Thursday, 14 February 2013

Fax is dead, and so is the internet?

We are seeing an interesting trend lately - companies finally ceasing their fax line. We see almost no faxes ourselves, but it is interesting that fax machines and lines are actually being removed finally. It was a lot slower than the demise of telex, probably because it is a lot cheaper to keep a fax machine going.

There is, however, a problem, and this is why we are seeing this. People (typically accounts departments) finally decide to cease a fax line without realising that this is the line on which the broadband is supplied. In many offices the fax line is one of the few analogue lines they have suitable for broadband as they have ISDN phone systems still. (The move from ISDN to SIP is happening slowly).

The first anyone hears about it is when the internet stops working. The end user then has to (a) get the BT line reinstated (usually reasonably quick), but then has to (b) wait for the broadband cease to close (c) order new broadband, and maybe (d) pay for an expedite on the new broadband order. Not nice, expensive, and lack of internet for a day or even a week in some cases.

So please - think of the broadband before ceasing that old fax line.

We can do broadband only phone lines to support the broadband (including taking over your old fax line) for as little as £10/month, and then there is one bill and one point of contact for faults...

I think we'll stop publishing a fax number now as well. The one thing people fax is a "tag change form" for domains, and that can just as easily be scanned or photographed on a camera phone and emailed.


  1. The only reason FireBrick Ltd hasn't seen any faxes is because they published a number on their website which simply went straight to voicemail - had to flag it with A&A/FB staff on IRC before it got amended to a number which actually received faxes.

    If it costs next to nothing to support, why not keep it around ?

    Incidentally, still has no AAAA record in DNS and by your logic, that would be a good reason to discontinue IPv6 support in the FireBrick because none of your FireBrick users are connecting to your official support site over IPv6.

  2. It would be nice if we could get rid of all of the analog fax lines I have here! Having to maintain an extra two analog voice gateways is definitely annoying. The biggest concern is the US regulatory aspect of faxes sometimes seeming to be more "official" than an emailed scan. It's probably something where I just need to push more. One other annoyance, though, is finding MFP makers that natively do T.38 over SIP, instead of just analog. That would allow me to dump the analog voice gateways, even if we did keep all of the faxes.

  3. I wish fax would die. It is difficulty with doing fax over the Internet that is stopping me migrating my numbers. I can send OK, but receiving seems to be a different matter.

  4. I expect fax to become unreliable over time, as the protocol necessary to support it over
    voip is (necessarily) a horrible hack (see (It demodulates the fax and remodulates it at the other end, performing various tricks to keep the actual fax machines from noticing that they are not synchronised to each other). Eventually no-one will remember how the code implementing it works, and it will become too annoying to maintain.

  5. At least a fax machine answers calls, I have had bean counters cease lines as there was no reply when they called them so they can't be in use! At least broadband was easy to fix, we just expidited an install on another PSTN line (the fax one!). The RedCare one took about three months and four visits from Openreach. The first visit the only successful thing they managed to do was break an EFM circuit by accidentally leaving a pair dis'd in the DP (a time based charge ~£120). Visit two was to fix the EFM fault and the engineer ripped the pairs for all the EFM from the screw terminals in the DP and jelly crimped them directly to internal cabling to the sockets to stop anyone accidentally "borrowing them" thinking they were spare (at least that was free even if they did breach the 7 hours time fix time by 2 days by booking the appointment for Monday AM - not that I was too inclined to push the point as I didn't fancy sitting waiting til 3AM on a Saturday morning!!! The alarm company (£100 visit charge, plus cost of replacement STU) couldn't find any RedCare tones on block terminal, nor could they find or a dial tone any voltage - which incidentally isn't a "fault" that can be logged by RedCare apparently as the STU had never provisioned from with on their systems (helpful) and the fault raised on the underlying PSTN line was cleared off by engineer three with a "working when tested" as they simply stuck a butt phone in the NTE5, ran a line test and said the line worked (£150 visit charge raised by the SP which I refused to pay - although I suspect accounts probably did!), they didn't read the job notes; well they did, but proceeded to tell the site contact they were only responsible for cabling up to the NTE5 and that the cabling to the RedCare block terminal was our responsibility... well that interesting point of view as spur it was taken off the line at the DP prior to the NTE5 and last time I looked cabling to RedCare blocks was a Openreach responsibility to the RedCare block which is the demarcation point, particularly where it has been just been provided and doesn't actually work to the handover point. Next issue was trying to get it fixed; the only suggestion we could get we install a new PSTN line and RedCare block terminal provide and do (another) "transfer" of the RedCare service to a different line, or do a RedCare cease and reprovide which meant the ARC being billed for nearly 12 months service by BT and then more activation charges to add it back on to the existing line. In the end I was talking to another alarm provider elsewhere and they suggested requesting Openreach do an internal shift of the block terminal to a new location - about 1cm away - another time based charge of ~£120 but the "least expensive" option.

  6. Continued...

    That worked eventually, although not until there had been no monitoring on the intruder alarm for months; although I wasted a day travelling to site to ensure _I_ was the site contact and that before they left they could prove from using a butt phone wired to the block that 17070 returned the correct number. The problem, the block terminal wasn't actually connected to the correct line on the DP as the D side pair for the line was wrong on BT's records and all they had done was to connect the RedCare block a dead (and faulty) pair without checking it was the correct line or any rudimentary checks that the block - incidentally on the first visit they hadn't even replaced the block on a new internal pair with a new one which incidentally they should have as they strictly it was being put onto a new line so the old one could have been still active at the time!

    I hope someone felt good for cancelling that line as I think it probably cost about £590+VAT plus my time to deal with trying to co-ordinate it all and attend the final time (and to do the same for the EFM issue they caused at the start). Unfortunately I now have responsibility for security systems and telephony now as well as IT! Mind you the accounts people do seem better at asking what strange unpublished phone numbers are now; but still are employing the "if no one answers assume its unused" test on brand new lines when they are first billed! Mind you ISDN lines rather confuse them too where published number is ported in as a SNDDI and not the underlying number that appears on the bills.

    And yes I am now employing the approach of buying (on new provides) broadband and lines from one provider... if nothing else they can't actually understand AAISP bills :-) I do periodically get and earful about needing so many phone lines and how people have only one line for both voice and broadband at home (slow, drop when the phone rings? Oh now you mention it yes!) so why do we use dedicated PSTN lines! The same people who generally like to tell me BT Infinity cost £15.99 a month, come with a free router - then forget I keep having to change the subnet of those wonderful boxes due to them using conflicting subnets when people try and VPN in from home (doable) or more problematically customers (not doable) so why do we pay £50-£75/month for DSL or FTTC in offices and hundreds for 20mbit fibre ethernet or EFM when their FTTC at home is 80mbit (and rather contended!) - home - high density per PCP = FTTC, business area, low density, no commerically viable for FTTC!

    1. Wow - and very believable - scary. That is, however, the first time I have had someone say our bills are confusing "in a good way" :-)

    2. Sometimes I think I should stop reading your blog because it's too depressing.

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  8. I averted disaster today... while sitting at a customers I overheard someone talking with Virgin Media about them taking over the ISDN30 in the building and reducing the active channels / max channels from 30 to 15... but also "reduce the 4 analogue lines to 2"...

    After the call I butted in and asked which 2 lines they were planning on culling.
    Turns out it was the one that the broadband is on :P (And another analogue line with unknown purpose connected to their telephone switch... but reports I ran ended up showing it taking at least 1 inbound call per day).

    Lucky escape... I'm only there 3 hours each week - chances of missing that phonecall were incredibly high.