As more telephone customers cut the cord and shift service to wireless or Internet-based options, some major telephone companies have asked the federal government to pull the plug on the old-fashioned service.
They say regulations that require maintenance of outdated, little-used infrastructure hinders progress because it ties up money that could otherwise be invested in technology upgrades. But some small companies question the motivation behind the push, saying it is likely a self-serving effort to allow those major companies to run wild in a relatively new, far-less-regulated Internet-based telephone environment.
"They are not making any moves out of generosity or trying to improve technology for the world," said Dave Weis, owner of Internet Solver, a telephone, Internet and managed IT provider. "They are trying to sidestep rules and laws that govern what portion of their network they are required to lease to competitive carriers like us."
Experts say Internet-based telephone will mean faster and higher-quality service for consumers. Former Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher, who visited Des Moines this month to talk about the future of the Internet, said the conversation must now turn toward ensuring that any transition for residents is smooth and that factors such as cost and availability are equitable and fair.
During his visit, Boucher mentioned an advisory committee's recommendation that the Federal Communications Commission phase out traditional phone service, known as the public switched telephone network, by 2018.
That system has been in use since the introduction of phone service in the U.S., meaning decades of regulations have been worked into the network. However, many people have gone wireless or are using Internet-based phone service, which has fewer regulations.
Weis acknowledged the trend but said there remain many holdouts who still use traditional service.
"There has been a constant move away from landline telephone service during the last decade," said Weis, who keeps his traditional phone in case of emergencies. "Still, a lot of people for a variety of reasons want to keep a landline."
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