The End Of Landlines?

Imagine if, somehow, telephones of all kinds had not been invented. Then, this morning, someone entered a big corporation board room and said, “We’d like to string copper wire to every home and business in the country. We’ll get easements and put the wires on poles mostly. But some of them will go underground where we will dig tunnels. Oh, and we will do it in other countries, too, and connect them with giant undersea cables!” We imagine that executive would be looking for a job by lunchtime. Yet, we built that exact system and with far less tech than we have today. But cell phones have replaced the need for copper wire to go everywhere, and now AT&T is petitioning California to let them off the hook — no pun intended — for servicing landlines.

The use of cell phones has dramatically decreased the demand for the POTS or plain old telephone service. Even if you have wired service now, it is more likely fiber optic or, at least, an IP-based network connection that can handle VOIP.

Who Cares?

Soon this old phone may not have a network to use.

You might wonder, who cares? Turns out about 25% of the United States still has a landline if you include business uses. If you look at adults, the numbers are far lower. How many only use landlines? Only 2%. Another 3% rely “mostly” on landlines. About 1% of American adults have no phone at all.

So, who’s in this 5% of landline users? First, some older folks do not have cell phones or cling to their landlines, but — as you might expect — that number decreases daily. There are a few other key users of classic phone service. For one thing, the phone system powers itself very reliably. That means if your power is out due to a hurricane, a rolling blackout, or other reasons, your ordinary phone probably works. That’s not true for your VOIP phone and the network modem unless you’ve hooked them up with a UPS.

Other users include people in underserved cell phone areas and, oddly enough, analog FAX machines, which — it’s true — are still important in some industries. While some VOIP services can handle FAX, most can’t.

The scale is also daunting. There are about 100 million landlines currently active in the US. That sounds like a lot, but in 1998, there were enough phones to account for every adult and child in the United States (nearly 300 million). If the phone companies earned an average of just $20 a year on a phone, that was a cool $6 billion (and that’s probably a low estimate). Now, it would be $2 billion, nothing to sneeze at, but still, it is a big drop. Adjust the $6 billion for inflation, and the gap widens.

Wireless-only adults and children in the US in 2022 (via the National Center for Health Statistics)

The keeper of the phone data, by the way, turns out to be the National Health Interview Survey of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Apparently, the CDC depends on telephone surveys for their work, and they have been concerned for years about how many people have phones and of what sort.

While the data in the chart shows wireless-only, a quick subtraction will show you that landline-only (or no phone, but that’s a tiny number) is very small until you get to people over the age of 65.


The plans to sunset POTS usually include provisions to provide ordinary phone jacks that interface to the VOIP system or the cell phone network. However, that won’t help your FAX machine or the power outage problems.

It makes us wonder, though. Maybe there’s a potential market here, at least for a little while. Imagine a phone that connects to the network when available. It has its own UPS for power outages. If the network is down, it can use either the cell or satellite networks. An optional jack for a FAX machine would fake out your device and send the actual image via the network for eventual delivery to a regular FAX. Another path would receive a FAX remotely and send it to your device over the network where you could route it to the connected machine.

Sure, it is a niche product, and that niche is shrinking. But you could probably turn a few bucks on it while it lasts.

The POTS system is probably one of the technical wonders of the world, especially the undersea cables. It might not be long before the only POTS system you see is one you make for yourself.

Featured image: “Antique Phone” by Vincent Diamante

94 thoughts on “The End Of Landlines?

  1. I’ve installed boxes for emergency POTS lines for elevator and fire alarm panels at several hotels. They are little Asterisk servers that get VoIP service over Ethernet or Cellular. So basically the niche device you describe. And I expect the POTS line to live on in such uses for many years to come. We still maintain rs232 in those same MDF rooms, for connecting the phone system to the Property Management System.

    1. The city I worked in mandates POTS lines for the elevators. And that line was not supposed to be used for anything else. So we got the line and paid for it every month. The only time it ever got used, the only occasion the elevator every broke down, was with me in it. Yea, just my luck right? And I had never messed with the phone in there before. It turns out it is not just a normal phone, but it is pre programmed to dial a number. In this case some out of state company that manages the damn things and the lady who answered the phone was like you are who and you are where and stuck in what? I finally got her to call the main office number and get the maintenance guy and he figured out where I was and had the dohickey to get the door open and a shot out like a dart. Honest to god I felt the thing drop when it died. I was buds with the guy who inspected the thing every year and he insisted that I was mistaken and they never go down but I was insistent that it did. The one we had, apparently has some kind of black box on it and sure enough it did go down. It was one of the telescoping ram hydraulic types and the last extension on the ram blew it’s seal. He had not seen that one before, but there is not mistaking that dropping feeling.

