A cell tower stands alone in the desert

Voice-over-IP (VoIP) is nothing new, of course, but so far it's been regarded merely as an add-on to America's regular, analog-based copper and cellular voice networks -- networks that are currently maintained as a matter of legal requirement. The FCC isn't necessarily such a stickler for tradition, however, as it is now encouraging phone networks to explore what would happen if VoIP replaced everything else. In other words, how would the system cope if the only phone numbers were Internet Protocol addresses; if even emergency calls were transmitted over the web; and if remote rural communities became dependent on VoIP, with no other type of network as a backup? Companies that want to participate in the experiment have until late February to submit their ideas, with approvals expected to be granted as early as March -- but don't fear, the tests will only be permitted in "discrete geographic areas or situations," which is the FCC's way of politely reminding telecom providers not to get ahead of themselves.