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Wary of New Technology? History Offers Valuable Lessons in Misplaced Fear

Technology Has Enhanced The Customer Experience and Greatly Improved Network Reliability

To understand the apprehension of some toward advancements in technology, it’s helpful to look back at the past.

Many people may not be aware that before we had area codes and seven digits to dial telephone numbers, we used telephone exchange names that typically began with two letters followed by a five-digit number. The letters represented the first two letters of a telephone exchange serving a particular geographic area. As such, you’d have numbers like PEnnsylvania 6-5000 or ENglewood 3-1234.

That system, however, did not have the capacity to keep up with the growing demand for telephones, thus the nation began the conversion to a standardized all-numeric dialing system.

In the early 1960s as the shift to the new dialing system continued, a small, but vocal, group of protesters formed the Anti-Digit Dialing League to fight the change.

Warning that the new system was the product of the “cult of technology” and citing psychologists that claimed people were incapable of remembering seven digits at once, the Anti-Digit Dialing League won a brief restraining order against “the phone company.”

Alphabetized exchanges were so interwoven into the pop culture that Allan Sherman, the “Weird Al Yankovic” of the early 1960s, even recorded a parody song entitled “The Let’s Call Up AT&T and Protest to the President March."


By 1964, though, the Anti-Digit Dialing League had faded away as its dire predictions failed to materialize. But this is a classic example of how some people fear new technology – and because of that fear – reflexively reject it, rather than accept it – no matter how irrational that fear may be. The same can be said for nay-sayers of more recent issues like Caller ID or changing area codes.

Today’s Equivalent of Alphabetized Exchanges

Verizon has been at the forefront of developing cutting-edge communications services – using the best technologies to deliver among the most consistently reliable communications experiences for our customers.

While protests over dialing with numbers may seem silly today, history is repeating itself in places like New Jersey where groups like the state AARP organization and its anonymous backers have been waging an aggressive campaign against Verizon’s use of Voice Link – an optional communications solution that uses proven wireless technology to deliver reliable home telephone service.

Much like the Anti-Digit Dialing League some 50 years ago, AARP New Jersey would rather stymie progress than acknowledge how advanced communications services – including copper, fiber and wireless – are changing the way people communicate – for the better.

A Major Disconnect Between AARP New Jersey’s Marketing and Policy Concerns

What is especially disingenuous about AARP New Jersey’s stance is that nationally, AARP promotes to its millions of members a similar, but inferior, service called “Wireless Home Phone” marketed and sold by Consumer Cellular that competes against Voice Link. The AARP receives royalties from Consumer Cellular in exchange for pushing the product to its members, which calls into question AARP’s real motive in opposing Voice Link.

Today, competition in the industry has given consumers more choices than ever before. Technology has enhanced the
customer experience and greatly improved network reliability, offering the new lifelines of the 21st century, especially for seniors.

Our customers have best-in-class communications services available to them because Verizon invests in our networks, our services and our employees – more than $80 billion in capital investments in the last five years alone. That commitment has never wavered, and Verizon will continue to develop and introduce ways for our customers to enjoy richer communications experiences that should be embraced, not rejected.