  2. I live in California, the house is behind a hill: no usable cell coverage. It’s also in a high fire area and the DSL line goes out 30 seconds after the power goes out (that’s the battery of the head-end going dead, not my router). POTS just works.
    I’ve been trying to get rid of the landline but it wins over all other options. I can hear the other end clearly while running through the whole house, I can’t say that of any cell phone. Wifi calling works when it wants to and access point hand-offs are hit&miss despite having implemented fast-transition and such.
    Also I still have an ancient answering machine, again, the usability trumps all the modern stuff for us. If we don’t recognize the number calling we just let it go to the machine, listen in, and if we want to pick up the call we just grab the phone and talk. With all the new voice mailboxes you have to wait for the message to be finished and then you get to figure out how to call the person back.
    New is not always better…

    1. I was about to type in pretty much exactly what you did. Extremely unreliable cell coverage (far corner of the garage only). And the cell tower that promised 2-3 days of battery backup when the phone company gained approval to put it in a decade or so ago now lasts 2-3 minutes into a power outage. We could get mutli-Gb fiber to the house, but Frontier will only install it if we agree to terminate our POTS line. It turns out POTS is regulate much, much more stringently than VOIP and is thus more expensive. Part of that regulation though, is uptime and availability. So, every company that can is doing their best to abandon the lines they agreed to service to boost investor returns. I mean, it’s not like people’s lives could be at stake…

      1. It’s weird that there are still places with bad cell coverage. I don’t think I have ever even looked at the signal strength on my phone because it just works everywhere. Even in the middle of a forest or in the archipelago.

        1. My carrier is about four miles away and it’s usually about one or two bars. Main reason everything still works is Wi-fi calling. Neighbors carrier is within eyeball distance and it shows.

        2. Don’t travel to Canada. Third world countries have more reliable and cheaper wireless telcom service. Ours is one of the most expensive in the world today. I can’t get cell service in some areas on some major highways just outside the GTA.

          1. I always use Internet radio or YT music without any issues. Even driving in the middle of nowhere in eastern Finland close to the Russian border everything worked. In the subway and local trains everything works. Only exception is long distance trains where nothing works. Ok, phone calls work, but internet is like a 56k modem if it even loads anything. Not sure if it’s still as bad. I stopped using trains because there wasn’t stable internet and the seats are so bad I want to cry after an hour from the back pain.

        3. Eh… I suspect you’ve been in areas with more people and money than you thought. I have a bunch of neighbors and can see a cell tower from my house but I can still find places where I can’t place a call.

          1. Maybe it’s just because Finland is a small country and I live in the south. I think there are some areas in the northern wilderness without service. And I have never been to the northern two thirds of Finland. 100% of us live within 4g coverage and over 90% within 5g coverage. I have even been using only mobile data at home for the past six years.
            Here is a map of my operators coverage. We have some of the cheapest unlimited contracts in the world (unlimited data around 10e and unlimited everything 20e-40e) and the competition is so fierce that everyone gets good service. Poor areas probably need more bandwidth than rich areas with fiber and wifi.

  3. “…that was a cool $6 billion. Now, it would be $2 billion. Adjust the $6 billion for inflation, and the gap widens.”

    Uh, you don’t get to adjust just one side of an equation. They’re still down ~2/3rds, regardless of adjusting for inflation. If you insist on adding in inflation, you have to adjust the 6bil AND the 2bil because you’re adjusting the $20.

  4. “Imagine if, somehow, telephones of all kinds had not been invented. ”

    Yeah, if Antonio Meucci und Philipp Reis and some American.. Ball.. Bull.. Bill..? hadn’t invented the telephone, we’d still use light phones. Or telegraphs. Or some Hellschreiber. :D

  5. I tried to get POTS back, after my VOIP service with (Northern California) was so terrible, but they said ATT wouldn’t do it. Very disappointed! Having the phone go out when the power does is terrible and dangerous.

