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Re: FW: Accu-vote & digital phones

As our polling sites keep changing their analog phone lines over to
digital, our election workers are having more difficulty in transmitting
the information from the accu-vote machines to the regional offices.
Has Global made any enhancements to accommodate these changes in
  No, we haven't made any enhancements and at this point we know of none that we could make.  As far as I know, there are at least several different types of digital lines.  Therefore we would require either a universal adaptor, separate adaptors for each type, a universal external modem, or separate modems for each type of digital line.  Ian has done a little research in this area but I haven't heard of much success.

  Unfortunately we don't have the latest discussion on this in our archives (July 1998) so I'll append the messages here.

Subject: Digital phone lines and Accuvotes
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 1998 14:44:50 -0700
Tari Runyan wrote:

Just a curious question... I know that most of the telephone technology
is heading toward digital lines - many of our customers already have
them -
Is this going to phase out analog lines and thus force us to modify or
change completely the way the Accuvotes communicate using analog lines
now- and force us to accomodate the  digital phone lines?
Is anyone getting any grumbling ( besides me) from clients regarding the
ability (currently the lack of ) to use digital phone lines?

Guy Lancaster wrote:

  Okay, here's my 2 bits on the subject.  As far as I know, phone lines are
inherently analog.  By phone lines, I mean the lines running from the office
to the local telephone switching station.  They require repeaters to be
installed about every 2 kilometers and with these they install low pass
filters to cut high frequency noise that listeners find very annoying.  The
Accu-Vote, like personal computers, use modems to perform digital
communications over these analog phone lines.

  So what do people mean by digital phone lines?  They could mean any one of
a multitude of options.  ISDN, xDSL (including HDSL, SDSL, ADSL, and VDSL),
ATM, and Frame Relay are all digital transmission protocols designed to
carry both voice and data digitally.  These are carried on STD (Standard
Twisted Pair - i.e. normal phone lines), and coax and fiber optic cable.
The combinations are enormous and at this point, there is no clear leader in
any particular application area.  All of these techologies require special
black boxes on the local end of the line(s) to convert these protocols to
something the customer can use.  Which leads to what I am guessing people
mean by digital lines...

  PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems are phone systems installed in
business environments to take a number of voice and data "channels" from the
phone company and distribute them to the telephones and other equipment at
the local site.  These PBX's are accessed through RJ-11 or RJ-45 jacks
installed in office walls, floors, and utility posts.  Since the connectors
may be the same as those used for "standard" phones, people often think of
the jacks as "phone lines".  However, you cannot just plug a standard phone
into one of these jacks and have it work.  That's because some of the wires
in the connection are used to communicate with the PBX and without them, you
don't get any services.  Unfortunately each PBX defines its own protocols so
you will not likely be able to plug in your neighbors PBX handset into your
lines unless you share the same type.

  What this means is that the Accu-Votes telephone line port cannot be
directly connected to one of the normal jacks in the office.  Instead
customers usually have to borrow a standard phone line (usually installed
for a fax machine) or have one installed for Accu-Vote use.  People would of
course like to be able to just plug the Accu-Vote into one of their normal
(PBX) jacks and have it work.  This is what I interpret from the request for
supporting digital phone lines.

  It would be very difficult (and expensive) to support this directly.  What
PBX systems would we support?  How much additional hardware would be
required?  Are there pocket sized adaptors available that we could install
in the Accu-Vote instead of a regular modem?  I suspect that serious
investigation of these questions would lead to the conclusion that it's not
worth it.  I could be wrong...

  In the Vancouver office we have a PBX that allows us to in plug an
Accu-Vote and use it provided that you plug one of the office handsets into
the telephone handset connector on the Accu-Vote.  Then you use the handset
to select an outside line and then the Accu-Vote dials normally.

  I suspect that other systems wouldn't support this.  Ian has tried to use
a special adaptor at the McKinney office in order to connect his computer
modem but last I heard he had not been successful.  However, such an adaptor
would seem to be the logical answer and I'm sure that some telephone
equipment manufacturers offer them for their PBX systems.  I'm afraid that
it will be up to the customer reps to talk to the customer's PBX supplier to
check in to this.  Just explain that you want to be able to connect a
computer modem to an outside modem through their PBX.  I would be keen to
hear what you find.

"Ian S. Piper" wrote:


I have setup the SureLink Digital Telephone Adapter to gain access to outside
lines from the MCKinney PBX system.  This is how I currently access my Internet
connection.  Unfortunately, the adapter only supports auto-dial on about 50% of
digital PBX systems.  On the McKinney PBX, I have to let the computer dial its
number (not that it is connected to a dial tone or anything), lift the handset,
choose an outside line, and then dial the number manually.  There is also a
signal strength switch that must be set to an optimum position (1 thru 4) for
your telephone system.  The manual does list the auto-dial compatibility of
numerous digital PBX systems and the signal strength switch recommended initial
setting.  Once everything is configured and tested, it works fine.  But without
an auto-dial compatibility, a poll worker would require special training to use

It's not as simple an operation as you would want for a poll worker.  I
recommend still using an analog fax line at the precinct site.  But if a fax
line cannot be found, then this may be an alternate solution for you.  The
retail cost on these items will be 180.00 US each.  No discounts are available
for this item.

Ken Clark wrote:

> Is anyone getting any grumbling ( besides me) from clients regarding the
> ability (currently the lack of ) to use digital phone lines?
> Tari

Digital phone lines are very cool.  Everyone is going to dedicated T1 lines
for their telco systems.  There are systems available from 3COM and Cisco
systems that give you a bank of modems that can communicate directly with
their T1.  They would be extremely nice to work with, because there would
not be all the cabling hastle that we currently have.  They also integrate
with TCP/IP protocols, which is how the the AccuVote 2.0 firmware
communicates.  This would mean, at the end of the day, two cables (T1 in and
ethernet out) to handle 24 phone lines.  The systems are very reliable.
This is how you local ISP works.

This is all fine and well, but:

- The equipment is very expensive.  In a perfect world, the big counties
will already have the equipment, but since they usually use their lines
mostly for voice communication, they probably won't.  Very expensive means
$500 per line.

- You need a lot of network training to know how to set these systems up.

The other route we can go, is to farm out the whole telephone thing to an
ISP (who already has the equipment) and do everything over the internet.
This will probably be the way things work in the long term.  With the
internet, what you have to start worrying about is security.