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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cell phone service everywhere, at least for 911


Response to the CNET article, "After nine dropped cell phone calls for help, couple dies" by  Chris Matyszczyk here.

Cell phone coverage should be coast-to-coast and Mexico-to-Canada, in the US (plus all of Alaska, Hawaii, and US Territories). In south Georgia, where my mother lives, it's pretty rural, yet Verizon has ONE tower which serves the area, and does it pretty well. It's a tall son-of-a-gun, too, the better to carry cellular's line-of-sight signal to those who live on the flat coastal plain, I suppose. I don't know what the range of the tower is, but it's got to be substantial since it covers her house with a decent signal and is located about 12 miles away; and yes, I asked a Verizon technician about it - he's the one who told me where the tower is located.

My point is that there must be some way of covering more places than we currently do. I own my own business, so I'm aware of how business works (just to preclude the fora trolls looking to make snide comments about cost analysis or rate-of-return). But there's a point where people must come before profitability, even if we must subsidize a portion of the cost of providing service. A buck could be added to the average cell phone bill, for example, in order to offset the cost of remote coverage. Since 4G LTE seems to be the coming universal system for cellular in the US, I'm certain that there's a way, if it doesn't exist already, of allowing any handset sold in the future to place, at minimum, emergency 911 calls, allowing various providers to share the signal of those remote towers for 911 calls only, say.

When you live in the city, as I have most of my life, you tend to forget how much of what you use comes from those remote and rural locations; raw materials, food, fiber, forest products, etc. People live in those places in order, often, to be closer to the work they do. Those who provide the food and materials for our shelter, clothing, and transportation shouldn't have to live as second-class citizens, nor fear that they might lose life or limb because they can't reach emergency services. I know there are people who will read this and carp about having to subsidize this or that, but they might consider the things rural citizens sometimes go without in order that city dwellers can have what they WANT, beyond basic needs. There's also the fact that some of us just like living in the country.

My friend Dwight, a fourth-generation farmer, would say, "Don't want to run cable to my house? OK. I can get satellite and do without cable. But when I and my fellow farmers start to demand higher and higher prices for the FOOD that YOU eat, don't talk with your mouth full". He might also add that while Walmart or Kroger can source cheaper meat from, say, Venezuela, don't be surprised when the farmers there raise their prices, too. Or when someone gets pissed with the US and dumps insecticide on it.

Sure, there will be a few places that are simply too remote for anything but satphone, but the people who go to those places generally know that, and have one. It's not too much to ask that everyone have access to basic emergency services communications equipment like cellular phones.