"This ain't your daddy's telephone company..."
Telephone services now come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. How do you make heads or tails of the various telephone service providers? It's a tough proposition. However, this page is designed to help you understand the essentials for telephone service options in Foster City.
Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS)
POTS refers to the traditional function of telephone networks: providing voice communications between two people. At one time, telephone service was entirely analog; today most networks are digital, providing clearer service that was possible before.
High-Speed Digital Services
These services come in various flavors, which provide you with high-speed digital (and mostly, data) services. Using these types of data services for internet or data connectivity will substantially increase your performance in transmitting data vs. POTS. Your 3 primary choices are:
- Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) - This technology uses your existing copper telephone wiring to deliver high-speed data, voice, and video to businesses and homes. Connections are "always on" between the end-user and the provider. There are many type of DSL service available, including different speeds and uses.
- Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) - A digital communications network that allows the simultaneous transmission of voice, data, video, imaging, fax, and other communications services over multiple channels which have been combined to provide a single transmission path with speeds of up to 128 Kbps.
Advanced Digital Services (T-1, T-3, ATM, etc.) - Available primarily in the commercial areas in town, advanced digital services allow a company / organization to operate their own phone systems, combining "multiple phone lines" (23 in the case of T-1's) into one circuit. Those circuits can also be used to port large amounts of data as well. T-1 speeds approach 1.6 Mbps, with T-3 speeds getting up to 45Mbps.
Who Provides These Services?
AT&T (formerly SBC/Pacific Bell) is the city's primary telephone provider (or Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier - ILEC). Through the advent of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the doorway was opened to allow others to provide "dial tone" services using AT&T's infrastructure to local businesses and residents. Some carriers such as QWest, Williams Communications, MCI/Worldcom and Sprint have started providing services to commercial accounts in Foster City. Other providers have been able to break through in the local residential market for DSL-type services, but are mostly reliant upon AT&T's infrastructure to provide such services. As such, AT&T is realistically the primary residential telephone service provider in Foster City.
What Does the Future Hold?
Foster City is working with SAMCAT and telecom providers in encouraging competition in Foster City. There are some logistical disavantages that must be overcome ... location "off the beaten path" (aka El Camino Real), lack of underground facilities. Nevertheless, companies such as RCN and Comcast are now competing in select markets to provide local telephony. Recently, the City commenced informal negotiations with AT&T, who wishes to provide video services known as "IPTV" over their existing infrastructure in a project known as "Project Lightspeed". Should the City and AT&T be able to successfully negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement, competitive land-based video services would be offered to Foster City residents for the first time.