When major providers shut down landline phone service in an area, it always starts with a letter.
Joyce, a 66-year-old native San Diegan living in a condo building in La Mesa, got her letter from Verizon in May.
“It was only a few paragraphs. It just said ‘at the end of August, we’re no longer supporting landline service to your building.’ They said it was an upgrade, but if we wanted to keep our phone service with them, they’d have to come out and install fiber optic cables throughout the building.”
The condo association decided it wasn’t worth retrofitting the building — the setup would be intrusive to the residents, and the phone service would be based on the internet, not copper wire, which didn’t interest the residents.
And just like that, Joyce was losing her landline phone service.
“I’d been with Verizon for 35 years. It never occurred to me that they could just cut off my phone service. But I guess they thought no one uses landlines anymore anyways, so let’s just shut it off and get everyone on to the internet.”
Landlines Are Alive and Well
James Graham, founder, and CEO of Community Phone, a company that provides an alternative landline service by connecting them to cell towers rather than copper wire, understands the landline market as well as anyone.
“Landline phones are just a much better option for tens of millions of people, even in a world of smartphones,” says James.
“Cell phones are made for younger generations. Many of our customers are seniors who prefer the reliability and familiarity of landlines over their cell phones. They also work when the power goes out, they’re harder to misplace, and they don’t need to be charged. There’s a reason there are still 100 million landline users in the US, even though cell phones have been around for 30 years.”
But for telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon, the writing is on the wall; landlines are a dying breed, and it’s time to move on.
And that means that for San Diego residents, the days of their copper wire landline phone service are numbered.
FCC Landline Deregulation
Most people in the US, including many San Diegans, do not get their landline service from large providers like Verizon or AT&T.
Instead, large telecom providers that are members of the US Telecom Association sell the use of their copper wire service to smaller, local providers, and those providers sell service to consumers.
The reason they do this was that they were required to by the FCC; folks had to be able to get landline phone service unbundled from other services, at a rate that was regulated by the Government.
However, according to US telecom companies, these regulations were “overbearing”, and prevented them from being able to invest in “the future” – fiber optic technology.
So, after years of lobbying by US Telecom, the FCC announced that on August 2, 2022, US Telecom companies would no longer be required to provide landline service to these smaller, local companies.
But this regulation was the only reason large telecom providers were still offering copper wire landline service at all. With the regulation lifted, the companies that provide many San Diegans copper wire phone services will start retiring their copper wire service permanently.
Why Telecom Companies Are Ending Copper Wire Service
Fiber optic cables are internet-based, and allow telecom giants to provide more profitable services (namely internet and TV) on the same lines that they provide home phone service.
It’s a great deal for telecom companies — fiber optics are more resilient, which makes them cheaper to maintain than POTS copper wire lines.
And by bundling all their services onto one cable, they can get more customers on to the high-speed internet services that they expect will make up the bulk of their profits moving forward.
As the cost of maintaining copper wire infrastructure increases, telecom companies have lobbied the FCC to eliminate regulations that require them to provide landline service across the country.
And on Aug. 2, 2022, according to FCC Order 19-72, those regulations ended.
Now, major providers are no longer required to provide landline service. And as they focus on their bottom line, it’s only a matter of time before they end the service completely.
When Will San Diegans Lose Their Landline Service?
Unfortunately, providers are tight-lipped about when they will shut down service in any particular area.
Representatives at major providers like AT&T say that there is no way to know when any specific area will lose its copper wire service. In most cases, providers will turn off service to a particular area or an apartment or condo building all at once, and offer to rewire the building with fiber optic cables (for a significant fee).
Residents who are affected by an upcoming shutdown are informed via email and snail mail with details about the date of the shutdown, and options to switch to another digital home phone service provided by the company. At that point, folks can decide if they want to keep their phone service with the provider, switch to another provider, or get rid of their landline completely.
Internet-Based Phone Service Is Not Sufficient
The copper wire phase-out is forcing San Diegans to look for other ways to keep their landline phone.
The most common option is an internet-based home phone service or VoIP. Internet-based landline service is inexpensive, but in most cases, you get what you pay for. Of course, the service requires you to have internet, but the reliability requires more than just fast internet. If your internet cuts out even for a second, you risk dropping the call or experiencing lagging and delays that make it hard to have a conversation.
Internet-based landline service also does not work when the power goes out, eliminating one of the primary benefits of copper wire landline service.
Community Phone is your most reliable home phone alternative to traditional copper wire or internet-based landline phone service.
A Reliable Landline Phone Service Alternative
For San Diegans on copper wire landline phone service, it’s impossible to know when your service will get shut off. The transition to fiber optic will take years, and will happen building-by-building, street-by-street, city-by-city across the country.
Providers are also required by law to notify their customers via snail mail well before they end the service.
However, it makes sense to consider other options so you’re not left to figure out what to do when the shutdown happens.
Community Phone is a nationwide landline alternative service provider that offers reliable, affordable landline service to anyone in San Diego.
Community Phone’s landline service works by connecting your landline phone to local cell towers, rather than copper wire or internet.
When you sign up with Community Phone, you’ll receive a device called a Landline Base. Simply plug your existing landline phone into a phone jack on the base, and the base connects your landline phone to cell towers in your area. The base plugs into any power outlet and has a backup battery that works for up to 12 hours without power. Setup takes 30 seconds, and there’s no technician required.
Community Phone customers can transfer over their number from their existing provider, or get a new local number. Unlimited minutes plans start at $39/month, and there are limited minutes plans available for just $29/month. And for folks who will potentially be affected by the copper wire shutdown, they’re offering a 5% lifetime discount on all plans.
To learn more, head to their website or give them a call at 619-558-1376.