In the past decade, the party line evolved into a more general term referring to any telephone system that is shared by multiple subscribers and is connected to a network of telephones. In the United States, this is typically referred to as an integrated network. In the United Kingdom, the UK version of integrated network is referred to as e-party.
There are a wide variety of integrated systems available today. They can vary greatly in terms of their features, costs, and connections. In general, an integrated system will have one or more telephone connections, one or more phone number connections, a fax number connection, and at least one digital voice connection. In most cases, an integrated system will include a single telephone and its associated features such as caller ID, voice mail, and voicemail.
The original concept of party lines is based on the idea of extending phone service by providing multiple users with a single phone number and connection. The main advantage of using party lines over a conventional long distance company is that people on one end of the long distance line are able to make multiple calls to various numbers on the other end. Typically, party lines are connected to a conventional long distance system. The advantage of this method of communications is that the person making the call does not have to pay for multiple phone line rental costs.
Today, more long distance companies are converting to integrating party lines into their services. The main advantage of having a central system is that it increases the efficiency of a call center by freeing up extra time and money that would otherwise have to go into the operation. The primary disadvantage of a party lines system is that it requires the use of a central switch board in order to connect the phones to the party line. This can be a relatively large expense for small companies. If a company is operating in an area where power supply is unreliable, it may be necessary to purchase a transformer to transfer power between the party line and the long distance system.
Many party lines systems also allow the user to call a specified number from the party line to any number on the central system. This feature can be very useful if there is a problem with a land line telephone or the main line that is connecting the home to the other end of the party line. With the central switchboard, if a land line telephone is not working, the caller can simply connect to the appropriate number from the central system and be connected to the main line of the central company without having to pay for a new long distance line rental.
One of the primary advantages of party lines is that many of them are able to accommodate voice mail messages to any number on the central system. Many of the newer integrated systems will even allow the addition of text messaging to the central system.