The Financial Express

Of telephonic woes, digitization

Of telephonic woes, digitization

Just prior to the widespread use of the mobile phones and the so-called smart phones, the landline phone owners didn't enjoy any special dignity in society. The object had already become one, which hasn't been elusive to even the lower middle-come people. After a radical drop in connection fees, the landline phones became almost every urban Bangladesh household's prestige item. A few years later, places like the large business houses in Dhaka's Chawkbazar and in Chattogram city's Khatunganj would be found sticking to land phones. Maybe they found the device to be economical. Surprisingly, most of them would also carry the early-model mobile phones. A similar picture would be encountered in many residences. With their dust-laden land phones lying unused at a corner-table in a residence, every adult member of the house was found communicating through their smart phones.

In the year of 2022, around 70 percent of Dhaka households and offices having legal land phone connections are not using their phones. Around 50 to 60 per cent of them used to clear their dues every month just several years ago. But the practice began declining thanks to the phones' remaining dead almost every three months. Complaints to the local telephone authorities fell on deaf ears. Yet the repairmen or the 'linemen' would visit a spot, and repair the 'line'. Incredibly, the phone would go out of order again. It became an annoying ritual.

Another blight which faced the clients was the sudden gaps on the part of the authorities to send bills which were supposed to be sent to them every month. A large per cent of the phone clients have always been punctual with their bill payment. Their queries about the non-receipt of bills against their phones would meet with the brusque answer: Prepare your bill, and submit the amount to the GPO's telephone counter. Those who were in great urgency would make time by keeping aside their office or business. The next month, they would receive their phone bill. Unfortunately, this wouldn't go on for long. Once again their phones would go dead. The directive to visit the local phone office, followed by the same old rituals for a phone to come alive, and remaining functional for a few months, and then the long silence seemed unending.

Disillusioned and devastated, many people, thus, stopped having all ties with the state-run telephone. It's not too late, though. They had already got used to the mobile or smart phones. With the persistent headache caused by 'the telephone' now gone, they could now sleep in peace. The telephone box in many houses are kept literally as a token of the past --- or as an antique. Incredulously, or as part of a cruel fun, telephone bills all of a sudden became regular, but to no avail. In spite of the great assault made by the mobile or smart phones on the communication system in many countries, they cannot think of parting with the age-old analogue phones. However, the landline phones in many developed countries enjoy a lot of privileges, which are nearly unthinkable in the developing world. One of them is unlimited talk time at certain time on certain days.

 Not too long ago, one would get almost endless talk time if the calls are made within Dhaka. It sounds incredible now. But the system is very much in practice in the big cities of the West. It's true in the age of digitisation , the penchant of the modern people for using the veritably wireless communication devices continues weaning people away from the conventional communication means. The analogue telephone system fitted with advanced technology can help it survive with the dignity it deserves.

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