    1. I just got a copper land line in central Nova Scotia,they most definitly did not want to
      and tries to install a whole modem “fibe” set up
      but I said that I am off grid and could not provide the power to run thier gear.Got a snarly
      letter afterword ,saying that they would not service the system in my house.
      I use it for anything where something on line wants a #,heh heh,SURE I got a number just for
      but my two sim phone and data are for MY business,anything ify or a nusiance gets the
      answering machine

  6. “That’s not true for your VOIP phone and the network modem unless you’ve hooked them up with a UPS.”

    Wow. I wanted to write about working in cable internet support 20 some years ago and how some customers would call in during power outages pissed their internet didn’t work. Except I don’t really know how to convey how dumb that was to a younger audience.

    Today the way we rely on the Internet I would expect a provider to have generators and backup systems everywhere. Back then it was a third or fourth tier service.

    Electricity and gas couldn’t be allowed to go out any more than could be avoided because lives depended on it. Landline telephone was important for checking on loved ones. Cable TV might be useful in an emergency to get information but if you really cared at all about preparedness you had some sort of antenna ready. It’s the local information you would need anyway. Internet.. it was a toy that could wait until the rebuild process was finishing up!

    It just makes me think about how much has changed so fast.

    1. Yup. A traditional landline phone gets its power via the landline and still works if the mains has no power.

      However, since the late 70s, many telephone users did have owned cordless phones and business phones with a power plug (those phones with a display and memory).

      They wouldn’t work in a power outage, even if the landline had power.

      Also, the 2G repeater stations for cellular phones weren’t serviced very well.
      They have an PSU, sure, but who knows how old their batteries are.
      They may last for a couple of hours, at best.

      In our modern days, the user base of cellphone users is much larger, though.
      These cell phone towers wouldn’t handle all those requests for a long time.

      In such a situation, a local ham radio repeater is a good bonus.
      It can’t serve the mass of citizens directly, but there should be usually enough hams in each corner of a city.
      So some information could be passed over to police, fire brigade etc.

      That’s how things once worked with CB radio, by the way.
      Citizens had their own radio (Citizen Band, CB)..
      If they still had CB in their trucks and cars, the world would be safer and more independent.
      They wouldn’t have to do anything, even. Just keep it powered. CB radios had channel 9 set by default, the emergency channel.

      1. That’s why back when I had a cordless landline in a hurricane area, it was one whose base station would provide basic function when external power was removed. And I had a second more plain phone in another room whose small screen and all its buttons would work at full capacity without external power.

        1. Yah. A cordless was my primary phone pre-cellular. But I always had at least one phone somewhere in the house that was powered by the phone line. I don’t remember ones with screens that were line powered but I don’t doubt you. I had plenty of DTMF phones that were full of chips. A plain old mechanical phone though… It would probably survive more than your house, the lines outside or yourself. If you were worried about emergencies it couldn’t be beat.

          1. Yeah, it’s been long enough to forget the specifics, maybe it couldn’t light up but it still could dial DTMF and I guess the LCD (just like calculators) could still do caller ID or time or something. There was even enough passive power to do that while more than one phone was off the hook without it getting too quiet. I do miss that; it was much nicer than speakerphone and easier than the modern ways of placing a multi-way call. Nice if you’re calling family or whatever.

      2. I guess. I have my license, a radio mounted in my car and can use them. Though I don’t very often. I like the idea of being independent of the cellular network. But I can’t imagine a disaster big enough to take down or congest the cellular network enough that I NEED to call for help on a repeater that isn’t also so large that there is no one listening that is in a position to help.

        But then I don’t live in a place that is prone to hurricanes or earthquakes. No tsunamis this many hundreds of miles from the ocean. There aren’t enough trees for out of control wildfires. I don’t even live in tornado alley. Maybe climate change will bring the reason for me to use this capability. I hope not!

    2. “Today the way we rely on the Internet I would expect a provider to have generators and backup systems everywhere. ” A generator for every router? POI (Power Over Internet)? The problem isn’t “the internet” necessarily, it’s the customer’s router not working because it’s plugged into a dead wallsocket.

