Killing the landline: a dubious idea

A recent Lockergnome post details AT&T’s surprising request to the FCC: setting a date for the sunset of analog landline service.

And my take on this may surprise many, but I think this is a mistake. I have noticed a steady decline in the quality of telephone communications ever since the rise of the wireless phone. Prior to 1990 sudden disconnects were relatively rare. They did happen, but not how they happen now. During frequent marathon phone conversations with a friend of mine about a year or so ago, we used the phrase “kitchen phone” or “bathroom phone” every time a call got dropped when I was in those rooms of the house. It was crazy. This never happened with a cordless phone plugged into a landline.

I will admit I have only occasionally used VOIP lines (similar to a landline, except the call is routed over the Internet) and I don’t use Skype. (I had a Gizmo account some years ago but never really used it.) I have called a Skype number and there have been a couple of times where the line quality became unusable (the last 5-6 seconds of the call would just start repeating like a broken record and/or skipping and glitching like a scratched CD).

Plus there is the issue of emergencies. Text messaging (and I’ve posted before on the outrageous markup on text messages) is sometimes the only usable application on a wireless network after a disaster. During a power outage it is very likely that VOIP service will be completely unusable. Analog landlines have been built to function after some disasters; they aren’t disaster-proof by any means, but they are the most likely type of telephone to be usable after, say, a hurricane or tropical storm hits.

Pay phones have been a traditional backup to mobile phones, and would also potentially be affected by the sunset of analog landlines. This is especially true for areas where cell tower coverage is spotty, although having a phone croak (low battery, or sudden failure) can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. I’m not expecting the huge wall of payphones inside of shopping malls like we would have seen up until the early 1990s, but it’s reassuring to know the option is there. I dread explaining to my future kids that yes, that thing the guy in the movie put a quarter in is a telephone.

At minimum, work-alike alternatives to analog landlines need to be deployed that are equally reliable. That is, in fact, the one thing I miss about landline phone calls: reliability. It’s enough to make the likes of Alexander Graham Bell roll over in his grave.

Controversy, timing, hockey, personal branding, and publicity

Dan Schwabel ( recently wrote a piece on the story of two different reactions of hockey players passed over for their respective 2010 Winter Olympics national teams. My interest in this story comes from two interests of mine: professional hockey and marketing/PR. (Yes, I know it may come as a shock to some, but I do have an interest in both.)

Scott Gomez of the Montreal Canadiens, a former NHL All-Star, was passed over for the USA national team. Scott’s reaction was relatively mild-mannered and happy-go-lucky, acknowledging the realities that there are 23 roster slots but certainly more than 23 players that can be seen as qualified to fill those slots, a decision which is extremely subjective and certainly haunts some players passed over for years (probably the most notable example: Herb Brooks).

It is what it is. You get the call, you realize it, you move on and focus more on here. It wasn’t meant to be. Congratulations to the guys who made it. You just wish them the best of luck and hope the U.S.A. brings the gold.

Now, we move on to the reaction of Mikael Samuelsson, who played on the Swedish national team in 2006, and won a gold medal. Given this, it’s a bit more understandable his reaction isn’t exactly the stuff congeniality award winners are made of:

I pretty much have one comment and maybe I’ll regret it. But they can go [expletive] themselves. That’s what I really think. […] If [Swedish coach Bengt-Aake Gustafsson] doesn’t want me, he doesn’t want me.

There is a time for controversy. I think Mikael picked a really good time to be controversial. The gold medal he already has, of course, means Mikael has a little more room to get away with what he said, and in fact may well be the sports equivalent of a “get away with it card” in this case. (Scott has yet to win any Olympic medals, having only played for the USA national team once before in 2006.)

While I generally disapprove of indecorum, Mikael’s reaction will definitely get people talking about him and may have little effect on his real chances of making the Olympic team. That’s not to say Scott Gomez’s graceful reaction was the wrong one. Not all publicity is good publicity, and Scott’s choice was likely a good course of action for Scott in his circumstances. In the proper circumstances, publicity about controversy can be leveraged to work to one’s advantage.