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Land Lines: Endangered Phone Species?

PHOTO: Are land-line phones headed for the trash? Courtesy: Beth Blakeman
PHOTO: Are land-line phones headed for the trash? Courtesy: Beth Blakeman
April 2, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa - Land-line phone service is going the way of the dinosaurs among some consumers, but many seniors and people in rural areas still depend on it. Advocates are monitoring the telecom industry to make sure the people who rely on land-line phones aren't going to be victimized by deregulation.

Although mobile phone service is growing in popularity, more than a million Iowans still have land lines. That continuing reliance is one reason why there's growing concern over the possibility of changes in regulations that might allow land-line phone providers to discontinue service or charge higher prices.

According to Ana Montes, director of organizing at The Utility Reform Network, another concern is that the new phone technologies are vulnerable during emergency-related power outages.

"In many instances where there have been emergencies, people have relied upon pay phones, people have relied on land-line telephone service," Montes cautioned." And if we were to switch over to an entirely IP-based network, we could end up being in a real mess."

Montes is also concerned that some seniors are being pressured to switch to the Internet-based telephone services, when their land-lines work fine.

"But it's really being sold as, 'This is old technology. It's not useful technology. Nobody is using that technology any more.' And it just really is not accurate," she said. "There's still a reliance by a lot of different folks on the older technology."

Some telecom companies are using the rise in cell-phone use to argue for changes in the regulations that require them to provide land-line service.

Despite the current trend, Joe Hrdlicka, director of government relations for the Iowa Telecommunication Association, said there's no need to fear that land-line phones will disappear overnight.

"I don't see a scenario where you completely do away with land-line service."

More information is at bit.ly/YE5Bib.

Richard Alan, Public News Service - IA