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June 2017
Are Landlines Dead?

Do you still have a Landline?

In less than twenty years we have gone from everyone having a landline phone to over half of us having only a cell phone with no landline. The traditional POTS or Plain Old Telephone Service, (a retronym for voice-grade telephone service employing analog signal transmission over a pair of copper wires) is becoming a rare find. In some locations POTS lines are just not available anymore.

Have you seen me?
Many people are not aware that AT&T, Verizon and other telecom giants have been lobbying the Federal Communications Commission, (FCC) and individual states to discontinue the use of landlines. For people living in metropolitan areas this is not much of a concern. However in rural areas the elimination of landlines presents big problems.

One of the big problems is 911 calls from cell phones are often incapable of providing an accurate location reference like a landline. In rural areas they may not be able to find a cell tower in range and even if they do the location reported to the 911 call center is usually the location of the cell tower which could be miles away from the actual cell phone. While most cell phones have GPS capability special software at both ends is need to for that information to be seen by emergency personnel.

If we expand the definition of landline to include fiber optic and cable systems that changes the picture a bit. In new communities cable access is often available even before construction of the home is completed. But even after several years the standard telephone service is still unavailable. These are digital systems not a true landline. They use a technology known as VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol which converts the analog phone signal into a digital signal. This has been the saving grace for keeping landlines alive in many communities in recent years.

Elimination of landlines would require FCC approval and that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. The technology to replace landlines hasnít caught up with rural America yet and that violates the FCCís mission of universal access for all U.S. citizens. In some cases the POTS phone works even when the power is out. In other cases it took weeks to get all the phone lines back up but only a few hours to setup a temporary cell tower. Also some security systems require a landline.

What can you do?

Modern cell phones offer many advantages and features not available on a land line. And they are getting better all the time. You donít need a top-of-the-line model like an iPhone 7 or a Galaxy 8 but get a smart phone and start using it. In many cases they phone company will give you the phone for free if you sign up for a two year plan.

We all new this day would come.

Keep the landline for as long as you want. In the mean time start exploring the capabilities of the cell phone. There will probably be landline for some time just as there are still some Model Ts running around but the pressure to go wireless is mounting. While it is best not to be the first rat to jump off the sinking ship you donít want to be the last rat either.

In my experience people usually resist the new technology at first but after they have had it for a few months if I try to take it away they reach for the shotgun.

And remember always back it up!

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