Weatherford Democrat

Viewpoints

July 2, 2012

COLUMN: Don't call me, I'll call you

— It seems to me that basic telephones, a telecommunications device designed to allow you to talk to another person in another location, are rapidly becoming obsolete. Telephone operators are essentially nonexistent, phone booths are a thing of the past, and even telephone poles/lines are being relegated to history.

As a youngster, I would have loved to have had a telephone down on Route One Millsap. We didn’t because the infrastructure was too expensive to provide service to only three or four families in Lazy Bend. Only a few decades later, all these poles and wires are no longer required. Everything is capable of being provided through cell phone towers, wireless internet providers, satellite arrays, or underground fiber optic cable.

In the older days there was little competition in the telecommunications market — Ma Bell was the 800-pound gorilla. AT&T, along with all the so-called “Baby Bells,” called all the shots. AT&T had all the politicians “bought and paid for,” and the regulators meekly followed orders. The company owned the lines, they owned the actual phones, and they installed them in your house. If you wanted an extension, you paid separately for it each month. Long distance calls were extremely expensive.

Despite having essentially a monopoly on telephone service, I’ll have to hand it to AT&T. They provided superior service to what I saw anywhere in the rest of the world. There were a few rival U.S. companies such as General Telephone & Electronics (GTE), as well as a host of independent operators, but they were largely overshadowed by the Bell System.

Beginning in 1982, customers were finally able to own their own phones without a monthly fee, they could choose service providers in certain instances, and the cost of telephone service became more competitive. With all the innovations brought on with the internet, telephone service and telecommunications in general have changed drastically in the past couple of decades.

Many people are opting to cancel service for their home phones in favor of cell phone service only. I would probably do so myself if my signal was stronger. With masonry walls and a metal roof on my house, signal strength is very unreliable this far out in the boondocks. I did, however, opt to cancel my service with AT&T a couple of years ago in favor of VOIP (voice over internet protocol) which is provided through my high-speed wireless internet provider. I receive the same phone service, including unlimited long distance, as I had with AT&T, but at about a fourth the cost.

Ever since switching, I receive bi-weekly or monthly solicitation calls from AT&T attempting to lure me back into the fold. Their rates have been reduced dramatically, and they offer to bundle all sorts of services such as internet, television, cell phone, and others in order to achieve tremendous savings. But once again, just like in the 1940s and ’50s, their super bundled service is not yet available our here on the pore farm.

Recently, I have apprised them that I am on the federal and state Do Not Call lists, and their solicitation is in violation of the law. I am divorced from AT&T, and just like an ex-wife or old girlfriend, they no longer have the privilege of my company. We’ll see how this works out...

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to nowhearthis@pwhome.com.

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