â¿¿Phone companies and gas and electric utilities are using technology to reduce their payrolls. Since 2007, for instance, telecommunications giant Verizon has increased its annual revenue 19 percent â¿¿ while employing 17 percent fewer workers. The smaller work force partly reflects the shift toward cellphones and away from landlines, which require considerably more maintenance. But even the landlines need less human attention because Verizon is rapidly replacing old-fashioned copper lines with lower-maintenance, fiber-optic cables.Verizon also makes it easier for customers to deal with problems themselves without calling a repairman. From their homes, consumers can open Verizon's In-home Agent software on their computers. The system can determine why a cable TV box isn't working or why the Internet connection is down â¿¿ and fix the problem in minutes. The program has been downloaded more than 2 million times, Verizon says.
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