With Hurricane Florence affecting Virginia and the Carolinas, infrastructure has been on the minds of many of us. This got us thinking about landlines and their future.
A number of years ago some phone lines went down in my neighborhood. One of my neighbors called the phone company. The phone company couldn’t get out there for several days. My neighbor said “I would think with so many people switching to cell phones, you would be trying harder.” The representative responded “They (his employers) want that to happen.”
At the time it baffled me. Why would they want to give their business away?
Today I understand it. First off, the rep was a probably a bit frustrated with all of the complaints he was hearing and his remark was probably not one his employers would have been pleased with. It also wasn’t entirely strictly accurate. The truth is, what the phone companies want is to no longer have to maintain phone lines – at least copper phone lines.
In recent years, there have been some hurricanes in the northeast (think Super Storm Sandy, etc.) and they have wiped out significant portions of the communication grid. The phone companies that serve the area are currently in litigation and negotiation with those states in an effort to avoid having to replace the copper lines.
For some residents, that’s bad news but for most it’s simply not that big of a deal.
Many had already switched to cell phones. With 50.8% (and growing) of adults living in households with cell phones but no landline, putting in the infrastructure for land lines is no longer a slam dunk for the service providers. Unfortunately for them (but good for the consumer), most states require phone companies to provide land lines at a reasonable cost to all residents within the coverage area as a prerequisite to doing business.
So what is going to happen instead? Well, cell phones are a big part of that picture. In fact, in some developing countries land lines are being bypassed entirely in favor of cell phones. It’s cheaper and less labor intensive to maintain the infrastructure.
However, those with a business know that a business phone system is still essential to having a functional business, especially if you are dealing regularly with customers. Trying to coordinate all of that with cell phones would be inefficient, confusing and difficult. What will businesses be doing?
Phone companies hope that they will be switching to internet based phone service.
At RCI, we sell SIP trunks (virtual phone lines that connect calls over the internet) but we know they’re not for everyone. While many of our customers live in urban areas with excellent high speed connections, we also have business at the end of untraveled roads in rural areas where customers’ only option for internet is to use dial up.
In fact there are communities all over this country who would be greatly effected by a dropping of traditional phone service. So what does this mean to them? For that matter, what does it mean to people who just don’t want their calls going over the internet. Many people have security concerns, want something more reliable than an internet connection or just don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket.
Well, the change won’t be immediate. And generally speaking the phone companies are trying to find work-arounds for all of the affected people. They are technically legally required to do so. But for those who just don’t want it, it may unfortunately just be something they’ll have to adopt to…eventually. Hopefully as time goes on, internet technology will become more secure and reliable and will eventually be able to catch up to it’s copper predecessor.
How do you feel about the change over to internet technology? Do you know anyone who would be greatly affected by not having access to copper lines or has been?