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Telephone Service: telco tricks do not provide telephone or broadband service

AT&T Archives: Introduction to the Dial Telephone


Broadband service is a utility.

When will Comcast understand they are running a utility?

You used to Have to Have a Telephone - now you need wireless.

One night some years ago, when my Comcast service died with almost every thunderstorm, I pointed out that I had never lacked phone service to report a Comcast outage and asked when they were going to provide a comparable level of service.  The answer was "we're in the ENTERTAINMENT business". They still don't have my telephone business,or my Internet either.

2013 Telephony denial-of-service (TDoS) attacks

A more invasive approach to target a company's [or] individual's primary means of communication. Just like DDoS attacks, they tend to abuse the infrastructure of legitimate services, Skype, ICQ, major U.S-based carriers, and relevant SIP providers.
TDoS attacks on public sector entities in an attempt to extort money -- are typically similar in motivation and goals as DDoS attacks that flood networks, websites or other servers with massive volumes of traffic meant to bring an organization's data structure to its knees. There are more tools readily available tools for launching these attacks on any organization or individual's location.





Digital Age Is Slow to Arrive in Rural America
KIM SEVERSON February 18, 2011
The county administrator cannot get broadband at her house in rural Alabama. Neither can the sportswriter at The Thomasville Times. As the world embraces its digital age — two billion people now use the Internet regularly — the line delineating two Americas has become more broadly drawn. There are those who have reliable, fast access to the Internet, and those, like about half of the 27,867 people here in Clarke County, who do not. In rural America, only 60 percent of households use broadband Internet service, according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Commerce. That is 10% less than urban households. Over all, 28%of Americans do not use the Internet at all.


Rural areas GOT $7.2 billion in stimulus money toward the effort, including the map, which took five years and $200 million to develop and shows a number of discrepancies in the quality and availability of broadband access between rural and urban communities. “This is like electricity was,” said Brian Depew, an assistant director of the Center for Rural Affairs, a nonprofit research group in Lyons, Neb. “This is a critical utility.”

Moving to wireless broadband

“Ninety-five percent of the people in this county who want public water can have it, but people can't even talk to each other around here,” said Sharon Jones, 60, who owns a small logging company with her husband and lives just outside Coffeeville.“It takes 10 times the effort to do what someone else can do in a matter of five minutes,” she said.For many here, where the median household income is $27,388, the existing cellphone and Internet options are too expensive.

Joyce Graham, who oversees Web-based classes at Coffeeville High School, has struggled with dial-up service at home since 2000. A month ago, she started buying satellite service with help from stimulus money. “For most people out here, satellite is all you can get, and it's $70 a month,” she said. “Now who is going to pay that? This is a poor, rural county.” Gina Wilson, director of the Thomasville library, oversees 11 terminals with lightning-fast Internet access, paid for with stimulus money.

Mrs. Wilson noticed that after hours, people would pull into the parking lot to try to use the library's wireless signal. So she started leaving it on all night, and plans to post a sign on the door with the password (which, if you are in Thomasville and need to get online, is “guest”).

A group of community leaders worked for years on a $5.5 million co-op-style plan to attach microwave technology to the numerous water towers in the area so everyone could have affordable wireless service. They applied for stimulus money, but were turned down.

The tiny Pine Belt Telephone Company also tried for stimulus money, hoping to run a fiber optic line into Coffeeville. They, too, were turned down.

"Essentially it comes down to the big, national companies not wanting to invest and the lack of interest in certain areas,” said John Nettles, who runs the family-owned telecommunication company. “It's not much different than the impact the big-box stores have had on rural America and small-town businesses."

A spokesman for AT&T, which offers coverage in parts of Clarke Country, declined to comment.

A study last year by the Pew Internet and American Life Project showed that a fifth of adults do not use the Internet because they feel it is not relevant to their lives. Still, here in the Pine Belt, it will be a long road to the digital age.

