Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Barriers: Tele-communicating, Part 1

So much of life in the poverty well comes down to making choices, which is exhausting in its own right. This is another post about choices and the consequences of the ones we make.

I had to make a choice between having a phone or having an Internet-connected computer. Each service was costing me about the same amount to maintain, all things considered. My tiny budget couldn't manage both, so I compared how often I used my phone to how often I used my computer.

I logged my calls, incoming and outgoing, and experimented to see how long I could go without making a call. I'd been phoning out no more than once or twice a week and at times could go a month without making a single call.

I've never been a phone chatterer and am not someone with a wide circle of friends or family, so a phone wasn't important for social reasons. I'd almost exclusively been using my phone to get information or to make appointments. I'd been paying upwards of $40 a month for that service; without questioning it, having absorbed society's message that a phone was a necessity. That brought me up sharp as I began assessing how much each call was costing me.

I was getting much more use out of my Internet service and would be online for several hours each day. My computer was by far more valuable to me than my phone in terms of connecting with people; in fact, loner that I was, I'd acquired many online friends who were important to me. Plus there were my two blogs, Challenging the Commonplace and the podcast site of the book I researched and created for WISE; occasional web design contracts; listservs and discussion forums I participated in; book sites; gobs of information only accessible through the Internet; and VOIP technology that enabled free or extremely low-cost voice communication, e.g., Skype, that could, in theory, perform the same function as a phone.

Hands down, there was no competition. Since every business and government office, and my small circle of friends and family were also Internet-enabled, I chose to rid myself of the phone and use the Internet for all my communications needs.

Sound reasonable? It did to me and I got along just fine, not once missing my phone. It surprised the heck out of me, especially having felt strange, in fact terrified, when making that call to cut off my phone service - as if I was casting myself adrift in unmapped waters around an unmapped island.

Happy with my decision and my new life begun without a phone, what I could have done without were the unfair restrictions by Canada's telecom giants - aided and abetted by our federal government - with respect to VOIP technologies. I could also have done without certain assumptions and out-dated practices maintained by governments and by non-profit and for-profit organizations. Except for these issues, I was sailing quite happily in the bay of my virtual island.

Part 2

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