I received the following from reader David Weigand via e-mail regarding my recent report on the status of E911 ("Answering the wireless emergency call," January 2001 CI&M, p.12):
It would be great to get just one do-gooder to do a real environmental freedom impact analysis on our lives by their great ideas.
We have already witnessed the grand California electrical deregulation fiasco this week. Do-gooders again. For some reason, this class of people has a problem with looking at the damage they can create.
And here we go again, the 911 electronic GPS dog collar.
We use electronic dog collars for house arrest felons today. And now your great idea has just expanded it to all citizens who own a cell phone. Why don't you eliminate cell phones instead of making us all prisoners in the U.S.A.?
Oh no, GPS reporting would not get abused and be turned into malicious misuse of privacy rights by the police, the spooks-FBI/NSA/CIA, the telemarketing boys, and so forth. NSA satellites right now have the ability to monitor and process every microwave (long distance) phone call made worldwide. The French are furious at the USA.
Guess what? It already has happened. Today, when you place a cell phone call, the system operators know who and where you are within 0.5 miles or so. They sell that real-time info to telemarketers, who ring you back to tell you directions to the local McDonalds, or K-Mart has a blue light special today on...
Think of the damage before you come up with the next do-goody, please. And forget your next step of forced federal legalization of the Silent Cell Phone Responder mode. I know you have already thought of this, your next air brain do-goody idea; be able to poll all cell phones and have them silently respond with their GPS coordinates. Silence is, of course, to save battery and not to tell the victim he is being followed electronically by the mayor. You would sell it as a great way to find lost kids, lost mountain climbers, avalanche victims, earthquake victims, and Alzheimer's wanderers. Boy, would a dictator or a police state love you.
There are a lot of good technology ideas that work, but whenever you introduce such ideas, spend a little time on resultant consequences.
The one I like was the introduction to the pristine Polynesian islands of plastic pampers to replace traditional diapers. Those beautiful underwater coral reefs that tourists could oh and ah about turned pure white overnight from the plastic remains of those millions of pampers.
For years, a good friend had a poster hanging in his hallway that read, "Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't really out to get you." ...but are "they" really out to spy on each of us? You see, every time I use my credit card, write a check, or make a bank deposit, "Big Brother" is watching me. He already knows my medical history, physiological profile, blood type, even my shoe size. And he has my fingerprints on file somewhere. But not a single bit of this information was obtained by eavesdropping on my cellular telephone conversations or tracking its whereabouts.
You see, I am a Vietnam Era veteran (U.S. Army Signal Corp), so my "secrets" are long since cataloged. Today, when I visit a Web page, my personal profile is recorded and a cookie implanted in my PC. The price we pay for "free" information.
In March 1997, while I was on a flight to Washington D.C., my husband had a heart attack caused by a genetic defect that some 25 years earlier in a similar event had killed his father. While driving home after dropping me at the airport, he began to experience severe chest pain. Alone on a country road, with no phone, and not knowing were to go for medical attention he drove home. Once inside the house, he picked up the phone and dialed 9-1-1. The pain came in waves. As he lay on the floor, he heard first the sound of the ambulance siren and then the helicopter. All within minutes.
How did they get there so quickly? The emergency dispatcher's display at the Public Safety Answering Point (PASP) tracked the call. The attack was severe, minutes counted. His surgical team assured me that had there been any further delay in getting initial care, I would be a widow.
While I strongly believe in the importance of 911 and E911, it was the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), not Donna Ballast, that mandated implementation. So, I will have to go on record as a "do-goody wannabe" on this one. The FCC actually issues requests for comment on issues under consideration. I urge you to go to www.fcc.gov to let your opinion be heard.
Although it is mandatory for the service providers to offer GPS-enhanced handsets, it is not mandatory that you upgrade you handset. If you don't want to risk being tracked to within a few meters via your cellular telephone-don't buy a new one.
(Just for the record, my youngest is nearing 25 and none of her diapers are in coral reefs.)
Work continues on Cat 6
TR42.7 (Category 6) held an interim meeting in late January to resolve comments received on the committee ballot of PN-3727. The group agreed to perform a final review on the Insertion Loss Deviation specification for permanent links and channels, to finalize balance recommendations for cable and connecting hardware, to confirm the Level III field tester accuracy specifications, and to complete the details of the test plug characterization-all in hopes of sending Category 6 to a 45-day industry ballot after their March meeting.
This standard is by no means "set in stone." For example, in December, the permanent link return loss specification was 21 dB at 1 MHz, but the component specifications for the cable allowed a return loss of 20 dB at 1 MHz. What does this mean to you? A 30 to 60-meter long permanent link using a minimally compliant cable can fail the 21 dB requirement at 1 MHz. So, in January, they change the range to begin at 3 MHz.
End of that problem. But there are others.
For instance, the connecting hardware measurement procedures have not yet been proven to an accuracy of ±1 dB. Accuracy of ±1 dB is required for Category 6 interoperability.
Without interoperability, we do not need a standard, because there would not be any mixing of components from different manufacturers. We can just select a proprietary system and use the chosen manufacturer's specifications-much like what is happening today.
PN-3727 (SP-3727 during the industry balloting phase) will eventually be published as addenda to TIA/EIA-568-B.1 and TIA/EIA-568-B.2
Donna Ballast is a communications analyst at The University of Texas at Austin and a BICSI registered communications distribution designer (rcdd). Questions can be sent to her at Cabling Installation & Maintenance or at PO Drawer 7580, The University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713; tel: (512) 471-0112, fax: (512) 471-8883, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.