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What Do We Do With POTS?

This list was adapted from an article I wrote on my website, StormShock Ideas.

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For over a century, we’ve relied on POTS, and it has served us well. However, we’re getting to a point in technology where POTS is becoming obsolete.

And what is POTS, you might ask? It’s Plain Old Telephone Service.

POTS uses copper wires that can transmit analog sound and electricity. Because it can transmit electricity, one of the main benefits of POTS is that your telephone will continue to work in the event of a power outage. But as those of us who are old enough know, copper wires don’t do so well transmitting digital Internet data. For transmitting data, we use fiber-optic cables.

This means that most of us in developed nations have two sets of communications infrastructure connecting our homes. We have a POTS network, and a separate fiber-optic network. Besides having peace of mind that you can make an emergency phone call whenever you need to, even when the power goes out, POTS is largely obsolete. Most people can use their fiber-optic networks to make phone calls over their internet connection (VOIP). With advances in backup systems and reliability, we may eventually get to a time when POTS has no advantages over our fiber-optic networks.

Once POTS is obsolete, what can we do with it? We will have a complete infrastructure of obsolete copper cables connecting nearly every building in America (and perhaps your country as well, if you’re not in the US). This situation sounds ripe for a trillion-dollar idea.

I don’t have a solution for the POTS problem, but I do have some initial thoughts:

    1. Strip down the wires and recycle them

    The price of copper is rising because it is useful for many modern things. It may be economical to remove all the POTS wires, strip them down with machinery, and recycle the copper.

    2. Turn it into an emergency communications system

    We could embrace it as an emergency communications system and perhaps integrate the POTS system into our current technology. Perhaps VOIP phones can have a backup connection to analog phone lines (maybe they already do? I don’t know).

    3. Connect smartphones to land lines

    Or perhaps a modem could be made to connect smartphones to phone wires. I’m not sure what practical use this would have, but it’s a raw idea you can run with.

    4. Run parallel with internet data

    Is there any type of data that can (or should) run parallel, but separate from the internet data that travels through the fiber-optic network?

    5. A backup internet connection

    Maybe we can run a separate low-bandwidth internet alongside our regular high-bandwidth internet. It could be a more reliable internet for emergency uses only.

    6. Cryptography?

    I feel like there may be some use for an analog system in cryptography. Can we send certain data over an analog line as part of a cryptographic process to make systems more secure?

    7. Auction it off?

    How about auction off the POTS wire system to the highest bidder? Maybe some entrepreneur can come up with a genius use of the system.

    8. Do nothing

    Just let it die out and forget it ever existed.

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