AT&T Seeks to Phase Out Landlines
By James Grahame
AT&T recently informed the FCC that they consider traditional landline telephones to be "relics of a by-gone era." It's a sad moment, because it comes as official acknowledgment that Alexander Graham Bell's quaint analog system is now outdated enough to be a corporate nuisance.
However, the truth is that the plain old telephone service (POTS) has been mostly digital for years. The only analog part of the system is the final run to your house. So, while internet-based Voice Over IP (VoIP) service would be easier to deploy and maintain, those who insist on having a fixed home line won't see a dramatic difference.
I'm mildly concerned by AT&T's assertion that, "It makes no sense to require service providers to operate and maintain two distinct networks when technology and consumer preferences have made one of them increasingly obsolete." Surely they're intimately aware that the mobile phone network is considerably more profitable than the landline side of the business. Cellular service requires personal handsets, each with its own (often steep) fees and data surcharges. After all, few people replace their landline handsets every 18 months, and texting is out of the question on a rotary phone.
Instead of that quaint shared home phone, AT&T looks forward to the day when sharing a phone number is a bizarre thing of the past. Of course, most of us have already gobbled up one of their shiny pocket-sized carrots. For instance, my wife and I have two cell numbers, a VoIP line and a Google Voice account in addition to our good old landline (which my wife uses for multi-hour catch-up calls with friends).
Still, the major thing that worries me about an all-digital future is that the POTS system usually works during power failures and severe weather. Calling 911 during a power failure is out of the question on an internet-based or cellular phone system. That issue alone may delay the analog phase-out by years.