The Digital Revolution Has Destroyed the Usefulness of Telephones

I remember when telephones were useful as telephones. Today they are used to surf the Internet and for text messages. Most people don’t answer the ring unless they recognize the number. Many never set up their email or message functions on their cell phones.

I keep my cell phone off and only turn it on when I have to use it in order to report Internet or power outage or to receive a security code so I can sign on and connect with an Internet financial or payment site. I have ceased answering the house phone unless I am expecting a call. 95% of calls are intrusive scams or robo calls. The digital revolution has made it possible for your privacy to be invaded by scum from every country who assume they have a right to invade your space and use your time in an attempt to take advantage of you.

Despite the destruction of privacy, a Constitutional right, people are being forced to have a cell phone and endless apps just in order to function.

Telephones are useless in other ways. Businesses are no longer set up to answer phones or to let you speak to a person. You get a robot that gives you a menu unrelated to the reason for your call. My favorite is when I call about the Internet or the power being down and am told by the Internet or power company’s robot to report the problem on the online site. When there is the option of speaking to a customer representative, you invariably are told that “due to an unusual number of calls,” you have a long wait time. Occasionally, you are offered the opportunity to leave a callback number and are promised to be called back within 24 hours. Just the other day it took me 1 hour and 47 minutes to deal with a matter via telephone that would have taken 30 seconds 40, 50, 60 years ago.

I remember when AT&T was a blue chip regulated monopoly, a safe investment with a good diviend. Service was superb. The company answered by the third ring, and whoever answered was capable of fixing any problem. You weren’t put on hold for a quarter hour listening to advertisements while the customer representative tried to get through to his supervisor to find out what to do. If a line was down or a transformer blown, AT&T was on the job before you could pick up the telephone to report it. Telephone bills for local service were a couple of dollars a month.

As Assistant Secretary of the Treasury I still remember the plan to break up AT&T that the Reagan administration inherited from the Carter administration. Saddled with getting Reagan’s supply-side policy out of his reluctant administration, I hadn’t the time or energy to try to block the breakup of AT&T. I still regret that the Reagan administration failed to recognize the disastrous consequences of breaking up AT&T. The “Baby Bells” were good lobbyists and had the skids greased. The breakup began the descent of the telephone from useful device to intrusive bother that no one will answer.

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