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Jim Beamguard is a Tribune editorial writer. He is a native of North Carolina and a graduate of Davidson College. He and his family live in Brandon.
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Camille Beredjick is a senior at Chamberlain High School, an avid musician and a scribbler with a quirky sense of humor. In the fall, she will be attending Northwestern University to study journalism, political science and music, and she plans to pursue a career in journalism.
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Angela Hunt is a novelist living in Pinellas County with her husband and two 220-pound mastiffs.
Sheryl Young was a Tampa Tribune Community Columnist in 2005-2006. A freelance writer since 1997, including the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Tampa Style Magazines, St. Pete Times and nationally in Better Nutrition, Today’s Christian Woman and more. She’s received a First Place Amy Foundation national "Roaring Lambs" Writing Award, and has lived in Tampa Bay with her family for over 20 years.
Christie Gold teaches English and journalism at Freedom High School in Tampa where she advises Revolution, the school newspaper. She has been both the Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year and Florida Journalism Teacher of the Year. She lives on a small farm in Wesley Chapel where she trains as a competitive equestrian.
Natalie D. Preston is a karaoke singing, only-child pouting, Seminole Tomahawk waving, newlywed bride blushing, 50-state traveling, girlie girl who loves to shop, read, run and jump up and down on her soapbox.
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Interests include humor, politics, economics, community and world affairs, finance, people, religion, music, sports, current events, the arts and education.
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Kris DiGiovanni is a Tribune Community Columnist, Huffington Post contributor, Daily Kos diarist, and teacher, who recently moved from NW Hillsborough to another planet - a small beach community in Pinellas County. She also blogs at www.sandscript.wordpress.com
H. David Braswell Jr. is an Information Systems Professional. He is a native New Yorker and a lifelong NY Giants fan. He attended college in California (Cal State Northridge) and moved to Tampa in 1998.
Sean Marcus teaches creative writing, journalism and reading at Chamberlain High School. He has one son and is expecting a daughter in early March. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Jul 7, 2009 by Natalie D. Preston
Updated Jul 10, 2009 at 09:53 AM
It began as an honest attempt to be environmentally conscious and save a few pennies.
As I prepared to depart town for a cruise vacation, I unplugged several household items—radios, cordless telephones, modem, television sets, clocks, etc.
Later that evening, I rang home to check for new voicemail messages and discovered that the telephone was not in service.
No biggie. Disrupted service is something that happens on occasion with Bright House.
An hour passed and I tried again—still no connection.
After running through several scenarios, I came to the unfortunate realization that unplugging the modem also disconnected the telephone service (after three hours of battery life).
This simple oversight reminded me that I have many freedoms as an American, but the ability to choose a landline telephone is not one of them.
* * *
Remember 2004—the tumultuous year that brought four major hurricanes to Florida? Well, during one of those storms my mother lost power at her Brandon home for more than a week.
However, thanks to her landline with Verizon she was able to maintain telephone communication throughout most of the power outage. It was comforting it was to know that she was not isolated in the midst of and after the storm.
Fast forward to 2007 when I moved into a condominium. Not just any condo, a new home in a recently developed community—a first for me!
The condo was pre-wired for telephone service with Bright House or Verizon. I opted to remain a Verizon customer for two reasons: we had a good history together and, unlike Bright House, they still used a traditional copper wire, landline.
Much to my dismay, I was distressed to learn that my choices for residential telephone service quickly narrowed to one—fiber optic. The Bright House and Verizon installers were very clear on the fact that their companies no longer installed landlines.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, 5.6 million Americans bought a new home—single family or condo—in 2007.
I wonder how many of them were also denied access to a reliable landline?
* * *
Regardless of your home ownership status, I implore you to reflect on your family’s safety …
• In the event of a severe power outage, cellular phones (and their back up battery) will only last so long
• Without an available landline, most home alarm systems are rendered inoperable
• Disaster preparedness plans typically recommend that residents keep at least one non-cordless, landline for emergencies
Heck, the situation does not even have to be that dire.
The development manager for my subdivision shared that another new community—and its residents—was without 911 service for several months.
The community was not in rural America, it was right here in Florida.
This is unacceptable and borderline criminal!
* * *
The Florida Statutes have provisions that telephone utilities must provide a certain amount of back up power for emergency operations, but I fear that this will not be the case for much longer.
Telecommunications in Florida is quickly becoming a deregulated industry, as evidenced by the universal service/carrier-of-last-resort legislation that sunset on January 1, 2009.
In 2008, Florida Legislators Michael Bennett and Dave Murzin tried to advocate for citizens with Senate Bill 1386 and House Bill 1323. If passed, the bills would have extended the sunset date to 2012. Regrettably, both bills died on May 2. Hence, telephone providers were relieved of being forced to do the right thing.
Yet, another accountability string was cut from telecommunications companies last month. Senate Bill 2626 affords telephone utilities even more latitude to regulate themselves by removing them from the jurisdiction of the Florida Public Service Commission.
This means that customers who receive more than one service from the telephone company will likely incur rate hikes in the months to come.
Gee, thanks, Governor Crist!
* * *
I see a couple of options for remedying the situation.
First, developers can let prospective buyers know of their landline vs. optical telephone options prior to closing. This allows consumers to make an educated decision to live with sporadic telephone service or not.
Second, telephone providers can offer landlines for a reasonable convenience fee. Again, consumers would be able to decide for themselves and not be limited to what the providers thought was best.
While these solutions may seem viable, I doubt any of them will come to fruition without a little grassroots lobbying.
Join me in letting legislators know that all Floridians are entitled to safety via a landline telephone and encourage them to pass corrective legislation in the next session.
With some help from the citizens of Florida, maybe one day soon I will hear bells and whistles coming from my landline telephone.
Thanks to the following individuals who contributed to this blog with their knowledge of the telecommunications industry in Florida, related laws and sympathy to my predicament: Kirsten Olsen and Ryder Rudd, Florida Public Service Commission; Jonathan Reel, Federal Communications Commission.