Yesterday, when we moved my toddler to a “big-girl bed” — essentially a twin mattress on the floor of her room — I noted that I need to buy a faceplate to cover up the telephone jack, which is now at her eye level. And then […]

jackYesterday, when we moved my toddler to a “big-girl bed” — essentially a twin mattress on the floor of her room — I noted that I need to buy a faceplate to cover up the telephone jack, which is now at her eye level. And then I realized that the faceplate may never need to be removed because we, and likely the people who buy our house after we move, will have no need for a landline.

I still recall finally convincing my parents, less than two decades ago, that I needed my own phone line in my bedroom — an envy-inducing accessory for any teenage girl at the time. Now we debate at what age to give our children cell phones, and instead of all-night calls on three-way, teens use texting and Facebook.

I recall installing that very telephone jack I’m plating over; it was about five years ago, for my then-office as I prepared to work from home. Using my mobile phone as my sole office line would have been prohibitively expensive, since unlimited plans weren’t on offer, and my former employer didn’t reimburse reporters for their cell phones. Now my mobile phone is my only phone.

So the act of covering up the phone jack hit me much the same way it might hit a parent when their kid walks off to school without a look back. The telephone industry is growing up and moving on. Wireless isn’t just a balm for the bottom line, but an integral component to the future when tied to a fiber network.

One day I’ll have to tell my daughter about my phone that lit up when it rang, and that had a cord (!) which would get so snarled that I would have to sit with my head five inches from the phone’s base in order to take a call. And she’ll look at me the same way I look at my mom when she talks about her slide rule.

By Stacey Higginbotham

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  1. Bob Perdriau Monday, March 2, 2009

    The issue is not the landline. The issue is the landline is made of copper. Were the landline made of glass such that it could serve as the single link to your home for everything electronic we would not be having this silly discussion.

    You are drinking the telecom and cable cool aid. Why are we still promulgating cable TV technology? Why are we still using copper telephone lines? This is the best example I can think of that the free market does not work. I won’t live to see the implementation of technologies more than 3 decades old that would improve my life and the future of the country – because of the “free market”.

  2. Davin Peterson Monday, March 2, 2009

    I remember from the ’90s sitcom Full House the episode that DJ wanted her own phone line to talk to friends. My how technology has evolved in the last 20 years or even the last decade.

  3. it will not only be the landline that goes away but wired internet as well. while i understand the challenges of providing all the needed bandwidth wirelessly i also believe this will be overcome(by a combination of new technologies, more towers and more radio frequencies) i also believe that contrary to what i read on all the tech blogs speed is not the main issue. in fact i believe most users would take a pretty big cut in download/upload speeds if they could get a unlimited works anyplace wireless data plan a a reasonable price(similar to what they pay now for low tier cheap cable/DSL). and just like with cell phones these users will be ‘cutting the cord’ except much quicker than with the landlines.

  4. It happens with almost everybody. We installed landline phones in our homes around 10 years back. Now every member of the family has got a cell-phone.

    Technology always moves on acceleration based and not on speed based alone. Good topic.

  5. The purpose for me getting a land line back then was to run a BBS.

    I agree with the previous comments regarding competition. There is none and because of that the telcos have no incentive to deploy fiber.

  6. thatericguy Monday, March 2, 2009

    While I understand the basic point of this article, the fact is that most people who have this frame of mind forget or have never been in times of emergency. That antiquated copper line in your house maybe your only link to others when all else fails. I live near the coast where we tend to have the threat of hurricanes or tropical storms each year. And during these storms, the cell towers are prone to power loss issues which puts those who are completely wireless in potentially serious danger. Until there is an easy to adopt alternative for emergency communication, the old tried and true rg-11 phone line is here to stay.

    1. Tom Martin, Jr. Friday, March 20, 2009

      If you stay in your home during a hurricane or tropical storm you are an idiot.

  7. There are many people who are not happy with the speech quality over their cell phones and at the same time very happy with their DSL connection. As a matter of fact, DSL lines are still the most often used medium for broadband connection in the world.

    Scale of wireless broadband deployment will always be behind wired technologies simply because the air is scarce and very expensive commodity and most of all very tough as a communication channel.

    The hybrid solutions such as DSL/Cable + FemtoCell may be the ultimate winners bringing the best of both worlds.

  8. Wasn’t this the big topic just ten years ago when people first started debating whether they needed POTS service with cell service spreading so fast? I had a colleague who actually didn’t activate POTS in their new home because he and his wife just used cell phones…until the day when we needed him at midnight for a high priority problem and he didn’t answer his cell…because he turned it off. He was forced to set up service the next day.

    Plus, with continued craptastic “usable” signal strength (thanks, AT&T for five bars of which only two seem to really be available to me) from most vendors and with most non-city-central communities (suburban to rural) still limited in terms of cell tower reach, you can shelve this debate for at least 10 years. In fact, start it up when cell service is as widespread and available as GPS and we can use those wonderful sats for communication. Oh wait, you’ll still need a POTS line…don’t forget the Sun doesn’t play fair all the time.

  9. You obviously don’t have an alarm at your home. If you did, you will definitely need a land line. Cell phones won’t work. In this economy with increasing crime rates, a home alarm is a must have.

    1. TuringTestFailure Thursday, March 19, 2009

      My alarm company stated that the alarm could be operated wirelessly at no additional cost should I choose to get rid of my phone line. Then, my phone company reduced their rate by 70% when I called to cancel.

  10. It is too early to foresake the landline. Landlines are still more robust than mobile phones. It may take a major disaster for people to realize that mobile technology has not fully replaced landline infrastructure.


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