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Guest Blogger: Tom Evslin

We are currently working on an initiative with our client, Jeff Pulver of pulver.com in order to promote the idea of offering free voice mail services to consumers in the event that they are disrupted by a natural disaster such as a hurricane for more than 12 hours.

In supporting this initiative with Jeff, we are also working with Tom Evslin, who is a prolific blogger, and telecom thought
leader in the telecom industry.

In the following post, Tom 
contributes his thoughts on why  AT&T’s should make voice mail
available on all landline phones in the event of a natural disaster.


Here’s Tom’s post…

According to a survey of Gulf Coast residents commissioned by at&t, the most desired technology during a natural disaster is a voice mailbox
(54% of respondents). However, at&t apparently doesn’t have
confidence in its own ability to keep existing voicemail working in a
catastrophe.

It would be nice if at&t would listen to these hurricane survivors and stop opposing the petition that Jeff Pulver and I filed with the FCC requiring that voice mail be available on all landlines during a disaster.  But don’t hold your breath.

The press release announcing the survey results has a long list of
things people ought to do to get ready for a disaster.  #2 says:

“Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario. During natural disasters, such
as hurricanes or flooding, wireline services can be interrupted for
extended periods of time because of damage caused by high winds or
flooding. Wireless phones may serve as alternative means of
communication.”

No mention here of the fact that a phone NUMBER can remain operative
even if the phone LINE is down IF voicemail has been provided on the
number.  Way down on the list at #7 is the statement:

“Know Where to Meet. Agree on a physical and virtual meeting place such as a voice mailbox or online chat site.”

But, of course, this won’t work unless voicemail is installed on a
telephone number.  For some reason at&t does NOT suggest ordering
voicemail service as a step in emergency preparedness.  Would have
thought at least that the survey results create a marketing opportunity
for this lucrative service even if at&t is unwilling to provide it
to everyone on  a standby basis in an emergency as we have requested.

at&t may not have much confidence in the survivability of its
voicemail capability.  In their response to our petition they say:

“Finally, the petition fails to address the very real likelihood
that in a disaster impacting a large geographic area, such as a
hurricane or earthquake, the platform supporting a provider’s voice
mail service may be damaged along with the rest of the provider’s
network, thus preventing the provider from fulfilling the mandatory
voice mail proposal suggested by petitioners.”

Huh?  Is at&t actually locating voicemail storage anywhere near
the switches serving the subscribers who own the mailboxes?  That would
be really dumb.  Good thing for the FCC to look at.  Good case for
truth in labeling if so because it means that the emergency facility
MOST DESIRED BY USERS ACCORDING TO at&t is NOT reliable in an
emergency.

If this is the case, they should tell people NOT to rely on this
facility since the survey makes clear that people think voicemail WILL
work (and, if this is the case, at&t or any other phone company
with this problem should immediately reengineer).  If this is not the
case, if voicemail really has been engineered as it should be so that
it won’t be affected by the same catastrophe as the primary switch,
then at&t should stop using this as an excuse NOT to provide
emergency voicemail on all downed lines.

Visit Tom’s Blog at: http://blog.tomevslin.com/

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