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FCC: Landlines Will Only Exist Another 5-10 Years, AT&T Wants Out by 2020

The general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission predicts your landline will stop working within the next ten years, abandoned by companies like AT&T and Verizon in favor of wireless service in rural America or fiber (if you are lucky) in the cities.

Phillip "Did you know your landline will be dead within ten years?" Dampier

Phillip “Did you know your landline will be dead within ten years?” Dampier

Sean Lev, the FCC’s general counsel, said in a blog post that “we should do everything we can to speed the way while protecting consumers, competition, and public safety.”

But the FCC seems to be abdicating its responsibility to do exactly that by singing the same song some of America’s largest phone companies have hummed since they decided to get out of the copper landline business for fun and profit.

Traditional boring telephone service is regulated as a utility — a guaranteed-to-be-available service for any American who wants it. Hundreds of millions of Americans do, especially in rural areas where America’s cell phone love affair is tempered by dreadful reception, especially in mountainous areas. Oh, and the nearest cable company is ten miles away.

AT&T and Verizon — two of America’s direct descendants of the Bell System, just don’t want to pay to keep up a network most of urban America doesn’t seem to want or need anymore. In addition to a dwindling customer base, providing a regulated legacy service means having to answer to unions and government-types who make sure employees are fairly compensated and customers are given reasonable service at a fair price. The alternatives on offer from AT&T and Verizon carry no such regulatory (or union) baggage. Prices can change at will and customers have no guarantee they will receive service or have someone to complain to if that service is sub-standard.

While in the past regulators have taken the lead to make sure telephone companies meet their obligations, the new FCC seems to spend most of its time observing the business agendas of the companies themselves.

Lev implied to the Associated Press the FCC is not exactly leading the parade on the future of landlines. He seems more comfortable trying to analyze the intentions of AT&T and Verizon’s executives:

Most phone companies aren’t set to retire their landline equipment immediately. The equipment has been bought and paid for, and there’s no real incentive to shut down a working network. He thinks phone companies will continue to use landlines for five to 10 years, suggesting that regulators have some time to figure out how to tackle the issue.

Lev

Lev

AT&T is more direct: It wants to switch off all of its landline service, everywhere, by 2020. Customers will be given a choice of wireless or U-verse in urban areas and only wireless in rural ones. Where U-verse doesn’t serve, AT&T DSL customers will be in the same boat as Verizon customers on Fire Island: pick an expensive wireless data plan, satellite fraudband, or go without.

Verizon prefers a “gradual phase-out” according to Tom Maguire, Verizon’s senior vice president of operations support.

Verizon claims it has no plans to shut down working service for customers, but it does not want to spend millions to continue to support infrastructure fewer customers actually use. That means watching the gradual deterioration of Verizon’s copper-based facilities, kept in service until they inevitably fail, at which point Verizon will offer to “restore service” with its Voice Link wireless product instead.

For voice calls, that may suffice for some, especially those comfortable relying on cell technology already. But at a time when the United States is already struggling with a rural broadband problem, abandoning millions of rural DSL customers only makes rural broadband an even bigger challenge. The wireless alternative is too variable in reception quality, too expensive, and too usage capped.

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SouthPaw
SouthPaw
7 years ago

Here is an idea.
How about you can’t cut the copper without installing fiber.

Matt Norris
Matt Norris
6 years ago
Reply to  SouthPaw

Let me help all of you: LTE data speeds, with a 100% complete infrastructure, make fiber completely pointless. Since most of you appear to not be looking at an obvious trend in both high-speed internet and wireless voice/data services, let me refresh your memory: Once upon a time, a mobile phone didn’t have data and talk time was restricted by price and minute caps. Then minute caps started to increase, and price started to decrease. Overage fees remained absurdly high, except for the fact that minute plans got absurdly cheap and you basically had to be on a phone call… Read more »

Mitch
Mitch
6 years ago
Reply to  Matt Norris

You seem to have a good understanding … Any advice on how a rural person can watch Netflix and play Xbox live just like someone can in an urban area ? Also I already have satellite Internet and its out of the question
Thanks, Mitch

Matt Norris
Matt Norris
6 years ago
Reply to  Mitch

Netflix is a “no” because of data caps that still exist. 4G non-LTE will run it, but it would be good for a few movies a month at most people’s idea of affordable data prices, but if somebody is offering LTE data in your area, then XBox is a “maybe”, with the caveat being that LTE latency times aren’t always friendly for only first person shooter games like Halo or call of Duty. To be honest, you are one of the individuals in the unfortunate situation that LTE is meant to correct. Latency times on LTE will get better, and… Read more »

Ben
Ben
6 years ago
Reply to  Matt Norris

What about privacy, if there is no land lines, there is no secured lines as people are able with the right equipment to listen in on any wireless line?

