The ’80s has officially made a comeback, making its mark on today’s culture in ways that are both amusing and unexpected.  But even as some of these old trends enjoy some new popularity today, it’s clear that this resurgence is limited: After all, who could truly long for dial-up Internet after experiencing our current digital age?

The 1980s brought us a number of technological advancements that paved the way for many of the current innovations we now enjoy.  Along the way, consumers switched in favor of more advanced devices and technologies, which developed at ever-increasing speeds.  Today’s consumers can choose between advanced technologies that offer more benefits than ever before including a strong, basic voice connection from which people of all generations rely.


Here in Colorado, the regulations that govern telecommunications have not changed since 1987.  Consider how so much has changed and yet these old rules remain stubbornly in place – seemingly light years away from where consumers are today and how we connect with one another.


Right now, our state legislators are debating a package of telecom bills that are designed to update regulations while still ensuring consumer protections, increasing consumer choice and encouraging continued innovation and expanded access to modern broadband services.  Passing these bills would mean that Coloradans could continue to benefit from a thriving tech industry, empowered by forward-thinking legislation that would pave the way to an all-broadband future.  Advanced broadband networks will help meet the requirements of today’s consumers – which have evolved since the ‘80s – and deliver the products and services that are in increasing demand and that rely on the lightning-fast capabilities of modern, Internet-based (IP) infrastructure.


For many tech-savvy consumers, this is an exciting proposition.  After all, most of us have willingly ditched old technologies in favor of a service or device with capabilities that add convenience and flexibility to our lives.  For consumers who haven’t yet moved forward, beta testing trials have been proposed where a collaboration between consumers in specific geographic areas and the telecommunications industry are working together under the watchful eyes of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure no one will be left behind.  The trials illustrate what’s at stake because they acknowledge the benefits of modern broadband connectivity and the critical importance of keeping everyone connected, no matter what technology is used.


Updating telecommunications policy and moving forward doesn’t mean forgoing the basic connections of which people of all generations depend and of which they are most familiar.  Strong, reliable voice service is one of the most essential capabilities of modern networks, just as it was for the networks of yesterday.  In addition to the voice connection, Internet-based networks enable products and services that promote health and wellness and new choices that help secure a person’s safety and independence.


But if the voice connection is the only priority, then today’s voice connections – which are HD-quality – eliminate background noise and make it easier for people to distinguish between different voices and sounds.  For people with hearing difficulties or hearing loss, HD voice opens up new possibilities.  In fact, individuals who currently struggle with today’s voice service will gain a more reliable, higher quality connection from IP-based networks.  Many people who are hard of hearing or who have experienced partial hearing loss—about 48 million Americans, and approximately 1 in 3 seniors—will discover that HD voice makes it possible for them to talk on the phone once again.


The shift to modern connectivity is not about the fastest and the flashiest: It’s about more choices for the connections on which we have always relied, but that are now capable of delivering innovations and possibilities that improve our lives and strengthen our communities.  Dial-up gave way to broadband, our clunky desktop computers have mostly been replaced with sleek laptops and smart mobile devices.  Yesterday’s landlines with standard voice service can’t cut it anymore.  No ’80s nostalgia here: It’s time those obsolete rules go the way of the Walkman and cassette tapes, so we can all move forward into the future with modern regulations and 21st century services and capabilities.


By Michael Price, Executive Director of the Coalition for a Connected West.


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