You've protected your PCs and computer peripherals for years with the help of power and surge protectors, shielding them from damage in the event of a power outage or electrical storm. But, for the most part, such emergencies rarely affected telephone lines, because they weren't connected to an electrical system.
At least, that was until Congress deregulated the telephone industry in 1996. Now that a multitude of phone company alternatives (like cable businesses, fixed wireless providers and fiber-to-the-curb providers) have cropped up, these nontraditional phone connections can easily go out if the electricity fails or surges.
The good news:
New technologies have emerged to prevent that from happening and ensure you'll still get a dial tone in an emergency. Products like Power-Shield (available through your local cable company) from American Power Conversion and a model called the 5350 PT4 ($19.95 street) from Montana-Dakota Utilities effectively shield networks from surges and provide a power supply to run the network as well as a battery backup to power the equipment in the event of an outage.
Gene Koprowski has covered the tech industry for 10 years and writes a monthly computing column for The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
American Power Conversion, (800) 877-4080, http://www.apcc.com