Musings on Telephones

Sebastian’s treatise on the drawbacks of telephones struck a nerve with me; I too tend to be rather taciturn, and so prefer communications by email or IM (mostly email, as I like the fact that an immediate response is often not required, so one can think out one’s response a bit more).
However, when I do need to use the telephone, I prefer that it doesn’t suck. Cellphones are mediocre at best, what with the extensive voice compression and signal processing they utilize. Yes, they can be incredibly convenient (( Though I must say it was quite a relief to be without cellphones for a few weeks whilst on my honeymoon. )), but the lower quality is a big tradeoff.
Fortunately, my work happens to have really nice Cisco IP phones that have outstanding call quality. It’s rather nice to be able to speak to someone and be mutually intelligible.
I’m neither an audiophile nor a luddite, but it rather annoys me to have audible communications go from “so clear you can hear a pin drop” to “can you hear me now?” ((Yes, I know they’re marketing slogans and I’m taking the latter out of context. Deal with it. )) in just a few years. If it’s possible to have high-definition TV broadcast over the air, radio signals beamed in from space, and high-quality movies streamed over the internet, is it too much to ask that cellphone provide a similar level of quality as landline phones?
I’d love to get a landline phone at home, but landline phones plans are absurdly over-priced. They still charge for long-distance service? What the hell? I can use Skype/Google Talk/SIP to call India and have a crystal-clear audio and video chat all day at no cost (( Or use a VoIP phone for mere pennies a minute. )), yet wireline phones charge per-minute rates to call Phoenix from Tucson? Local phone service from Qwest is about $13/month, with no features (e.g. no caller-ID, no voicemail, etc.), but with the absurd amount of taxes and fees they tack on, it ends up being closer to $30/month. Completely not worth it. I wonder if the phone companies ever consider why they’re losing business to mobile devices?

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