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August 2010 Archive for U.S. Farm Report Mailbag

RSS By: U.S. Farm Report, US Farm Report

Comments, questions, opinions...this is your chance to speak out regarding anything and everything reported on U.S. Farm Report. Viewer feedback updated regularly.

Cell Phones, Landlines & School Consolidation

Aug 31, 2010

***Editor's Note:  Below are comments received following the August 28-29, 2010 edition of the program...

*COMMENT #1:

After John’s comment last week I almost did write this, but I felt it too important. Most cell towers do NOT have backup generators, they have 2-4 hours of battery backup in case of power failure. Thus in a prolonged power outage cell phones become useless. This is important as the public feels that in an emergency their cell phone will be there.  Whereas wire line central offices are required by the FCC to have generator backup. I know this from working in the industry for a number of years. Further, the towers without generator backup are mainly in rural areas that are less profitable due to the lack of population.

Rex Ennis

Grindstone Island, New York

*COMMENT #2:

   When you reported on the 911 tax this morning it reminded me of something my 89 year old World War II Navy Vet told about phone on a cd made for the Library of Congress report of veterans a couple of year ago.  I am 24 years younger than him having been born toward the end of the war in May of 1945.  I also have 3 other brothers who served in WWII.

   The story is that he told the reporter that the old wall crank phones had a feature that today's modern phone system and the cell phones do not have.  It seems that not long after he was married he was sent out to sea on what he thought was a long cruise.  Four months later he was back in New York just after the first of the year and called his wife back in western Illinois late that night. 

   She was a teacher in a one room school house and when he called she said I cannot come because school is in session.  The next morning one of the school board members showed up at school with his kids and ask if she planned to go see that sailor. She said "I cannot go because school is in session."
   The school board member said well school is on vacation until you get back. The party line was effective for spreading the news.  My brother James Robert Whitson and his wife Genevieve live in Champaign, Illinois now.
David Whitson
 
*COMMENT #3:
   John, your comments on school consolidation were right on target. I really enjoy your comments, and have for years. Keep up the good work.
 
 
Rod McAfoos
Rosedale, IN
 
***Editor's Note - below is a transcript of John's commentary on school consolidation:
   MY COMMUNITY HAS LONG HAD SMALL LOCAL SCHOOLS.  FOR EXAMPLE, BACK IN THE DAWN OF TIME, I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL IN A CLASS OF ELEVEN. WHICH MEANS I GRADUATED SECOND IN MY CLASS AND DIDN'T MAKE THE UPPER TEN PERCENT.  
   BUT DEMOGRAPHIC AND ECONOMIC FORCES MAY BE FINALLY BRINGING RATIONALIZATION TO THE SMALL SCHOOLS IN ILLINOIS AND OTHER RURAL STATES. SCHOOL CLOSURES ARE STRONGLY RESISTED BY SMALL TOWNS AS A PRECURSOR OF DECLINE, AND HEROIC MEASURES ARE EMBRACED TO SAVE THEM.  TOO MANY MEMORIES - HAPPY ONES, FOR THE MOST PART - ARE LINKED TO THOSE OLD BRICK STRUCTURES FOR RESIDENTS TO LET THEM CLOSE.
   BUT AFTER THE TAX BURDEN SOARS, AND THE BASKETBALL TEAM STRUGGLES, WE RELUCTANTLY BEGIN LOOKING FOR OTHER SOLUTIONS.  IN AREAS LIKE MINE THAT CONTINUE TO LOSE POPULATION, AND WITH DECREASING FAMILY SIZES, THAT REALITY CAN ARRIVE ABRUPTLY. ADDING IN THE 120-BILLION DOLLAR COLLECTIVE STATE DEFICIT, CHOICES SOON DWINDLE.   
   THIS WOULD SEEM TO BE ONE OF THOSE ISSUES WE HAVE TO BE FORCED TO CONFRONT BY STARK EMERGENCY. WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM WATCHING THIS PROCESS IN OTHER COMMUNITIES IS THIS WOUND NEVER FULLY HEALS.  COMMUNITIES JUST OUTLIVE THE MEMORY OF WHAT SCHOOL USED TO BE.  YESTERDAY'S SCHOOLS WOULD NOT SERVE TOMORROW'S STUDENTS, ANYWAY. SO SOMETIMES BEING TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL COMES SECOND TO BEING TRUE TO YOUR CHILDREN'S FUTURE.

Cell Phones vs. Landlines

Aug 23, 2010

***Editor's Note: John's commentary on cell phones and landlines drew some interesting reaction.  We are posting a transcript of John's comments followed by the viewer feedback...