      1. Case in point: In Santa Clara, CA, middle of the silicon valley – last week’s wind storm took out power and overhead lines for half the city. I had backup power, but the Comcast cable head-end battery died after 4 hours. Other posts here point to more remote infra where their battery lasts mere minutes. So for a 48 hour outage, even if I have power (e.g. solar, battery, generator), I cannot connect to the outside world. afaik there’s no requirement for backup power for ANY infrastructure aside from the POTS Carrier Of Last Resort. See also wildfires, PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff), etc, which can last days. Also remote rural areas where there is no cell, cable, fiber, or ANY other service whatsoever (except satellite). Good luck calling for help!

    3. I have a UPS on my ONI, router and Ooma box. It lasts about 4 hours. The pole boxes (I have FIOS) seem to last at least that long, and I understand there’s an FCC requirement for 8 and maybe 24 hours…

      My crappy UPS is very inefficient, I could probably build a DC one with some deep cycle gel cells that would hold up longer. Maybe I can find a surplus pole box UPS?

  7. “Soon this old phone may not have a network to use.”

    Seems like it at first glance, but it’s not so tragic, really.
    The phone unit still is useful through a VOIP interface.

    At least here in Germany, many DSL and cable router modems do have an RJ11 or TAE connector for an analog phone.

    Of course, I don’t have the slightest idea how it’s in other parts of the world.

    But I suppose that internally, phone networks had been migrating to digital since the 1970s or so.

    So it’s really just the “last mile” that was an analog landline.

    Inside the telephone company, everything surely had been switched over to ISDN or Internet technology by the 90s, at least.

    Merely third-world countries/developing countries still used a pure analog approach by that time, I think.
    Because, there the amount of telephones must have been very limited all the time.

    Otherwise, the management via fragile analog circuits wasn’t feasible anymore.
    These circuits need a lot of maintenence and lots of power and space.
    And a poor country, but with lots of phones couldn’t manage this for long.

    1. When Verizon was going to FiOS, there were the initial ads saying, “This is big!”  We had Verizon people at the door constantly trying to get us to switch from copper to FiOS, and they kept saying, “The copper is costing us too much to maintain;” but what they were offering in FiOS cost more than we were paying for POTS and DSL.  Then they’d tout the speeds.  Sure, there was a great ratio; but what does it matter when DSL was giving us enough speed that two or three of us could be watching videos at the same time with to slowing?!  In 2020 my wife had to go to teaching on Zoom though, and apparently every little square on the screen was requiring the full video bandwidth (which is dumb!), and DSL couldn’t keep up, so we had to go to the fiber optic.  The bill went up, well above what we were paying for POTS and DSL.  We also have a cell-phone contract, and that’s even more; so between the fiber-optic line and the cell phones, we’re paying several times more than we were before.  I don’t think “fragile analog circuits” is a suitable term though. In my own experience, the old analog stuff lasts a lot longer than modern digital stuff that’s made so cheaply.  I have electronics from the 1960’s and 70’s that still work, never having had a repair.  OTOH I get some kind of accessory for the PC and it’s kaput in a few months.

  8. The daunting costs and low ROI for extending wired phone service to the majority of African nations and the appearance of really cheap mobile handsets drove the rapid deployment and take up of cellular services there.

      1. There’s a solution for it.
        Some companies have prepared their metal stuff with “artificial DNA”.
        It would glow under special light, so thieves and stolen metal (train tracks etc) could be identified.

  9. The point about phone lines having their own power is a bit spurious – landlines are entirely capable of being knocked out by storms themselves, and larger-scale blackouts will take down the phone system anyway. Plus, mobile phones also work if the power’s out on your street.

    As fond as hackers are of POTS, literally its only function at this point is to support extremely outdated systems. I’m all for making phone companies honor their legacy obligations, but not by keeping POTS on life support – if they want to let it die, the price should be that they have to upgrade anything that still relies on it (e.g. by improving rural broadband and wireless coverage).

    1. Well, of course the phone lines are not totally reliable. But, generally, the CO has batteries and/or generator capability and — historically — the phones will operate even in the face of widespread power outages. If your phone requires AC power or your network adapter, etc. then that’s on you.

    2. While landlines are capable being down, I’m nearing retirement and in all these years I’ve never picked up a POTS landline and NOT heard a dial tone. Something about FCC regulations that specify guaranteed uptime and being classified as a something-something carrier is my guess. But that cuts into shareholder returns, so…yeah.

