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Refusing GCI Digital Phone Service;

Juneau, Alaska December 2021. On or about April 29, 2017, Alaska GCI phone subscribers received an ultimatum indicating that we had to migrate to the GCI digital local phone service DLPS (VoIP) system or have dial tone cut off four weeks hence. This is what happens when the legislature decides to exempt utilities from regulation.

At the time, for many, a viable alternative was to switch to the AlaskaCommunications.com (ACS) loop start phone system.

What was wrong with the GCI offering? It offers only four talk hours or ten standby hours when the power goes out. In areas still served by copper wire loops, the ACS network runs indefinitely.

The GCI system had a rather severe echo on local calls. If your dog barked, you'd hear an echo. It squelched out quiet talkers, so when an elder let the handset drop away from their mouth, they wouldn't just get quieter -- they'd cut off entirely. And if you called somebody and the line was busy, the line might just go dead, instead of returning a busy signal.

The GCI system would also cut off calls from prisoners in state custody because the systems would interpret the sporadic audio as cell phones, which are (or were) prohibited.

The GCI system was not compatible with trouble-free use of pacemaker monitors, medical assistance systems, home security systems, credit card dialup machines, satellite pay-per-view systems, parolee ankle bracelets, dial-up internet service, or sending or receiving faxes.

If ACS loop start service is not available to you, there are still alternatives to GCI's lousy-sounding re-pre-de-emphasized sorry excuse for local landline phone service.

A pretty good alternative is Cricket cell service. It's a prepaid subsidiary of AT&T. In Juneau, you can get service for $30 a month including taxes. There is unlimited calling to the whole of the United States at no additional charge, plus 2 gigabytes of data, which you will barely dent if you have home WiFi.

Another alternative, assuming you have home Internet, is Google Voice. You have to choose an out-of-state number (mine is area code 253 Kent Washington). You make a one-time purchase of an OBi200 adapter for around $50 (Amazon and others). You plug it into your router, plug a touch-tone phone into the OBi, and have a dial tone immediately. Initial setup involves one call to your old landline or cell. Thereafter, for a monthly charge of zero, all OBi phone calls to Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, and all of North America are free. You can even plug a fax machine into the OBi and most of the time it works. Note that the free version of Google Voice is for personal use only.

A very few calls do require a small deposit. This will also cover intercontinental calls, but at one cent per minute for China and 14 cents per minute for Ecuador, a little goes a long way.

Home internet does not have to be costly. I subscribe to the slowest speed available from TheSnowCloud.com. They provide service in Juneau and Hoonah. The monthly charge, with tax, is less than a private phone line. What's not to like? Yes, if the power goes out and you have no UPS, it dies immediately, and with a UPS, within an hour. But there's the cell fallback.

The point is that ACS and GCI are not the only game in town. You can fire GCI, even if ACS loop start service is not available to you.

It's something to think about.

Don't take getting taken. Get even.

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