John's Comments:

   My commentary last week about the future of landline phone service got several phone responses.  Noreen Clark replies they are located in a dead zone and are unable to get cell phone coverage at home.  If landlines became obsolete she would be without phone service.  Joack Frost of Niles, Michigan stated that in resopnse to emergencies it is best to use a landline for 911 calls.

   Noreen, my own coverage is spotty as well, but that continues to improve.  I was not advocating abandoning landlines, but since the portion of households relying solely on mobile phones is 25% and growing, I think there will be problems with how we pay to maintain an expensive landline system as folks opt out.  Especially when they have to bury miles of wire to get to a few customers.   Developing nations are skipping landlines entirely, saving billions in infrastructure costs.

   Jack, you make a great point.  Many 911 systems rely on the landline phone information to locate callers, which can be critical for folks who are confused or unable to speak.  But recent FCC rulings require cell phones to transmit location information to the 911 call center as well.  Not all the nation has this capability yet, however.

   I have to believe due to the portability of mobile phones, more 911 calls are coming from them.  And remember, if the power is out, your cordless landline phone doesn't work anyway.

*Viewer Comment #1:

John,

I greatly enjoyed your comments on the transition from good ol’ analog phone service from the local Ma Bell to cell phones but want to point out one important thing, the Cell Phone Network is not a life safety network.  Let me elaborate..
 
Let say to start I am not a farmer or rancher, but live with them on my little 10AC patch of rural Idaho. I enjoy your show on weekends and find it quite entertaining and informative. I have managed telecommunications for a large international company for 12 years. No one can beat me for the horror stories I can tell you about getting phone service in rural areas. I am sure it is not unlike getting three phase power to a remote pump site. I say this to qualify that I am no fan of the telephone company and any bit of competition that keeps prices affordable for rural folks is okay by me, however…
 
Recall when New Orleans was devastated by the hurricane a couple of years ago or when most of Houston was without power for weeks after the hurricane there. Having offices and employees in those areas I can tell you the cell phone network was either totally not functional or so completely overloaded that getting a call through was nearly impossible for days. Due to the nature of the wireless service no carrier can offer the reliability of good ol’ ma bell. The landline telephone network is designed to be there and functioning regardless of the weather, if the power is on, or there are too many people trying to use it. The next time a tornado comes through and knocks down everything taller than 20 feet and the cell tower(s) that service your phone are down as well and you need help.. well you can work out the rest you guys are obviously smart people.
 
Sure they are handy, but I wont to depend on one to save my life.
 
Thanks again for a great show. You make me interested in agriculture and I feel informed when I have coffee with the local farmers and ranchers because of it. I feel in touch with the difficulties that the Farmer faces today. Hummm..you don’t just plant a few seeds and pick them when ripe huh?
 
Thanks and Job Well Done!
 
TR Bowlin
Shoshone, Idaho

 

*Viewer Comment #2:

I happened to catch your show today (8/22/2010) as I some times do and caught the story regarding cell phones verses land line and I have a few corrections and comments regarding it. First you stated that in the event of a power failure that land line phones would not work, this is not entirely correct. A conventional land line service or as it is called in the business POTS for plain old telephone service. Yes that is a real telephone company term. :-) The system is actually run off of batteries so the phone itself will continue to work in the event of a power failure as long as the lines remain intact. If the person is using a cordless phone in their home that however would not work as the base station relies on house current to operate.
 
Next it is very true that what you don't use you loose and if people continue dropping land line service in favor of cell phones it will be extremely difficult for providers to support their infrastructure. On the other hand the more folks that purchase cell phones the more towers will be erected and therefore the better coverage for the users.
 
Lastly cell phone service and features are expanding by leaps and bounds. In addition to normal cell phone service internet is also available through cell phone providers. You can now purchase a wireless router that will hook you up via your cell provider and wirelessly feed all the computers in your home with internet. Also for those that are still out of normal cell tower range external antennas and amplifiers are now available to close the coverage gap.
 
That's my buck and a half,
Keep up the good work.
 
Denny Mortensen
Sioux City, IA

A Good Listen

Aug 10, 2010

 To John Phipps,  

   I enjoy listening/watching U.S. Farm Report via the internet on AgWeb on the weekends.  I live in Ontario, Canada and manage and have ownership in an ag retail operation supplying fertilizer, seed and crop protection products.  Your comments are always interesting and I thought I would comment regarding your discussion over whether to talk about food or production in conversation. 
   This link came originally from one of your regular contibutors Mark Gold who suggested the commentary was worth a listen.  I agree, and while I am not an American I think it applies to Canadian agriculture as well.  The gentleman commenting I am told is Mike Rowe who has a show on Discovery Channel here in Canada called Dirty Jobs.  I have never watched it but found out quickly that a lot of other people do.  If you haven't heard this it is really worth the listen.

Brian Smith
 
Oxford Agrpro Ltd.
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