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Sunday Discussion: Ending The LandLine Phone Is Not A Good Idea

Geek Alabama Discussion

When you drive down a road, you see those wires on the poles on the side of the road.  The top wires are always for electricity, but the wires below the power lines in rural areas is a phone line.  People must have a quick way to contact others if an emergency arises, and in rural areas, cell phone service is not a given.  Unless you are close to a major highway or city.  So, some companies are proposing ending landline phone service and moving to an all internet based phone service.  I don’t think that is a good idea.

Let’s start with me.  I live by myself in a small apartment and I do not have a landline phone, mostly because I don’t need one.  I live in a city and cell phone coverage is excellent.  If the power did go out, there are battery backups at the cell phone towers, and if I had an emergency, police, fire, and EMT’s would know where I live, thanks to GPS in the phones.  So for me, it does not make sense to have a landline phone.  And for most singles and couples who live in an apartment or small house, having a landline phone is a waste of money.  Plus, in the city there are other options to a landline phone or cell phone.  You could have an internet based phone, or get phone service via the cable company.

These days, more and more people in urban areas are ending their landline service mostly for one reason, the telemarketer or collector.  Unless you have some caller ID, you may pick up the landline phone and find out it’s some telemarketer wanting to sell another product, or a debt collector harassing someone for a past due bill.  Even if you sign up your number for the do not call registery, sometimes a caller still causes problems.  With a smartphone, you see who is calling and where the call is coming from.  You can also download apps to block a number that is harassing you.  You can’t do that with a landline phone.

Because more and more people are ending landline phone, AT&T is wanting to test out not using any landline phone services.  The town of Carbon Hill in Walker County was selected by AT&T to test out a pilot program to replace landline phone with internet based products.  Most of the customers using the phone lines from AT&T are using an internet based phone or are using U-Verse.  The program has to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission and they will monitor how the program is going.  But one has to ask this question, what will happen if a major emergency happens in Alabama.  Like a hurricane or major tornado destroying the infrastructure and going for days without power.  It happens often in Alabama.

If a hurricane or tornado destroys many power poles and downs numerous trees, that means the power grid has to be rebuilt, and that can take days or weeks.  During the April 27th tornado outbreak, the entire Tennessee Valley went without power for days!  If you had an internet based phone or a cell phone, you were out of luck!  Radio antennas went off the air after the batteries were drained.  And cell phone towers were useless after the batteries ran dry.  What kept working outside of the tornado damage areas was landline phones, which does not need electricity to run.  A lot of the phone lines are buried underground, and that allowed people to call if there was an emergency.

And that is my concern if a major disaster strikes Alabama, which will happen again.  If we move everything to a cell phone or internet based phone system, and if an emergency happens that keeps the power out for days or weeks, what will happen to the people who have an actual emergency, but can not call for help?  AT&T wants to end landline phone service and move everyone to a internet based phone service by 2020.  During the trials, AT&T will look at the best way to deal with public safety issues, educate seniors, and other matters that may arise from the transition.

If AT&T and the other phone companies can find a way to make sure internet based phone services are reachable at all times, when the power is out for a week or more because of a disaster, than I see no problem seeing landline phones ending.  But if people can not rely on internet phone, cable phone, or cell phones to contact loved ones and emergency services in a time of crisis, then the phone companies don’t need to end landline phone service.  Because in Alabama, disasters happen all the time!  People must have a way to contact the outside world after something bad happens!

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