      1. Many young people don’t even know what a dial tone is, LOL.  But yes, POTS was very reliable.  I used to get sales calls that started out, “This is so-and-so from such-and-such company.  Can you hear me ok?”  Now of course the safe thing to say is, “I can hear you,” and don’t use the word “yes;” but I would think, “Of course.  This is the 21st century!”  But after our family was one of the last to get cell phones, I began to see why the question.  Cell phones cut out, or the call may drop completely.  They have terrible sound.  They have annoying delays.  They don’t feel good in the hand.  If you talk a long time, the battery goes dead.  Our landline phone now has a fiber-optic connection which wouldn’t work if our power goes down; but I do have a small supplemental system that powers the ONT, routers, network switch, lights, computers, and refrigerator if the power goes out, with instant switch-over so the PCs don’t have any hiccups.  (It’s not big enough to power the electric stove, oven, or A/C.)

    3. I used a wired landline and a gas stove through a weeks-long blackout in the past; yet I’ve had mobile phones that refuse to connect at random or due to terrain or when there’s any crowds saturating the towers. It wouldn’t be economical to properly serve some of the rural areas since wireless always banks on oversubscribing the capacity.

  10. The other main reason many people still have landlines – by legal obligation, in fact! – is Emergency Services. In rural areas, 911 depends on phone numbers being tied to physical street addresses, because there aren’t enough towers to geolocate an emergency call from a cellphone. (Usually this is worked around by asking for your location first and /then/ the nature of the emergency…)

    It doesn’t have to be a copper line specifically, it still works with a voip connection. The requirement is simply that the phone number be tied to a /building/ rather than a device that can move around. This is also used as proof of identity for a lot of government services… Here in WA, online forms often go “the number you entered is registered to a cellphone, please input a landline number instead”…

    1. The fax issue is also a legal one. Certain industries such as financial and legal have to either courier certain documents or fax them because the regulatory agencies did studies and audits on POTS decades ago to understand the risks of falsifying connections etc and the laws are written to accommodate that. Tunneling those over your Internet connection wouldn’t fly. The real fix is to get the loaded updated but that’s a slow and expensive process.

    2. New cell phones have been mandated to have GPS receivers and transmit location to 911 for about 2 decades in the US. That works perfectly fine for rural. It’s urban areas with all the signal reflections where you might need triangulation to improve accuracy.

      1. The idea that this works “perfectly fine for rural” is delusional. In actual rural areas, more than 50% of settled North America, cell service is poor at best. In those locations the GPS, which relies more on tower position than the low accuracy cell phone receiver, can be off by as much as 6km (and yes, I’ve tested this).

  11. More than a decade ago now, but used to work for a mom & pop webhost, whose sister company was a booking service for conferences, hotels etc.

    That whole industry still very much relied on fax back then. We built an internal php site on top of hylafax, connected a serial cell modem for the TX/RX. Worked a treat and saved some hassle, since they could get an overview of incoming faxes from anywhere.
    (We also tacked on an SMS form, so they could inform clients of changes straight to their phone.)

    So if anyone really needs fax still, there are options beyond landlines, and I can really recommend hylafax (no affiliation):

    1. Physical fax machines are alive and well in small restaurants. Door Dash, et al. send orders via fax to restaurants, because handling physical printout is easier than transcribing off a tablet. Funnily enough, the 2 fax machines I support are plugged into a VoIP-to-POTS adapter. However, none of these are safety critical systems, so an outage won’t result in death.

  12. Our AT&T landline was replaced with an optical fiber connected to a wired converter and an internet modem . During an electrical power failure, the modem and the phone are dead. Nowadays a home emergency power generator is becoming a necessity.

    1. Glad the subject came up. I just realized my cable modem is plugged into an outlet. Really needs plugged into the UPS so work through ‘minor’ power disruptions and still make/get calls.

    2. “emergency power generator is becoming a necessity.” Need to start looking into a nice gas powered generator now. Reliability of our electrical system will keep going down the more we rely on solar and wind anyway, let alone the home phone system reliability.

      1. This is simply not true. In Germany we already have quite a bit of renewable energy (to give you an idea: Tuesday at 12pm we had 49 GW wind, 9 GW solar, 7 GW other renewable and only 17 GW fossil electricity). Yet the last power outage at my house was 4 years ago. Power outages are so rare that they usually get a newspaper article even when they are just 1 or 2 hours.

