones can be used in every room of every home, not just in as a minimum in one place in each home, as TeliaSonera suggested. The Ministry’s reasoning was that people with mobility issues cannot be expected to move around, and TeliaSonera must provide, for free, an external antenna if needed. For other groups, a docking station for their cell phone may have to be provided, so they could continue to use any specially adapted phone.
People with EHS may be able to use a special low-EMF phone i.e. “tube phones” connected to a cell phone docking station. The cell phone is placed in the docking station, and a regular phone cord continues on to the phone. This approach has already been tested using a CellSocket docking station. It does not work for very sensitive people, as high-frequency signals travel on the phone cord. This happened even when a dozen ferrite beads were installed on a fifty foot long cord.
What would be needed is a total separation, which is only achievable using a fiber-optic link, and only analog electronics. A prototype of this approach is available, but a fully designed manufactured model is needed, and at an affordable cost. The telecom giants stand to make billions on the dismantling of the telephone network, so they should be mandated by the FCC to develop and produce such a device.
Even better would be to make a fully zero-EMF telephone available, like t hose produced in Sweden, where the sound travels in tubes so there is no speaker or microphone in the handset. Such phones should be provided with a fiber optic cable going to a remote cell phone docking station.
People living in developed areas may have the option of using a VoIP telephone via an internet line (DSL, coaxial, etc.). These digital phones are not usable by people with EHS. Adapters are available so a regular phone can be placed on an internet line, which may help some, but there can still be a problem with having such a computerized device nearby, and high-frequency signals travelling across the wires. A fiber-optic line may help with this.
Even with these accommodations, there may be very sensitive people who will still lose the use of their telephone. People who live in apartments may be particularly affected, as they may not be able to put a cell phone docking station in an unused room all the time to get sufficient distance. Apartment dwellers may also see their ambient radiation level rise, due to the neighbor’s increase use of cell phones, i.e. second-hand cell phone use.
The telecom industry stands to make billions from the dismantling of the telephone landlines. It is reasonable that they be mandated to cover the cost of accommodating people with disabilities.
There really should be an honest evaluation of the science available on the possible health effects of cell phones. The industry has been very good at keeping this discussion side-tracked by only acknowledging the heating effect, and totally ignoring the non-thermal effects on the brain. An honest evaluation of this issue should also consider the fact that industry-funded studies generally show no problems, while independently funded studies generally do show effects. Cigarette science is not limited to the tobacco industry.