How to Discredit Net Neutrality Dec 02, 2010 1:52 PM PST
By Milton Mueller
On Tuesday (November 30) Internet backbone provider Level3 publicly accused cable-based ISP Comcast of trying to thwart competing video services delivered through the internet. Comcast was, according to Level3, suddenly choosing to charge it more because of its carriage of Netflix traffic. The accusation was consciously framed to raise net neutrality alarms. It appeared as if a cable TV giant was using its control of internet access to make access to a competing, over the top video service more expensive. Key figures in the NN movement took the bait, accusing Comcast (to combine some of the more colorful phrases, of being a "toll-collecting, nuke-wielding hydra."
Then the full story came out. This was a peering dispute. In peering agreements, two ISPs exchange traffic without paying each other, on the assumption that both parties have roughly balanced traffic and benefit equally from the interconnection. When there is no balance - that is, when ISP A reaps more benefit from the interconnection than ISP B - it is common practice for ISP A to pay ISP B for the service. These interconnection agreements are embodied in privately negotiated contracts and accordingly the market for internet interconnections is pretty robust and flexible. At least, it looks that way to anyone familiar with the 30-odd years of interminable, costly regulatory disputes over telephone interconnection arrangements. By winning the Netflix bid, Level 3 assumed the status of a content distribution network and increased the amount of traffic it would be pumping through Comcast. CDNs typically pay ISPs for carriage rather than peering.
Faced with this information, some NN advocates responded appropriately. Public Knowledge quickly retreated to an appeal for transparency, in effect admitting that "we don't really know what's going on and we wish the FCC would use its authority to find out." Free Press on the other hand has kept in place a rather strident news release saying ""This is just a preview of what a media monopoly will look like in the Internet age one company, consolidating its media power to squash competitors, stifle innovation and price-gouge consumers."
Both Free Press and PK have done an outstanding job of fighting for the autonomy and freedom of internet users. But their approach to NN has always been saddled with two problems.

Problem one is the pitfall of "bandwidth egalitarianism," i.e., the crazy idea that bandwidth is not a scarce resource that must inevitably be rationed or managed in some ways, including the price system. As we have argued before, net neutrality concerns should never be confused with bandwidth egalitarianism; the bad thing is not "charging for bandwidth" or "tiering" per se, but anti-competitive discrimination and whether the network intermediary uses its market power over access to exert vertical leverage over content, services and applications.

Problem 2 is the idea that public interest regulation is inherently good and can fix anything and everything that ever goes wrong. Increasingly, advocates of net neutrality have pegged their case to a larger and more powerful role for FCC regulation in the internet industry. And thus the net neutrality debate, instead of focusing on developing new institutional arrangements to preserve internet freedom on BOTH the demand and supply side, descends into a replay of the early 1980s, Reagan-era punch and judy show between democrats and republicans, with one arguing for "more government" and the other for "less government." Neither talking much sense about what the government should actually do. While we believe that there should be rules securing end user rights regarding access to internet content, services and applications, we think it is a mistake to equate this with "more FCC regulation" just as it is a gross oversimplification to equate a complete absence of rules regarding net neutrality with "more freedom."
There is an important lesson to be drawn from this episode about how to pursue - and not to pursue - the goals of Internet freedom associated with net neutrality. The Level 3 maneuver is a good example of what can and will happen with an over-regulated internet: one business interest complains about another about a commercial negotiation and attempts to bring in the feds simply to get a better business deal. Opening up these contractual arrangements to political mediation is a slippery slope. The scope of regulation - and the costs of participating in the industry - steadily rise as more and more aspects of the industry are sucked into this vortex.
In the current political climate, if net neutrality is framed as "more regulation" and anti-net neutrality is framed as "less regulation" who d'ya think will win? And if NN advocates allow themselves to be snookered into being pawns in a bargaining game between telecom giants, who wins from that?
By Milton Mueller, Professor, Syracuse University School of Information Studies.


Universal Service Update




The Digital Beat -- vol. 2, no. 25 2/29/2000
Universal Service Update

The Latest Numbers
Explaining Technology Diffusion
Digital Divide Implications

I. Introduction

With all the attention on the digital divide of late, we may be long sight of the 6.3+ million American households that are still not connected to the most basic of telecommunications services: plain old telephone. Despite claims that basic telephone service is already universal, millions of Americans still are not connected to a network envisioned to reach from every home to every other home. And looking at the diffusion of this technology may offer insight to how Internet access may be adopted by American households.

II. The Latest Numbers

In January, the Federal Communications Commission released new statistics on telephone subscribership. Collected by the Bureau of the Census, the FCC tabulates the number and percentage of households that have telephone service. The January release uses numbers from November 1999 and reports that 94.1% of American households subscribe to telephone service. Although when aggregated the numbers seem to indicate that the FCC and state regulators have been successful in adopting policies that help customers acquire and maintain telephone service, focusing on particular communities reveals some gaps.

Included in the FCC report is a statistical breakdown of subscribership by state. Although subscribership levels reach over 97% in seven states, 17 states have subscription levels under 93%. The table below compares the worst and best states for telephone subscribership.

