… and I feel fine? Doesn’t scan.
I’ve said to my friends that the end of the phone network can be predicted by the things that replace it. In particular, it’s possible to dial “firstname.lastname@example.org” from a sufficiently savvy device. How long will we have use for phone “numbers” when the alternative is familliar and easy to use with a “smart enough” phone?
But this article predicts the end of the PSTN (Publicly Switched Telephone Network) by 2018. That, in and of itself, is a shock to society. The PSTN embodies a huge complex structure that includes our emergency services (911), services for special groups (TDD, etc) and, in some cases, our identity (9–6‑7-“11” “11”). And it was created largely by and still supported through large subsidies that fund less profitable but socially useful portions of the network through money paid into government funds by more profitable portions of the network. The shock to the system is that (in America, at least … it may be that Canada’s high cell phone charges are slowing adoption in this country) the lucrative urban customers are leaving the PSTN system for cell phones and/or other internet services.
The real shocking item in the article, though, is the graph which seems to say that the US has only 60 million PSTN lines as of 2011. That means that roughly 1 in 6 US citizens currently has PSTN service. That number is substantially lower than even I expected.
The article goes on about how the government should plan an end to the PSTN just like it did for analogue broadcast television… to prevent it’s inevitable collapse which would lead to many rural (and elderly) people without communication.
Universal broadband may sometimes sound like a luxury, but remember that we don’t consider “universal access” (what the telephone subsidies are often grouped under) a luxury.
Thinking on this whole issue, I enjoyed the subtle cradle to grave story where the internet, born of the telephone network (running, in the early days, as phone calls using modems) eventually integrated with the telephone networks and has already surpassed telephone networks. Soon will come the day that telephone calls are as inconsequential in the mass of internet packets as the original internet was to the phone network.