Telecommunications access, including access to high-speed internet service, is a basic necessity for people of all ages, including older adults. Such access is required for civic and cultural participation, employment, health care, lifelong learning, and access to essential services. Yet affordable, reliable, high-speed internet access has remained elusive to many older adults. They may live where no service is available. Those with service may find the speed or quality unreliable, or they may not be able to afford the service. Finally, they may lack the digital literacy skills to use a service.
In addition, older adults are more likely to have both a traditional landline phone and a mobile phone. This is in contrast to many younger people who have “cut the cord” and only have a mobile phone. As a result, older adults rely on regulators’ continuing oversight of voice services provided by traditional phone companies.
The largest telecommunications companies once provided only telephone service over traditional copper wires. Now many use fiber-optic networks in some parts of their service territories. These networks can offer a wide range of services. This includes video programming and high-speed internet services. Similarly, the largest cable television providers have expanded beyond traditional video services. Most offer high-speed internet access and residential voice telephone options as well. Rapid technological change has transformed these local companies. They have become competing providers of voice, video, and internet access services. These are sometimes offered in bundles. Increasingly, households are opting out of video and instead signing up for various streaming services.
Advances in these technologies are likely to continue at a rapid pace. This will lead to further evolution in how services are provided.