        So if the reliability goes down it is because companies don’t want to invest into the grid.

        1. Our power used to virtually never go down here in southern California.  Now it goes down a few times a year, and one of the things they blame is solar, saying the grid is not designed to have all these sources of power with power traveling in so many directions at once.  I’ve seen so many problems with solar and wind however that I am no longer in favor of these.

          1. That’s an explanation, a difference in architecture. Here in EU, there’s essentially one power grid that consists of the national grids of each country. So power flows back and forth, as needed. The weaker grids with a high demand will get support from the stronger ones, but have to pay a compensation. That being said, the situation who’s weak and strong is rather dynamic. Especially with sun and wind energy, the situation may change by the seasons. So the grids are being build with this inconsistency in mind. Speaking under correction here.

          2. So they have to improve their network. Here in The Netherlands that’s exactly what is happening. Stop blaming solar and wind, start blaming the electricity transporters for not keeping up with the time.

  13. I got a landline when I moved in here 20+ years ago and never got rid of it – besides inertia, I liked the fact that the utility was in charge of making sure it had power and continuity up to the network interface on my house and power in emergencies was their problem, not mine. Until last year when the landline stopped working and somehow, here in urban America, the phone utility was somehow unable to find an actually-functioning copper pair. They gave me a cell-bridge that I could plug a POTS phone into, but I’m bitter about it. I wouldn’t want to run an alarm alert phone line over it, or anything else that might impact life/safety stuff.

    1. “was somehow unable to find an actually-functioning copper pair”
      And, you know…VOIP is so much cheaper for them to provide thanks to the comparative lack of regulation.

      1. “was somehow unable to find an actually-functioning copper pair”
        And, you know…VOIP is so much cheaper for them to provide thanks to the comparative lack of regulation.”

        Were you for Divestiture back in 1982 when Judge Greene broke up at&t? Were you even born back then?

        You cannot have it both ways: regulated and unregulated. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, competition cannot be constrained into a monopoly. Under the monopolistic role, placing $20K of capital investments (cable, poles, construction cost) for a single customer in a trailer in rural S.C. who was literally miles from a feeder cable was not a choice: it was a 30-day mandate. The Southern Bell Telephone monopoly had to absorb the initial capital cost: that cost being added to the total S.C. investment in capital minus capital retirements and earnings (overseen by S.C. PSC) were guaranteed on investment plus labor and expenses.

        In a competitive, non-regulated world, you do not have the safety-net for price stability. The dude/tte in the rural area paid the same monthly voice rate as a city user of the same telephone service.

        Not all monopolies are bad.
        Not all competition is good.

        Competition drove cellular telephony, no question. But competition DOES NOT always drive lower consumer prices: textbook case, the deregulation on Natural Gas in Georgia. Hint, the consumer was screwed.

        One of the largest drivers of eliminating POTS is the aging infrastructure requires significant maintenance and labor costs are many times what they were at the time of installation. Much of the consumer infrastructure is aerial.

        Did you know that every foot of copper/conduit and every pole are taxed? Every interconnect switch is taxed. Every structure is taxed. Leasehold improvements are taxed. Land is taxed.

        POTS started the decline into a slow death as soon as the U.S. Government broke-up the Bell System … neither good nor bad, just fact. As an older tech, it is simply too expensive to continue, as older tech, information throughput cannot generate sufficient profit.

  14. let me think on this a sec..
    DR offices calling on random cellphones that aren’t caller id as DR office , so those calls get ignored. oops.
    Cell callers that still sound like they’re talking thtough a window fan. still, really?
    lets not forget the ones that clip the beginings and ends of syliables.
    Then considering that AT&T still own or control most every network on the eastern U.S.? Including cable tv etc.
    Nah, they’ve still got a working monopoly going on here.
    So I say they can go pound sand and just be required to pay society back for all those decades of being allowed to own and dictate the telecoms game for everyone.

  15. Yep, mostly old people still want landlines. Sad thing is its a lost art. I get to deal with many old people in a few 55+ active adult villages a home builder I contract low voltage work with. AT&T doesn’t know how to hook up multiple phones to a ATA box or modem gateway. I have to end up charging these old people a good amount of money to splice in their kitchen or bedroom phone.

