For $4.99 a month, Verizon family plan customers can dial a "party line" number that will ring the phones of the other members of their plan. I can picture this being used at an amusement park when a family that has split up wants to rendez-vous again to leave or to eat. Family groups can also include one other number from outside of the family plan, as long as it's a domestic number, mobile or land line.
But what if you need more people, more groups or more non-Verizon numbers? There is also a $6.99 per line per month option that will allow customers to create up to 7 groups consisting of 20 members from any network, mobile or land line. Business can also add this feature to corporate accounts, making it simple to hold conference calls on-the-go - granted you don't have any outsiders that need to be added to the list.
Growing up as a kid, I can remember a time before cell phones when youngsters would ask their parents for their own telephone lines so they could chat with friends at will without hogging the house line. Countless TV shows aimed at kids during this era showed moments when characters would switch back and forth between friends on call-waiting and conference calls to gossip about school, but that practice has faded significantly.
That was back when households were tethered to land-line phones and dial-up modems, but now everyone (even most kids) owns a cell phone and can talk with whoever and whenever. Instead of talking as a group, kids just text with each other, or log on to their social networks of choice and communicate there. The telephone conversation has fallen out of habit recently, especially for younger generations growing up with technology.
Is Verizon's Group Discussion feature an attempt to lure people back to using up valuable call minutes? Will we rediscover the phenomenon of the "party line" conversation that once defined local phone service in the early half of the 20th century? It's vaguely possible, but my guess is the best use for this feature is special circumstances, not casual conversations.