Monday, January 10, 2005

Which Is More Reliable?
This is entirely frivolous and a week out of date, but I just saw this item and had to share it. PG&E, the San Francisco-based utility, is offering a free wake-up call service, in case your power is out.

Think about that. Implicit in this service is the idea that land-line phones, which we all love to hate, are inherently more reliable than electric power delivery. I recall this vividly from the great northeast blackout of 2003. My home was one of millions without power, yet I was able to pick up the phone and call our local hospital to figure out when to take my wife--who was in labor--in for delivery.

I'm not posting this to knock the power grid or utilities. Rather, in spite of all the hype about other ways to deliver telephony, including voice-over-IP, cable and cellular--on which an increasing number of people now rely exclusively--none has yet attained the reliability of Mr. Bell's twisted copper wires. If you want to get excited about a vision of the future, just contemplate the possibility of phones that work everywhere, all the time, seamlessly switching between cells, local wireless nodes and satellites--all without any of us having to give a second thought to reception issues. That day can't arrive too soon.

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