    1. “AT&T doesn’t know how…”

      More likely, at&t contracts the installation. In any event, connecting beyond the demarc is likely illegal:

      “In telephony, the demarcation point is the point at which the public switched telephone network ends and connects with the customer’s on-premises wiring. It is the dividing line which determines who is responsible for installation and maintenance of wiring and equipment—customer/subscriber, or telephone company/provider.” Wikipedia

  16. Growing up, there was the apocryphal story of a rancher who lived quite some distance off a major road. His POTS started on the road giving him a private pair to his house. Purportedly, during a bad storm one day, the POTS line to his house was knocked down. The story goes he simply hooked his line to a pair of barbed wire runs on his fence lines running about a quarter mile to restore his phone service. I’ve heard variations of this story for decades.

  17. I am in an area where DSL is the only game and Brightspeed/CenturyLink has no plans to lay fiber and I have no interest in a satellite service. Cell modem service is also sketchy. The DSL bandwidth is lousy and line drops daily are the norm yet BS/CL won’t do anything. So there are places where getting rid of copper will not be possible…not unless government subsidies make it worth the providers efforts.

    1. First I thought, “Oh, this must be old.  Obviously I’ve been here before and commented.  But nope, it’s not my story.  Different Garth.  I guess I should have used a slightly different name in my previous comments.  Garth Wilson

  18. They hounded my aged grandmother until she let them “upgrade” her into VOIP. Hideous. She needed the landline for emergencies etc. Also the last thing she needed was another DSL box rental. She already had service. Just straight shady. That was 10 years ago, they’ve been “out from under copper” for a while by all practical standards. So how bad will it get? As stated, large areas are only serviced by copper. I guess they want to throw multiple people on the copper to flog the dead horse. Maybe they’ll complain they want to run new fiber because “copper is so bad”

    1. Eh, there’s some old copper that’s fine for voice but can barely provide any internet, and it’s as much trouble to replace the copper with new copper as it is to replace it with fiber – but by using fiber, you can provide good internet for the next few decades and a phone that while it’s not as good as it used to be, is at least still wired. And then you can get rid of your old flakey discontinued DSL equipment that’s cutting into the reliability of all your copper customers’ connections.

      Sorry to hear they hounded her, though.

  19. >We imagine that executive would be looking for a job by lunchtime. Yet, we built that exact system and with far less tech than we have today.

    If we didn’t have cellphones, that guy would make a billion dollars – as the guys who originally did this pretty much made. If we had cellphones then no one would bother to bring it up, obviously;) Because that’s why they don’t do landlines in developing countries much – everyone else gets to leapfrog that stage.

  20. Growing up in the 70s, we all knew that if power went out it was one thing. If the PHONE went out, that’s when people got terrified. That dial tone was often the most reliable thing in the house.

    1. In the US they now require cell towers to have emergency power for a certain period I read.
      And your cell phone has its battery of course.
      So there’s your connection if the power goes out.
      The tones are not so comforting though in the cell network.

  21. We have our old phones in the house but they have not been landlines for over a decade. We went a long time with a box that was essentially a cell phone with the innards to interface it to a POTS line, and after than a magic jack, once we had broadband internet.

    We got out just in time too. I have two friends who were copper holdouts and oddly enough they live almost across the street from each other. They had a tree fall through one of the wires and take it out. They could see it. It took them near 2 months to get someone out to fix it. When they called they said they had limited people who worked on the copper anymore and they would get to it when they could get to it. My last job before I retired, we had optical lines and even them. I always got the same guy and he said he was the only guy from about this half of the state west. He was a bit of a pisser. He used to lament the only thing worse than depending on them for service was depending on them for a paycheck, and the company motto being, we are not happy until you are not happy. I guess being one of the last of his kind he had some job security.