Bottom 15   Top 15  
DC 92.1 VERMONT 96.1

Not surprisingly, subscription levels also vary by income level. As a general rule, the greater the household income, the greater chance that the household has telephone service. Twenty-five percent of households with annual income below $5,000 do not have telephone service. Subscribership levels rise sharply with incremental income gains, but telephone penetration does not top 90% until the $12,500-$14,999 income level; it does not reach the national average of 94% until $20,000-$24,999/yr. For households with incomes over $30,000/yr, subscribership falls between 97-99%.

The FCC's report Telephone Penetration by Income by State gives a cross-tab by income by state. The latest report, from about a year ago, provides data for March 1998 and before. The FCC is currently working on an update for March 1999 data which should be out in the next few weeks and will be available on the FCC-State Link Web site (
Differences between states, explains the FCC Common Carrier Bureau's Alexander Belinfante, are partly explainable by different income levels, partly by different rate levels, partly by different regulatory regimes (such as Lifeline programs and disconnect policies), and partly by a myriad of other factors (economic, demographic, etc.).

More striking, however, are gaps in service between White, Black and Hispanic households at the same income levels. At the lowest income levels, under $5,000, subscribership levels vary greatly: for Whites, it is 79% compared to 72.7% for Hispanics and 66.8% for Black households. White households pass the 90% threshold at income levels around $12,500/yr and pass the national subscribership average by $20,000/yr. By contrast, Black and Hispanic households don't reach the 90% level until household income reaches $20,000/yr and don't reach the national telephone penetration level until $25,000/yr (Hispanics) or $35,000/yr (Blacks). Overall, 95% of White households have telephone service while just 89.7% of Hispanic households and 87.7% of Black households do. Why the disparities?

III. Explaining Technology Diffusion

Dr Jorge Reina Schement, Professor of Communications and Information Policy and Co-Director of the Institute for Information Policy in the College of Communications at Penn State University, has been researching and writing on information and communications technology diffusion for many years. In a recent article, "Of Gaps by Which Democracy We Measure, Dr Schement looks at America's tradition of guaranteeing access to communications technologies for _all_ to ensure the potential for citizens to participate in economic, political and social activities. Communication, especially in today's society, creates society.

Telephone penetration has lagged for a number of groups -- minorities, women with children, Native Americans, renters, the unemployed -- and income alone does not explain why as noted above. Since the 70's, persistent gaps in telephone service for these groups have been documented and the gaps have survived a number of policy remedies.

Dr Schement has identified differences in diffusion between information goods and information services. Information goods, like radio, television and VCRs, diffuse very rapidly and whatever gaps exist are closed quickly. Information services, especially those that require the deployment of infrastructure, diffuse much more slowly. Consider these examples:

  • * In 1925, less than 25% of all households owned radios; by 1930 penetration reached 46%. By 1940, penetration reached 82% and radio reached saturation by 1950.
  • * In 1950, less that 10% of households owned a television. By 1965, less than 10% of homes were _without_ a television. In 1956, 90% of the top income quartile owned a TV while only 55% of the bottom income quartile did. Ten years later, no gap existed.\
  • * For VCRs, penetration was 2% in 1980, but 70% by 1990 and 90% by the end of the decade.
  • * By contrast, between 1878 and 1958, telephone penetration went from 0 to 75% with dips along the way during the depression. Penetration did not flatten until 1970 at 93% where it has remained for the last 30 years.

The reasoning behind these penetration rates are not hard to discern. Information goods require just a one time purchase for which the household can save. On the other hand, information services require the household to make monthly payments. It took 60 years to reach saturation for electric service, 100 years for telephone service and it has been 55 years and counting for cable TV service to reach saturation.

IV. Digital Divide Implications

The latest technology gap raising concerns is called the digital divide. Who has Internet access, who doesn't? Since the mid-90s, soaring Internet penetration has garnered headlines. But that has also been during a prolonged expansion of the US economy. But couldn't a downturn in the economy mean a dip in Internet subscribership -- just as telephone subscribership dipped during the Depression? And, in any case, poorer households will have a harder time maintaining service, just as they have had the most problems maintaining phone and cable service. Given the importance of the Internet to the promise of participation, Dr Schement concludes, policy makers should concern themselves with the diffusion of Internet service and seek policies to support it. Paula Bagasao, president of Global Knowledge Services, writes that the US is in a unique position to work on universal service: our economy is robust, people are working, the technology is there and prices are low.

