These days, the majority of people no longer have a landline.  Or, if they do, it is only as a backup.  Even my mother, who is in her mid-80s, has ditched her old school landline in favor of a smartphone.

Of course, there are a few holdouts, like people who use their landlines as their primary phones.  Most of these people don’t have a cellphone, or if they do, it is only used for emergencies.

There is a good chance that within a few years, these people may be forced to ditch their landlines.

AT&T in California

According to a CNN/WMTW article, last week, AT&T filed for a waiver in California that would allow them to stop servicing copper phone lines.

In California, AT&T is considered a “Carrier of Last Resort”.  That means that they are supposed to provide phone services that work when more advanced forms of communication are not working.  Normally, any company that wants to bail on that obligation needs to have a replacement company in place.  If approved, the waiver would allow them to stop servicing copper phone lines without a replacement being appointed.

AT&T has said that even if the waiver is approved, they will not be cancelling anyone's phone service.  Instead, it seems to indicate that they won't be doing any upgrades to the copper wire phone systems.  Eventually, issues with the lines will force people to upgrade to a cellphone or VOIP phone.

Rob Hampson via Unsplash
Rob Hampson via Unsplash

Is there a replacement for old landlines?

Yes, there is.

Just because old school landlines go away, it does not mean you have to get a smartphone (or not-so-smart cellphone).

Instead of getting some variety of smartphone, a customer could opt to get a voice over internet protocol phone.  These VOIP phones make calls using the internet, but you dial and talk using a regular phone handset.

They are fairly affordable, too.  Walmart has a decent selection of VOIP phones.  Or, of course, you could also order one from Amazon.

There are some downsides to VOIP phones, though.  In most cases, unlike regular phones, VOIP phones will not work when the electricity is down.  And you absolutely need to have a reliable internet connection.

What does this mean for New England?

Nothing yet.

However, if the waiver in California is approved, we could soon see the same thing happening across the country.  Just like we saw with high definition TV replacing standard definition TV, we could see the old phone lines phased out.

The process would not happen overnight, though.  It would take years before everyone was forced to make the switch to VOIP or cellphone.

While the change would affect a sizable number of Americans, very few would be left without a way to make phone calls.  According to POTsAndPANs, 27% of Americans (or about 90 million people), still have a landline.  However, only about 2% (or 6.6 million people), only have a landline.

The hardest hit by the change would be older people and small businesses.  Fortunately, it is possible to get grandma an easy-to-use flip phone.  As far as businesses, VOIP calling is becoming cheaper and more convenient all the time.

Do you still have a landline?  Do you plan to keep it for as long as you can?  Message us inside our app with your thoughts.

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