Exclusive: Sidewalk view of Verizon’s CO in Boston!

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After heading home from the Boston’s Museum of Science, we took the long way home (apparently) walking from the North End into Government Center to South Station. This is a once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-blue-moon event. The Verizon Boston Central office, just blocks away from Government Center, or Boston’s City Hall – has some parts with windows. And these windows you could see through and see wiring panels. MDFs on steroids. I got a handful of clear pictures given it was going into nightfall and I don’t do well with longer shutter speeds with DSLRs. (Not only that but not trying to be a subject by Homeland Security ether…)

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I bet after this gets posted, Verizon will shutter the curtains, but regardless I thought this was exclusive was worth posting.

Verizon’s New Logo, Thoughts?

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Is this where logos are no heading? Designed on an iPad? Isn’t that “checkmark” like an Emoji? The graphical logo I always referred to as the V.

I saw this yesterday searching to see if I can change my name on my mobile Caller ID so I don’t come up as a “Cell Phone NH” caller. At first I thought, is this just for support, is this just for wireless then I clicked home and saw the logo was still there. I was shaking my head and said “why?”

This is the first change since the company’s existence since about 2000 when Bell Atlantic (the major Bell Operating Company of the East Coast) merged with Worldcom, or one of the long distance providers. Verizon is very aggressive in change the logo ASAP, one of the local Wireless stores in NH had the logo part taken down, perhaps today the old one will be entirely be taken down.

I  for one hate it, it’s continues this new trend of “simplicity” where a coder won’t have hurt feelings because they can’t design a very artistic logo. And now we have more coders than artists, and more coders by far than phone technicians at the local central offices or PBX switch rooms. Not only that, but some day soon another logo will look like Verizon’s and we will say “that just looks like Verizon’s” or someone will say “Why does Sprint make a logo like Verizon’s?” or “Why doesn’t T-Mobile look so different?”

I don’t want to get too opinionated but I’ll say this lightly “America’s Screwed.”

It’s a really sad week for designs that once stood out.

Verizon Fiber Optic Truck – New York, NY

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This is a Verizon Fiber Optic maintenance truck with weekend warriors underneath the city streets in New York taken on Saturday the 18th. Around my neck of the woods, these trucks used to be labeled as the “Fiber Optic Field Lab” (New England Telephone side of NYNEX/Bell Atlantic later Verizon.) Not sure of New York Tel had the same decals.

Technology and services changed, and it’s not a surprise-surprise that they are trying to plug their FiOS service for the locals.

Verizon (FairPoint) Demarcation Point – My Grandmothers house

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This is a demarcation point or Network Interface box that was once used for the POTS provider in my state.

This was installed around 2005 as Verizon Northern New England, when we got DSL for the first time at my grandmothers house (where I lived for 18 of out my first 23 years.) The previous NID was a GTE series that looked like it was from the 1980s. This is no longer in service as my grandmother lives with us again, the house is in the process of a potential sale. I took this earlier this winter as we sometimes go over there to ensure the house is OK and all.

The cable that connected the house to the outside world was severed during a 2010 Windstorm event that happened in late February. We lost power for 4 days, but 7 days for the phone. Because this was a copper POTS, we had phone service when the power was out. The IT infrastructure was built after we moved to our new house (that would include enterprise grade routing and switching and UPS backup for about an hour.) I had a desktop, a MacBook a Power Mac G3 that worked as a server 1/2 the time and 100 megabit switching. Oh how the technology changed.

And how I was so dependent on the Internet too.

The sever occurred on the second or third day of the outage, because our road was covered with downed pine trees that took out the utility lines and blew a nearby power transformer.  The road was technically closed to the public at that time with sawhorses, but some idiot with a plow thought he would move the trees, and as he saw the transformer, he turned around, and took out our copper line.

By this time we had FairPoint for almost 2 years as Verizon decided to piecemeal some dated assets, and FairPoint put us at the end of the queue because the line wasn’t disrupted by the weather per se (no matter how much we could blame it on that idiot), so it took till the following Friday as a technician punched down some thick wire and soon enough phone and Internet services returned.

I did have Internet services through my BlackBerry, but in those days mobile sites were difficult to use.

