Connected: Time to drop land-line service

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Is traditional land-line telephone service over copper wires going the way of incandescent light bulbs?

In case you haven't noticed, the traditional light bulb will soon become a thing of the past, as LED (light emitting diode) lamps, so-called incandescent fluorescents (fluorescent bulbs that can be placed in traditional incandescent lamps) and other technologies replace Thomas Edison's light bulb.

According to David Burstein of DSL Reports, Verizon plans to kill off copper wire. He reports that Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam says the company is going to take copper out of service everywhere Verizon can offer FIOS, the digital service that uses fiber instead of copper from the pole to your home.

Many cities -- including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York and Washington -- already have been built out for FIOS, and with Internet bundles being offered to incentivize households and businesses to use FIOS instead of traditional land-lines and DSL, more households than ever are switching.

In addition, there's a steady trend toward using cell phones instead of having any household telephone numbers, which means in some cases, land-lines are being switched off completely. Not everybody is upgrading with the local telephone company, either. Some are switching their telephone service to cable company competitors like Comcast or to add-on Internet phone services like Vonage. Altogether, they spell the eventual death of copper-based phone service. So perhaps sooner is better than later.

Why not leave the copper lines working? Several reasons: It's cheaper to offer digital service than traditional land lines. And it costs more to maintain copper lines with redundant resources. If I were the head of Verizon, I'd want to accelerate the move as well.

What does that mean to you, if you're one of millions of people who still use traditional land lines? Nothing yet. It may be a long time before Verizon has a completely fleshed out strategy and is ready to make an announcement. Or it could be soon. Either way, traditional telephone service is a regulated industry; so the regulators are likely to make sure you have plenty of time to switch over and that everything is in place to make it orderly. The politicians don't want to lose your vote.

And what is AT&T planning? It currently provides land-line service in most of the country where Verizon doesn't provide it. (Between the two companies, they have acquired most of the Baby Bells that were created by the breakup of the original AT&T, thereby splitting the land-line services into geographically distinct companies.)

Just because you don't need to do anything yet doesn't mean you shouldn't. In many cases, you'll save money by switching over to one of the newer services instead of continuing with your land line. And you may get some new services, too -- that you'll likely enjoy. With the telephone system more than 100 years old, don't you think it's time to move from the original technology?

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Follow David on Twitter @dradin, or learn more at www.megabyteminute.com.


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