**Editor’s Note: Originally published in July 2013, this story ranks No. 7 on B/OSS’ all time list, based on results from our weekly newsletters combined with online traffic.**
The ubiquity of wireless service and Internet connections will make wireline service ancient history before long.
The number of U.S. landlines has dropped sharply in the last four years – 30 percent – slipping from 141 million at the end of 2008 to 102 million last summer, according to FCC stats. No doubt it’s fallen below 100 million by now. AT&T, which last fall said it’s begun trial runs at an all-wireless/IP future, will aim to do away with wireline entirely by 2020, the San Antonio Express News reported.
This doesn’t come as a huge surprise to those who follow the industry; Verizon has made similar statements about the future of landlines. But it raises a whole lot of questions about how those who rely on landlines and understand them, notably the elderly, will be able to handle the transition. Other concerns involve ease of access to emergency services, particularly in rural areas, and the lack of compatibility some wireless and IP-based services have with home security systems. But that’s why the major carriers are investigating this now – in AT&T’s case, seven years before its proposed shutoff date.
You can bet that consumer advocacy groups will be watching the process carefully. An attorney with Public Knowledge told the news website that rules concerning the transition away from landlines still need to be developed
“Ultimately, everyone will have to make that transition because manufacturers have stopped making the equipment needed to keep the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) infrastructure running,” AT&T said in a prepared statement. “That won’t be tomorrow, but we anticipate going to an all-IP network by 2020. We need to start planning for that transition today.”
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