Prior to the fall of 2010, the connection was about 768k down and probably 56k up. The Comcast install at the new house began at 5mbps down, ~1mbps up, and now its at 20 down, 15 up as well as a full packaged telephone service to have all those goodies (CLID, call waiting, three way calling) for the price of one feature if we went to the POTS provider. Comcast isn’t perfect but its pretty good if you got good wiring and ensuring you take care of your own equipment.

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Telephone Booth – Cannon Mountain Resort, Franconia NH

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This was taken on a very, very warm day just on Saturday at the Cannon Mountain Ski Resourt at the Franconia Notch State Park in northern NH. This pay phone does have a dial tone, but it doesn’t appear to be operated by Fairpoint.

If you are younger than 37,  you may be surprised that this was once a very common place in America. When I was a kid, when I grew up, I was not accustomed to a a real telephone booth that had 3 walls and a folding door (this one does not include that.) I was used to seeing a kiosk like setups.

In anyway, if you pay attention to the top you’ll see some inconsistencies, one side says Bell Atlantic and the other one says

On Landlines

I’ve seen that The Wall Street Journal had done a story on the demise of landlines here in the States. because there’s a paywall, I didn’t read it. AT&T (read the old SBC) and Verizon (the old NYNEX/Bell Atlantic) have been lobbying in DC to start “sunsetting” landlines by the end of this decade.

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy which just flattened parts of New York Tri state area, both AT&T and Verizon both had made decisions to not rewire copper in the effected areas. The former company serves Connecticut (formerly SBC’s SNET division.) In lieu of rewiring the coastal areas of the NYC area, they want fiber instead.

This is where things get effie if you asked me. Fiber and cable like services are less regulated than the landlines. Both companies are competing against Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable to provide “triple play” services (IP like voice, IP based data and even IP based TV masked as digital cable to the end consumer) and in order to do that, the telco companies have to use that architecture that is much different than the voice heavy systems like the 5ESS, the DMS-100, etc.

Landline costs are more expensive because of the iron grade equipment that puts a lot of energy use and the costs to maintain them. I actually think that’s bogus especially when the Lucents of the world had gone with the Avayas, the Ciscos and the Nortels of the world to go from those iron grade automated telephone switches to the “gateways” or those 19″ wide rack mounting systems to please those wimpy IT guys. And most gateways use a standard electrical plugs often found in PCs.

Even with those costs, its the regulation the big Bell companies bitch about. I think these Bell companies are actually being real jerks about it. Landlines are designed to provide reliability, those five-nines people love. Pick up the set and you get a dial tone (unless the world comes to an end!) While most land lines can support modern technology via ISDN or QSIG, I do know that added services  (like call waiting, calling line ID) can get very expensive. I for one use phone services from Comcast, and it’s very reliable, but yet we’ve only had one disaster (the Halloween 2011 blizzard) and we did loose voice about a day after we lost power. This was before my grandmother had lived in my family’s house. And even if the thing lasted for a day, if we were on the phone, it drains the power supply.

I think companies like Lucent and others should be developing solutions in the meantime.

I do not like the idea of a “triple play”/mobile world. It opens a lot of concerns in terms of reliability or worse the reliability of E-911. Not to sound jerky like the product manager at the leading PBX (what’s a PBX again?) vendor, but it is a concern. Digital voice is IP and think of it as a mobile phone. It isn’t location based like the landlines because the landline is a hard wired connection from your demark box outside your house and tied to the local central office on that same copper. The location is dependent on the administrator enters in or what you have told to your provider.

On reliability: is it a logical idea (other than lowering your telecommunications bill) to have a micro 5ESS on your cable modem? Businesses are like “we already have done this with our T1 and understand the responsibilities of keeping our Adtran running at peak reliability, whats the big deal?”  The problem is Adtran like devices are going in the masses since the boom of “digital voice.” That is what the cable guys give to you. In order to keep it reliable during outages, you are responsible for the reliability.

In the landline system, the telco provides those five-nine reliability. I think the system needs to be improved where the micro-5ESS or the micro-DMS moves from the modem to the “last mile.” With low powered PCs becoming popular or even movement of Software Defined Networking (or SDN) becoming a sexy subject, I love to see those huge boxes in the neighborhoods (called the “last mile” similar to the telephony world) become more intelligent. At those locations, you can attach power to the local power line on the telephone poles and put UPS like batteries with the existing batteries in the modems. I don’t know if that’s an actual concept or what, but that will be needed in order to have a successful “sunsetting” of landline services.

