Aug 13 2012
By Fred Hoot - Google+
Here Lies POTS
Done In By
This is an appropriate tombstone acclamation. However the death is a long, drawn-out, lingering one and no one wants to pull the plug. Yes, high-speed Internet is striking the final blows. Let’s cover the chain of events that brought this about.
For those of you, who may not know POTS, let me introduce you. POTS stands for Plain Old Telephone Service. Don’t try to push any of that Telecommunications terminology around. POTS has to do with telephone service.
Additionally, it also means a tethered (how’s that for a modern term mixed with an old technology?) telephone, meaning it is tied to the wall jack. In other words, a home telephone. Yes, it may be a cordless or even a VOIP instrument, but it is still tied to a wall connection.
My Contribution – Early Cord Cutting
This all started years ago when I bought my first cellular phone. I plopped down a cool $700 and received a heavy handset with additional extended batteries and two chargers. A $1,000 deposit for the first year was also required to make sure the phone would be paid for should I terminate the contract early. I also needed a home phone number in my own name in order to get the cellular number.
Upon the activation of my three-pound cellular anchor and after I told and emailed all my friends my new number, I cancelled my home phone line and never looked back. Little did I know that my actions would become a wide-spread practice years later.
For a few years, I would have had a problem except for the fact that my neighbor had a DSL line. With a few tech-wiz-bang tricks, we shared that DSL service via a cable buried under the grass between out homes. I paid them half the cost and everyone was happy. The phone companies collected money for their copper lines that stayed in place to support the DSL and POTS.
Long Distance Divorced from Local Service
The FCC decided that Long Distance charges needed to stand by themselves. Previously, long distance profits helped pay for the local cost of the physical copper lines, their maintenance and installation, and for the telco equipment to support the POTS lines.
Yes, some people thought that the long distance charges were overly expensive, and the FCC separated what the phone companies could do with their long distance profits. This caused several consequences, some unintended.
The long distance became a lot cheaper overnight. This fueled a huge competitive war for long distance. You see this today with all the unlimited long distance plans for very little money. My long distance calling used to be a couple of hundred dollars a month back then. Now it is less than $40 (including texting and email) and I call around four times as many long distance minutes, not that it matters.
As expected, the local telephone service skyrocketed. What was unintended was the amount of the increase. All of a sudden many people were strained to pay this new increase. Those people were also ones that typically did not use long distance much due to the cost. They had no reductions on the long distance side to balance out the local service increase.
American Ingenuity Comes to the Rescue
More people started to find ways to save money by dropping their POTS service. American ingenuity arose to the occasion and shared phone lines between neighbors started to increase, although this was illegal and frowned upon where there were no laws against it.
A new industry sprung up selling privacy boxes. You bought one for every phone and whenever one phone was in use, the rest of the telephones were prevented from eavesdropping unintentionally and a red LED was lit when the line was in use. Still this was not enough of a loss for the telcos to become overly concerned. When they discovered illegal connections, most telephone company employees just clipped the wires.
FCC Separated DSL from POTS
Later, the FCC made another ruling that hastened the death of POTS. They ruled that you did not need to have the DSL service tied to a telephone number. Yes, the copper was still there for the DSL, but the charges for the phone number were eliminated when you dropped the telephone service from the DSL. I do not think the FCC knew that they were putting a handful of nails in the POTS coffin.
Cell Phones Are More Nails
More and more people eventually bought cellular phones and they gradually were made smaller and lighter. No longer did they wear holes in your pants pockets within a month.
Since cell phones were becoming more popular, prices came down. This further increased their popularity. More people discarded their home phone numbers. Initially, the telephone companies did not care too much because only a small percentage of people did this, but is was a concern.
Since then millions abandoned their home phone lines in favor of their trusty cellular phone and smartphones. Even the children are getting their own numbers.
Finality: High-Speed Internet
The finishing nail is the high-speed Internet connection. For those who shun their cell phones, a new product is made possible by the availability of high-speed Internet. The high-speed Internet brought on the availability of a home phone without POTS.
VOIP (Voice Over IP) Makes it easy for those who want a home phone without the cost of the POTS landline. Some plans can be had for under $5 a month. If you are willing to trade in your physical phone for a headset connect to your computer, You can reduce the cost even more.
The need for a common home number has ceased to exist for a good percentage of the population. Are you one of those who no longer have POTS?
HighSpeedInternet (cropped) via Flickr by ReindeR Rustema
Rotary Phone via Flickr by hyku
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