Report: The Bell May Be Tolling for Ma Bell
Around the State
Remember Ma Bell’s good old days? You know, the days before 11-year-olds carried cell phones and Skype was a verb.
Well, a new report shows those days are long gone.
The Florida Public Service Commission signed off Wednesday on a draft report that reflects the continued transformation of the telecommunications industry, as residents ditch their old phone lines and turn to wireless and other technology.
Consider this finding: About 16.9 million wireless handsets were in use in Florida as of June 30, 2010 -- nearly one for each person in the state.
Or this: 27.3 percent of Florida adults lived in wireless-only households during the period from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010. That was up from an estimated 22.9 percent the previous year.
Or this: In 2010, longstanding carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink, saw a 20 percent drop in residential and business “access” lines, an industry measurement of the wireline market.
AT&T spokesman Don Sadler said the report reflects the changes that his company has seen during the past 15 years, as competition and technology have increased.
That has forced old-line carriers to change from primarily delivering service to the phone on your kitchen wall -- and focus on devices that you can use to call, text, send e-mails, watch videos, read books or do seemingly countless other things.
“What it basically has done is caused us to step up and meet the desires of our customers,’’ Sadler said.
But the shift away from traditional phone service isn’t limited to Blackberries, iPhones, Droids and other types of wireless devices. The report shows that many Floridians also now get phone service through what in the past were cable TV companies.
“The increasing demand for mobility and for more data intensive services like video is changing the way consumers think about voice services and influencing product selection,’’ the report says. “Pricing strategies that bundle broadband, mobility and voice services together are contributing to the continuing decline in residential wireline access lines."
The information is in a Public Service Commission-produced telecommunications report compiled each year for the Legislature.
Many of the trends in the report have served as a basis for lawmakers to ease regulations on the telecommunications industry. That culminated this year, when lawmakers largely stripped the PSC of its regulation of phone services.
Some groups, such as AARP, have fought such deregulation efforts, arguing that many seniors still have wireline phones and need protections against rate increases.
But the industry has argued that regulations put wireline companies at a competitive disadvantage -- because the PSC does not regulate wireless and cable services.
Also, the industry has contended that consumers have more choices now, such as wireless, which reduces the need for regulation.
“The competition is out there, and people are vying for communication dollars,’’ Sadler said.