In thinking about how much the communications and computing world has changed in just the last few decades, I'm always wondering how my kids will react when I tell them about how Dad used technology in the past. Case in point: "long-distance service." My kids won't even know what the heck that term means. And they will certainly laugh when I tell them how their grandmother used to impose a strict, time-limited plan on my calling activities to keep our phone bill down. (I used to have a girlfriend in high school who lived across an "inter-LATA" boundary which made my calls to her absurdly expensive even thought she was less than 30 minutes away. Once the monthly phone bill went over $100 bucks, my call privileges were severely curtailed by Mom!)
Anyway, what got me thinking about all this was this announcement yesterday by Skype that all US and Canadian-based Skype customers can now make free SkypeOut calls to traditional landline and mobile phones in the US and Canada. Sure, Skype isn't a perfect substitute for traditional telephony. But it's good enough for many. And its move will force other telecom providers to reconsider their current pricing plans and cut rates even further. One wonders how Vonage and other VoIP providers can survive in world of cut-throat competition.
Meanwhile, back in the surreal world of Washington, we continue to impose extensive regulations on various phone companies due to fears of consumer harm. Hmmm... let's see, someone is providing free phone service to the world and regulators are still worried about consumer harm. Seems silly to me.