  22. When the remnants of Hurricane Ike came through in ’08. our power was going to be out for who-knew-how-long. I drove to the local Pep Boys store and bought one of the 7 generators they had in stock, and paid for it with a paper check. Saved the freezer full of food and kept some lights on. The landline and DSL kept working for a couple of days, until the batteries in the vault up at the corner died, I guess. They came back on a day later after the phone company parked a generator outside it.
    I will keep my landline as long as they’ll let me. It Just Works. I keep a rotary-dial phone in service, too (Western Electric Trimline, FYI). It’s electromechanical so it should survive insults that semiconductor-based equipment will not.
    I see companies taking out copper landlines and putting in analog telephone adapters to service their legacy phone systems. All well and good, but you get what you pay for. I don’t think that it’s appropriate to rely on VOIP or cellular in life-and-safety situations such as alarms or elevator phones. There are too many pieces in the path that can fail outright, or for lack of maintenance (UPS batteries, e.g.). And when Stuff Happens, the cellular tower that’s your network backup is gonna get overloaded and you won’t be able to get a packet in edgewise. But hey, we saved money.

  23. On the other side of the pond, landline was priced out over a decade ago where I live, though they have probably removed the copper by now. Why pay 20-30€ for a landline when a voice only cellular subscription was 2€ a month, and even my grandparents could use the dial phone that was much like any other dial phone, except it had a SIM card and an antenna instead of RJ 11

  24. Wow, landlines. I can’t remember the last time I actually used one. Every company I worked for has used a VOIP or VOIP like system, for the last 20 years. My elderly parents don’t use analogue phones, I don’t know any business that still uses that. Most people here that use the phone line, use it for DSL and call over the internet connection, which is VOIP. My house doesn’t even have a phone line coming in. It’s a relatively new house, from the 50’s, so in a time where landlines were still common. I stripped the entire house when I bought it and couldn’t find a landline. That that I would have used it. I have COAX which is way faster. I currently have a 1000/100 mbit connection over COAX and the alternative would be DSL which would be limited at my location to about 20/4 mbit

  25. Look at this from the other direction – I live in a 100% landline home, and not through choice.

    Where I live there is no appreciable or reliable cell service, and the local area is littered with black spots.

    I am happy to go digital, and fibre to my home would be welcome, but until the local wireless service improves to the point that I have a reliable connection for reasonable money, I will not be using the over-priced cellphone data service here in the UK.

  26. Back in 1992 I was hired to help develop the telephone system for Indonesia (Noller – later Nusantara – Communications). It was a fixed location wireless system, unlike the POTS tech here in the States. Why? At the time, the value of the US POTS installed network was US$10000 per line which was far more than could be justified there. Why so much? All that installed copper, sizeable Stroger or crossbar switch based central offices with huge battery and diesel power backups, extensive microwave links, etc. which had been installed and paid for over nearly a hundred years. Anybody remember the Lenkurt Demodulator tech journals? No wonder companies prefer fiber and such.

    Regarding saturating the local access point during emergencies – central office line interface units and their switching and routing in general only had a total simultaneous use capacity of a small fraction of the number of lines. Thus the famous lack of dial tone during emergencies. The Loma Prieta earthquake in California (1989) had that problem in spades, with millions unable to make calls for some time.

  27. I am surprised that in the US there are still so many landlines.
    In most European countries, POTS and ISDN are completely outphased and replaced by VoIP.
    Customers who still want ISDN or an analogue line, can get a VoIP gateway with analog or ISDN interfaces.
    An in private homes, there is often an analog interface on the internet modem/router, so people can still use their normal analog phone.

  28. Very Dumb. What will people with FAX machines do? What will people with analog modems do?
    What will people with analog PBX’s do? What will people with home alarm circuits do?
    Is this another way to force people to spend bid dollars when the network is already in place?
    Yes, maybe trim it back but not simply pull the plug…

  29. There are glaring omissions in this, namely emergency services and legal requirements. It is trivial to demonstrate cell connectivity and sms are not reliable in large scale emergencies and power outages, and many government and financial institutions are required to have dedicated lines for a host of legitimate reasons. This is purely AT&T attempting, again, to shirk their responsibilities in maintenance, something they are well known for.

  30. “This is purely AT&T attempting, again, to shirk their responsibilities in maintenance…”

    I personally think at&t as a company stinks and I do not use any of their products/services.
    BUT your statement completely misses the issue: maintenance expenses must come out of a positive cash-flow.

    Copper does not generate a cash-flow sufficient to maintain the high maintenance of the ancient infrastructure (nor the increased salaries of maintenance technicians, mostly unionized.)

    This is a 101 level business problem:
    Q: how can one run a business at a loss?
    A: you can but not for long.

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