In speeches earlier this month, National Telecommunications and Information Administration Director Gregory Rohde reiterated the Administration's commitment to "an evolving level" of universal service as outlined in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Dir Rohde said that universal service must move from "POTS" (plain old telephone service) to "PANS" (Provisioning of Advanced Services):

There are 6 principles of reform specified in...the Telecom Act. Three of those principles mention the word "access." In each case, access is linked to "advanced telecommunications and information services." The Act does not suggest that universal service be limited to yesterday's technology and service. Rather, the Act consciously links universal service support with an "evolving level" of service. In other words, it must be forward looking -- not retro.

Dir Rohde then spoke about the TOP grant program and the Administration's commitment to closing the digital divide. The focus, Rohde said, will be on partnerships with the private sector.

With broadband services being rolled out throughout the country, the Administration does well to guarantee access to comparable access to comparable services at comparable rates. But will 30 years of stagnant telephone penetration levels what has happened to the commitment to ensuring affordable telephone service to all? In a world where the value communications technology are always rising, where "anytime anywhere" communications are common, what of the millions of households with telephone service -- what of the people who are not even counted because they do not have homes?
Certainly, a "retro" approach to universal service is not needed, but innovative solutions to long-standing problems _are_ before today's issues can be fully understood and addressed. At a Washington Legal Foundation discussion on universal service this month, Consumer Federation of America Research Director Mark Cooper said, "there are economic values in creating a ubiquitous, readily available [telephone] network."

Earlier this month, Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) led 18 senators in urging FCC Chairman William Kennard to reform universal service policy. The senators asked the FCC to:

  • Ensure that universal service support is portable.
  • Support should be tied to consumers, not to companies.
  • Competitors who win customers away from incumbents should receive the same support that the incumbent would have received if they had retained the customer.

As regulatory reforms are developed at the FCC over the coming months, policymakers need to keep their eye on a core goal of the Telecommunications Act of 1996:
Consumers in all regions of the Nation, including low-
income consumers and those in rural, insular, and high
cost areas, should have access to telecommunications
and information services, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services, that are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas and that are available at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates charged for similar services in urban areas.
(c) Benton Foundation 2000. (

Source - San Jose Mercury, AUTHOR: Mike Cassidy]
The iMac computer Myra Jodie won from a teen Web site will be the first on her block. While the machine is Internet-ready, Myra's home is not. The 13-year-old lives on a Navajo Indian reservation where only a quarter of the home's have a telephone. Myra's home does not have one - nor does it have running water - nor is it likely that she will have one soon. The local phone company says it charges from $6,600 to $10,000 a mile to extend new service. Her mother estimates they live four miles from the nearest telephone line. To make a phone call, she goes to one of the four pay phones at a local food store eight miles away. The store takes messages for her when friends call for her there. It is a pain not having a phone, but it's the way it's always been. The phone company says many Navajos are too poor.
Others worried about the lack of phones say the phone company charges too much. Myra's mother says she's looking into getting a phone. Her first step is to put down a $200 deposit. But Marcella Jodie, 36, is unwilling to concede defeat. Myra had been asking for a computer for three years. "I'm so proud of my little girl," she says. "I can't afford to get one for her and she did it herself."

Mescalero Apache Telecom Inc is the latest effort by the Mescalero Apache Indian tribe to promote economic development on its reservation. Godfrey Enjady, the new company's general manager, intends to expand basic telephone service beyond the 40 percent of the tribe's households with phones, ring the reservation with a fiber-optic network and introduce high-speed Internet connections. And the Mescalero Apaches are not the only Indian Nation to form a tribally-owned and operated telecommunications company. There are a half-dozen American Indian-owned telephone companies in operation on Indian lands. And their numbers are expected to grow after the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision to add as much as $35 million to the $550 million in federal money already available to companies that expand access to basic phone service on Indian reservations. Only 47 percent of the nation's 720,000 Indian households have basic telephone service, compared with a nationwide rate of 94 percent, according to the F.C.C. "The Indian people are at the top of the list of groups that are most at risk of being left out of the emerging dot-com economy," said William E. Kennard, the chairman of the F.C.C. "When a tribal government establishes its own telephone company, it is creating an economic development nucleus."



