Telecommunications in Society and Business

Chapter 6.4


Information Utility Companies


Today, most people still receive their information from newspapers, magazines, books, radio and television.


Now, on-line services are information retrieval systems which are part of a value added network available to anyone with a telephone, computer, and modem. Subscribers pay a monthly fee to receive unlimited access to news, sports, weather, travel information, home shopping services, financial and medical information, reference material, games, access to bulletin boards and e-mail




America on-line

Lexis/Nexis -offered by the mead Data Corporation provides on-line access to a comprehensive legal database covering state, national and international American Law. Canadian counterpart is called ??????? Within seconds a lawyer can type in a search request and within seconds has a list of cases which discuss the issue which can be called up on-screen for review. Nexis, the companion service provides abstracts and full-text retrieval of hundreds of newspapers, magazines and journals. (31 billion dollar industry in 1995).


Telephone companies now trying to cash in on information service by using electronic white and yellow pages, voice mail to fax conversion, advanced messaging systems that can forward faxes, and e-mail to where ever you are located


Cable companies are trying to incorporate both entertainment and information services. They have an advantage in the fight to become the NEW INFORMATION UTILITY COMPANIES. Coaxial cable used by cable companies already possess sufficient bandwidth to deliver most of the new information technologies while telephone companies must replace the existing twisted-pair wire with fiber-optic.


Smart Telephones and Personal Communicators


The convergence of computer and communication technologies is transforming more than information delivery service. Telephones and computers are merging together blurring the lines between them.


Several telephone manufactures are incorporating LCDís screen displays that can display 16 lines of text for typing in messages, sending faxes and using smart cards.


Can now use new phones based services such as banking by phone, at-home shopping services, electronic mail delivery, and Caller ID


On the other end of the spectrum, there are those that are producing a new breed of personal computers that care also communication devices. Part telephone and part computer, combines the two technologies into a wireless pocket sized device that you can carry with you every where. Ultimately you will be able to place and receive phone calls, send and receive faxes, send and receive e-mail, do word processing, create spreadsheets and data bases and communicate with your PC at home where ever you are in the world.


Electronic Bulletin Boards


The merger of computers and telecommunications has also created a whole new method for people to communicate on topics of common interest. Electronic Bulletin Boards, (BBS), like on-line information services, are open to the public and accessible to anyone with a PC, modem, communication software and telephone line.


Now more than 50,000 BBS in the United States


The fastest growing segment of the market are boards operated by private companies that wan to give their managers and employees more access to company information and policy messages.


Controversial issues include - CENSORSHIP VS FREEDOM OF SPEECH

What about offensive or obscene racial, ethnic or sexist material. Some claim that a systems operator has no more control over content than a telephone company has over telephone lines. Others say BBSís are like newspapers which have publishers responsible for controlling and monitoring the information disseminated for public consumption. What do you think?????


Facsimile Transmission (Faxes)


Fax machines have exploded in popularity over the last ten years.


Fax machines are now an affordable piece of office equipment so that every small business and even some home owners now have fax machines.


A fax machine scans and digitizes images (text, graphics, and even signatures) on a page and transmits them in analog form from over a regular telephone line to another fax machine which then reproduces a copy of facsimile of the image on a piece of paper.


Can now send a hard copy of a document across the country or globe in less than a minute instead of relying on the mail or an overnight document delivery service.


A fax modem performs the same function, but if you want to send a fax or letter that is not created on your computer you have to scan it into your system first with an image scanner.


Voice Mail


Voice Mail is a sophisticated, computerized telephone answering system. Unlike an answering machine, a voice mail system can perform a variety of functions. It digitizes messages and stores them in a voice mailbox until you are ready to listen to them. Also, when properly implemented, voice mail systems become powerful tools for companies in reducing costs and enhancing productivity for both the caller and the call recipient.


Poorly designed systems can put a caller into VOICE MAIL JAIL, a maze of recorded instructions that form an endless loop without letting you access the person you would like to speak with.


Electronic Mail


Electronic Mail (E-mail), has helped to reduce telephone bills, the cost of regular and overnight postage and secretarial costs.


E-mail has become the preferred method of communication for many organizations


1990 17 million electronic mail boxes

1994 34 million

1998 68 million

The controversy surrounding e-mail is that many companies reserve the right to monitor employee e-mail on the grounds that access is necessary to properly administer the system. Unlike the telephone, which is protected by federal law ensuring privacy. What do you think?


Now starting to recognize that electronic mail is very bit as official as information on a paper.




Videoconferencing allows participants to see and hear one another. They include videocameras, microphones and large television monitors and a computer equipped with a codec - a device that converts analog video images and wound waves into digital signals and compresses them for transfer over digital telephone lines. On the receiving end, another codec reconverts the digital signals into analog for display on the receiving monitor. Cost is between $30,000 and $40,000 dollars.


Employees need time to adjust to the cameras and seeing themselves on monitors, but overall it is a great improvement over communicating by phone.


Workgroup Computing


Workgroup computing, is a catch phrase for information technology that helps people work on a common job. It provides a company with a distinct competitive edge . Why???


The most popular groupware or shareware product is Lotus Notes. It allows a team to create a database called a Notebook, that centralizes all information (concepts, specifications, schedules, risk analysis etc. ) about the project. Eliminates the use of paper reports and weekly meetings.


Groupware forces a company to change its corporate culture from a hierarchical organization to a flat or more democratic organization where team members and senior management all have equal access to information . Causes CONTROVERSY. Article that confirms resistance to share information ????


Electronic Data Interchange


Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) eliminates billions of paper transactions. Using EDI, businesses can process standard business transaction documents such as invoices, purchase orders, and shipping notices generated by the organizations computers and passed directly to another organizationís computer over a telecommunication network. All the work is processed more efficiently and eliminates paper.


Many large retailers such as Walmart and Kmart have pressured suppliers to go to EDI or risk losing their business. Controversy. Many small businesses cannot afford it.