Sensational headline aside, it’s true! First they replaced the operator with direct dialing. Then they tossed out rotary phones for touch-tone phones. And now, plain old telephone service (POTS) may be going away for good. For some, it’s progress. For others, it’s frightening.
Like dual-cassette stereos and VCRs, many households (29% and growing, according to one survey) are finding they can do without landline phone service. And the ramifications extend beyond your front door.
First, we need to look at why POTS is disappearing, and the answer goes deeper than just “everyone has a cell phone.”
Reason 1: Deteriorating infrastructure. Yes, technological advancements have presented a major challenge to POTS supremacy, but the primary force undermining POTS are the big phone companies themselves. The landline phone infrastructure in the U.S. is expansive, and when something as expansive as that infrastructure begins to deteriorate, it costs a lot of money to fix it.
Reason 2: Technology. As stated above, advancements in technology are challenging POTS’ place in the home, and it’s not just all about cell phones. Email, social media, instant messaging, video chats and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are providing people with effective and often more convenient alternatives. Basically, “better, faster, cheaper” is here.
Reason 3: Labor shortage. This ties directly back to Reason 1. You need two things to improve infrastructure: money and people. This 2013 NPR article put it best:
"The switches — the actual infrastructure — are reaching end of life…And, ironically, so too are the personnel, the engineers who received training to maintain those expensive switches."
Basically, there are a lot of things that need fixed and not enough people who know how to fix them.
Is there a business impact?
You bet. While this shift will hit rural residents the hardest due to lack of broadband access, small businesses will also have to adapt. SMBs that could get away with only operating a handful of landlines will soon find it more cost-effective to implement SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) solutions instead. Businesses with work-from-home and other remote employees have already begun to implement more efficient digital and hosted solutions as well to keep out-of-office workers in the same network or system.
While many businesses have already adopted newer technology, there are always holdouts, and it will be interesting to see which ones drag their feet (and why). Change is coming. The question we all have to answer is “how quickly will we adapt?”