Cellphones on Planes / AT&T history March 25, 2007
NYT article from 22 years ago:
There was a famous "device which does for the mouth what  earphones do for the ears." Many people know of the famous Carterfone case, which was about an electrical device which connected to the phone -- AT&T tried to ban the device, but eventually lost, helping to open up the market for third-party phones. But in 1956 (over 50 years ago, and 12 years before Carterfone) there was the Hush-A-Phone case: sort of a small cone or mouthpiece attached to a phone to collect and contain a speaker's voice.
It's an amusing story: the Hush-A-Phone started in the 1920's as an attachment for a "candle-stick" style phone, and was sold for decades; a later version was an attachment to handsets. As recounted here,  apparently an AT&T lawyer on his lunch-break saw one in a shop window, and decided to sue to stop this unauthorized attachment to a phone. The FCC supported AT&T, but on appeal the case was  overturned, and the FCC was ordered to allow these "foreign attachments." Thus, an over-eager AT&T lawyer precipitated what many view as the first small crack in the AT&T monopoly. The short decision can be found  An excerpt from the ruling: "To say that a telephone subscriber may produce the result in question [**7] by cupping his hand and speaking into it, but may not do so by using a device which leaves his hand free to write or do whatever else he wishes, is neither just nor reasonable. The intervenors' tariffs, under the Commission's decision, are in unwarranted interference with the telephone subscriber's right reasonably to use his telephone in ways which are privately beneficial without being publicly detrimental."

John Shoch
Alloy Ventures
PS: Another alternative is this Portable Phone Booth


The Phone

Exploding The Phone: the hacking of the 60s and 70s

From: Jed Donnelley geek ----at----

Phil Lapsley wrote the book, Exploding The Phone:
I read this book and think it's terrific. I think anybody who has any interest in telephones, their history, technology, etc. will find it a fascinating read. Briefly, as the telephone network evolved (the story is in the book) into the 1950s AT&T (a monopoly at the time) began to introduce signaling into the network to automate more and more of the switching.  Ultimately they ended up using in-line audio signaling for controls.  From reading how this came about you can almost sympathize with their engineers.  This turned out to be a spectacularly bad idea as it allowed anybody with a minimal amount of technology to "hack" the phone system - place free calls anywhere and to control the network in various other ways.  The book tells the story of people on both sides (the robbers and cops) of the technology in what I consider to be a very entertaining way.
Phil did a tremendous amount of research on phone phreaking (what hacking the telephone network was called).  He has a huge collection of papers (much of which he's had scanned) and artifacts.  This book has really been a labor of love that's taken him at least 8 years.
There's also a web site:
with lots of on-line material, e.g.:
references, e.g.:


For me (and I think for Phil, but I haven't spoken with him about this) the book suggests some interesting things about human beings and our relationships with our technologies.  A disproportionate fraction of the phone phreaks (most if not all? male) were blind people fascinated by the sounds of the network and the opportunities to connect with other people through the telephone.  Then of course there were Jobs and Wozniak who funded their development of the Apple II with revenue from selling illegal blue boxes and many others who were in it for the money and/or some odd sort of fame.
To give you an idea of the times, here is an intro page to a blue box manual that I was allowed to copy from a meeting at Phil's home:
Also, here is a copy (from several on the Web) of the 1971 Esquire Magazine article, by Ron Rosenbaum, that really blue the cover on the whole blue box business:
I've been prompted to write this message partly because of a message from Phil about the audio edition of Exploding The Phone that has just come out:
I am delighted to announce that the audiobook version of Exploding The Phone has just been released by and is available on amazon at
And while that's delightful, that's honestly not the super-fantastic-awesome part.
The super-fantastic-awesome part is the person who did the narration for the audiobook: Johann North, better known by his phone phreak pseudonym of Evan Doorbell.  Johann has an amazing studio-quality voice that is wonderful to listen to.  Perhaps just as importantly, he was a phone phreak himself back in the 1970s and brings a passion to the subject that not just anyone could.  If you've visited you've likely listened to some of his expertly produced recordings, ranging from "How Evan Doorbell > Became a Phone Phreak" to "Sounds of Long Distance."  (And if you haven't visited phonetrips and listened to them, you should.)

'Evan Doorbell' (Johann North) is a fascinating person (described some in the book) who made some truly amazing audio recordings of himself "phreaking" the telephone network.  I haven't (yet?) listened to the audio book and don't know if there is any audio material in it beyond the reading of the book, but I have done some exploring on the phonetrips site and found some fascinating material - though that material is perhaps a bit deep for anyone with little interest in such technology.  I think the book has broader appeal, personal interest (e.g. from Joy Bubbles to Captain Crunch), cops and robbers, historical, etc.
I admit that I have a personal interest in the technology.  I had a passing experience with phone phreaks that's described in:
starting at, "Let me tell you the blue box story" - beyond some other lesser experiences (black boxes and free conferencing over busy signals and some others).  It was a different time, but I think a time that says something about people and technology.

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