July 9, 2013

U.S. landline phones reach turning point

The ride could be bumpy for users as cellphones and fiber optics spur a slow phase-out of copper wiring.

By PETER SVENSSON/The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Robert Post
click image to enlarge

Robert Post, 85, of Mantoloking, N.J., has a pacemaker that needs to be checked once a month by phone, but Verizon refuses to restore the area’s landlines, which were heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy last year.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

This wireless device connected to Robert Post’s home wiring provides phone service, but the system does not work for checking pacemakers.

The Associated Press

"I had to have my waiters write down the credit-card number, the expiration number and the CVV (security) code. It took me over 3½ hours to process all my credit cards on Saturday. That's pretty ridiculous," Randazzo said.

Verizon provided service to about 2,700 lines on western Fire Island before the storm. But even then, 80 percent of calls to and from the island were wireless. Now few of the lines work, but the cellular service is fine.

New York state regulators have given Verizon provisional permission to consider its wireless Voice Link boxes as stand-ins for regular phone service. Verizon technicians install the 4-inch-square boxes with protruding antennas in homes and connect them to the home phone wiring. The home is then linked to Verizon's wireless network.

When subscribers lift their phone handsets, they hear a dial tone. But the box doesn't work with remote medical monitoring devices, home alarm systems or faxes. It can't accept collect calls or connect callers with an operator when they dial 0. It also can't be used with dial-up modems, credit-card machines or international calling cards.

Post's house in Mantoloking was built 83 years ago. His wife estimates it has been connected to a phone line for 80 years. Now, to get his pacemaker checked, he heads once a month to a friend's home in Bay Head, the next town over, which still has a copper phone line.

Most of his neighbors in Mantoloking have cable phone service from Comcast Corp. that can do most of the things Voice Link can't. The service, for instance, could relay Post's pacemaker information. But Post just isn't eager to switch to the cable company. He said he doesn't trust them. And he's not alone. Customer perception of cable TV providers has historically been poor because of service outages and annual price increases, according to surveys for the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Post's neighbor, Garret Sayia, is fine with cable.

"Everybody here wants the cable for Internet and TV. The other thing is -- who needs wires?" Sayia said, holding up his cellphone.

Verizon said just 855 of the 3,000 homes it wants to abandon in Mantoloking had traditional phone service before the storm.

In Washington, the Federal Communications Commission is looking at an application from the country's largest landline phone company, AT&T Inc. AT&T isn't dealing with storm damage, so it has the leisure of taking a longer view. It wants to explore what a future without phone lines will look like by starting trials in yet-to-be-decided areas.

"We need kind of a process where we can figure out what we don't know," said Bob Quinn, one of AT&T's top lobbyists in Washington. "The trouble is not going to be identifying the issues everybody can see. It's going to be finding the unexpected issues that you have to conquer."

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)