Also these telco companies need to be honest and explain this in plain English. The problem is a lot of people are speaking vague terms to people who can’t understand the difference between VOIP like services vs. TDM landline services. The Big Bell companies need to educate the public before the inevitable cutover (the biggest since eliminating the switchboard operator) happens in 7 years or so.

Albany Central Offices

The following picture was taken in the fall of 2009, along with that earlier posted manhole cover taken in Vermont. This is the only picture I have, since that excursion to New York we didn’t stop. In 2011, we didn’t walk around the other side of the Empire State Plaza, where this central office is located.

I had this picture posted on my former Flickr account where I was baffled of why there was an AT&T central office when the entire state of New York where Verizon is the primarily LEC.

Supposedly someone commented on this picture and told me one side is for AT&T (for long distance or LD) and the other side of the building is for Verizon’s local exchange services. I don’t know what switches run at this location. And obviously that large PBX system the New York State government runs on, probably isn’t located here. It must be located in some tight location where their datacenters are and in many wiring closets, must be in the high hundreds. Maybe some of their Centrex lines might come out of here though.

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Central Offices: FairPoint – Nashua, NH

Nashua NH Fairpoint Central Office

This is the central office for the Nashua, NH area. The service is provided by FairPoint (that was sold off by Verizon about 5 or so years ago after an excuse to stop funding for unionized workers – an engineered plan to make FairPoint file for Chapter 11 to reorganize the unions)

This central office is likely using 5ESS switches.

As you can see, a CLEC car is parked right near the office. G4 Communications is a CLEC for the Southern New Hampshire area.

 

Aside

This virtual museum will feature pictures from central offices. A central office is where the hub of the public switched telephone network or PSTN meets and acts as the electronic operator by connecting the call from your home or office to connect to the other party on the other side. These switches are both very physical and very virtual between the millions and millions of wires (in this specific case) that connect to a bunch of mainframe telephone carrier systems that are probably as big as your Frigidaire in your kitchen, the only difference is it carries up to a few thousands of lines in the cabinet and its respective drawers within them. Then the software in the system does the all the magic of hooking up the call whether its down the street or across the country meanwhile these same systems are capable of providing voicemail, services like 3ways, call waiting and calling line ID (CLID or “Caller ID”) services to the customers.  (This is a very Cliff Notes version of central offices – I think a Glossary will be in order soon!)

So, lets start a series by showing today’s set of photos includes photos I had taken on a trip to New York in April. In Lower Manhattan, near their government center, there is a huge tower that has no windows. Normally that’s the sign its a central office. Why they don’t have windows? They don’t need them. In fact, windows could bring in unneeded heat in the summer or the unnecessary arctic temperatures in the winter time.

Verizon Central Office, Manhattan, NY

The Verizon Central Office in Lower Manhattan in New York City

This central office was built when the Bell System still virtually owned the U.S. phone business, the New York counterpart was known as New York Telephone. In the 1984 breakup, NYT joined into the New England Telephone, and the parent company was known as NYNEX (New York New England EXchange), though they operated on separate networks, bureaucracies, union groups etc. New York had more Nortel (Northern Telecom) switches, while in most parts of New England operated the 5ESS switches.

In the mid to late 1990s, NYNEX merged with Bell Atlantic (which operated New Jersey Bell, the Bell companies in PA, Maryland, D.C., Virgina and for the most part of the Mid Atlantic region. The merger took the Bell Atlantic name and the New York/England bell names would disappear. The company had renamed itself Verizon by the year 2000 (without any acquisition by that point.)

The corporate offices are right down a few blocks on Pearl Street, that is the location of the corporate headquarters. I’ll save that for another post.

Like I mentioned earlier, the New York Bell was and is still mostly a Nortel (previously Northern Telecom or NT) using their Digital Multiplex System DMS series of switches, I’m quite positive, I will double check and correct if necessary.

Central Offices: Verizon Lower Manhattan, NY