Plan B And The FCC

For almost an entire day this week my broadband service was dishing up speeds so slow it was almost as if I was back in the age of tin cans and a taut string. To be precise, Century Link (the former Qwest, and before that the former U.S. West, and before that …. ) was dishing up downstream service that barely topped 2 Mb/s and upstream that was in the dozen of kilobits, instead of the high hundreds. Those numbers are barely a tenth of what I normally get (and pay for). My packet loss figures were in the 65% range. Bottom line: no VoIP service.

That’s where Plan B comes in, as I have written before. With Phone.com I have ‘follow me” set up so that calls transparently forward to my cell phone if I don’t answer them at my desk – which I couldn’t do. Indeed even if I had lost 100% of my broadband service, the calls would have been forwarded. Despite the annoying outage I didn’t miss a single call.

So whether you have home phone service, home office VoIP, or the new enterprise level offering from Phone.com, it is critical that you have a Plan B set up in advance.  I would also suggest that as part of a Plan B, users activate the voicemail to text service available on their plan, and have that voicemail forwarded not to just their eMail, but also to their cell phones (assuming, of course, that you have a smart phone that can handle the message). That way even if follow me fails – in my case it did because I was in the back of a supermarket where there was no cell service – I’m still going to get the message. Plan B on steroids, if you will.

So where does the FCC come into all of this? You may remember that the FCC is right in the middle of rule-making requiring broadband providers to report outages, such as the one I experienced, in just the same way as traditional landline phone companies have been doing for many decades. The rationale for that is that when the phone doesn’t work, citizens can’t call 911 emergency services, and therefore the FCC is trying to push broadband providers into the same high service levels that have become traditional for the older technologies that VoIP is supplanting.

As news of this little outage in my area reaches the FCC – and for reasons I won’t go into now, it definitely will – it should add a little weight to the argument.

Stuart Zipper is currently a contributing editor to Communications Technology, a high tech business journalism consultant and freelancer, and the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break.