BobInPeoria
BobInPeoria
7 years ago

SouthPaw —- Totally agree! If fiber is the future, why won’t Verizon replace copper with fiber?

Small, rural Telco’s in the Midwest are steadily replacing copper with fiber. You don’t hear about it in the national media. So, the obvious question is: Why are these rural Telco’s replacing copper w/fiber, but Verizon(and AT&T) are NOT doing that ?

Steevo
Steevo
7 years ago

Philip, For those wireline companies to stay in business here is what they must do: 1. Realize that in past years phone was a public utility, everyone had one. 2. Realize internet is the new version of the same function. When you move in to a new place your first task is to turn on electricity, then water, then internet. 3. If they would be prepared for this starting now they can remain relevant. What they must do is make absolutely sure that all the addresses they pass with their infrastructure must be able to receive a reliable 50 meg… Read more »

James Cieloha
James Cieloha
7 years ago

Every AT&T customer should be ashamed of both Randall Stephenson and AT&T and every Verizon customer should be ashamed of both Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo and Verizon for their decision to abandoned it’s entire rural landline operations very severely. I feel that both Randall Stephenson and AT&T and both Lowell McAdam and Fran Shammo and Verizon are trying to be way too big being like the Wal-Mart’s, the Marlboro’s, the Joe Camel’s, the Paramount Pictures with the movie theater chain of the 1940’s, the Morris Levy’s when he was part of Roulette Records, the Clive Davis’s when he was… Read more »

John Passaniti
Admin
7 years ago
Reply to  James Cieloha

I read somewhere that brevity is the soul of wit.

Scott
Scott
7 years ago
Reply to  James Cieloha

Too Long Didn’t Read.

Nor the other 10 walls of text copy and pasted in every other AT&T/Verizon post.

Ralph
Ralph
7 years ago

“The general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission predicts your landline will stop working within the next ten years, abandoned by companies like AT&T and Verizon in favor of wireless service in rural America or fiber (if you are lucky) in the cities….”

Frontier is at least 10 years behind everyone else when it comes to DSL and has problems maintaining even 1Mb “Highspeed Internet” in my area of WV. I’d guess that it’ll be 20 to 30 years (if ever) before they abandon the copper. Fiber is only a dream for most rural customers in Frontier territory.

txpatriot
txpatriot
7 years ago

When the ILECs shut down their copper networks, consumers won’t be the only ones impacted.

Competitive telco providers called “CLECs” also rely on those legacy copper networks. Incumbent telcos are not required to lease fiber or radio space to their competitors, so they have an incentive to drive their customers to those technologies.

By decommissioning their copper networks, the incumbents will also be choking off the oxygen needed by their competitors.

bruce kushnick
7 years ago

<AT&T is more direct: It wants to switch off all of its landline service, everywhere, by <2020. Customers will be given a choice of wireless or U-verse in urban areas and only <wireless in rural ones. Where U-verse doesn’t serve, AT&T DSL customers will be in <the same boat as Verizon customers on Fire Island: pick an expensive wireless data <plan, satellite fraudband, or go without. Excuse me, But u-verse is the landline. AT&T is using the eact same wire that is and has been in place for decades. The only difference is AT&T is drawing a line in sand… Read more »

Hugh Wardlaw
Hugh Wardlaw
6 years ago

Voip may be nice. During a power outage will it work? It probably won’t during a disaster when power is lost. I haven’t seen a cell phone that can send or receive a fax. Many agencies require legal documents to be faxed. The fcc has not looked at all the potential pitfalls of going to cell and voip. Have the cell carriers committed to having at least 3 days of battery power for cell sites yet?

David
David
6 years ago

It is one thing if shutting down the traditional telephone network will bring improved services. But that is not the case. Quite contrary to popular belief, many of the so called advanced features provided by VOIP services such as Uverse or FIOS can also be supported by traditional switches – namely the Alcatel Lucent 5ESS and Nortel’s DMS type units. In fact, there are actually more features using the so called “antiquated” technology. For example, Uverse Voice DOES NOT offer Speed Calling 8 or 30, Ringmaster (distinctive ring), Call Return & Repeat Dialing (*69 & *66 respectively). While most will… Read more »

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