On Your Side: Lifelines Going Offline

By: Jeff Anderson Email
By: Jeff Anderson Email

News 12 at 6, February 7, 2008

AUGUSTA -- Many of you depend on On-Star, home alarm system and cell phones for safety and convenience. But over the next two weeks, hundreds of thousands of them won't be working anymore.

They're going to stop working because the analog cell phone network they use to operate is being shut down. It's just not as efficient as a the digital network. But for a while, it's going to cause more headaches than help.

Sara Youngblood is in a spot that most of us would rather avoid. That spot where you need to get your car fixed.

"Someone threw a rock at my windshield," she told us.

One rock. Lots of damage. So she's having the folks at Kendrick's Paint and Body pound out the dents and replace what is one-cracked windshield. But there's a catch for Sara: she can't afford for it to take too long.

"I'm trying to sell it," she said.

But finding a buyer for her car isn't her only problem.

Sara recently found out that a marketable part of her car isn't working anymore, her On-Star service.

"It does surprise me. I thought it was a good feature a lot of people used." she said.

Sara and hundreds of thousands of other owners of on-star equipped vehicles soon won't even have the option to have the service. That's because the FCC is in the process of shutting down the analog cell phone network that On-Star service runs on in older vehicles.

But On-Star vehicles aren't the only things affected. If you have a wireless backup system for your home alarm system, chances are it will shut down too.

And there's more, many cell phones like the ones in News 12's satellite truck have to be replaced. They're analog too and just aren't as efficient as digital phones.

"The old analog system takes up more bandwidth than the digital one. Every analog phone can have 5 digital phones in its place," Chief Engineer Ed Elser said.

And that's the gist of this transition. Analog has to go because digital is better.

So how do you know if you will be affected?

In most cases, if you have analog On-Star, it is already shut down and can't be fixed. Contact On-Star for more information at 1-888-4-ONSTAR.

For your cell phones, if your phone has text messaging, a camera in it or an mp3 player, it is digital. If you don't know, contact your wireless provider.

With your home alarms, it is best to contact your service provider and ask them if you will be affected.

As for Sara's vehicle, she'll just get it fixed and hope someone wants it without On-Star.

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