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AT&T to FCC: Drop The Landline Requirement

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 46 comments

AT&T wants to be rid of analog land-based services for good.

Thanks to a sharp decline in landline use, AT&T has asked the FCC to drop its requirement that phone carriers provide analog landline services. In its 32-page filing located here, AT&T wants the FCC to provide a deadline for phasing out old analog system. According to GigaOM, one in five Americans still use land-based analog services; the rest rely on mobile phones and VoIP as primary means of communication.

But what AT&T doesn't provide in its document to the FCC is a means to bridge the gap for those who still rely on landlines. The document also doesn't address how the government will be able to drag online the 33-percent of consumers not subscribing to broadband. What AT&T did provide was data that indicated AT&T is losing money maintaining the analog system while consumers jump onto wireless and VoIP services.

According to the filing, revenue generated from land-based analog services fell 27-percent, racking in $178.6 billion in 2000 down to $130.8 billion in 2007. AT&T also indicated that at least 18 million households subscribe to VoIP services, and that cable companies will provide VoIP to more than 24 million subscribers by 2010.

AT&T's request to the FCC also asked that broadband regulatory jurisdiction be at the federal level rather than on a local or state level. The company also wants the FCC to determine how to deal with disabled consumers and public safety situations in a VoIP environment.

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  • 13 Hide
    Fargus , December 31, 2009 3:28 AM
    AT&T only wants this because they bet the farm on their Uverse product. VOIP is not a reliable replacement for copper twisted pair, at least, not as it's currently being implemented. Lose power, lose your VOIP. AT&T supplied battery backups for consumers give only ~4 hours of run time (that's if the power doesn't fail at the cross-over boxes as well). Most customers will never think to check their UPS status and when they reach the end of their batteries lifespan, customers will suddenly lose their phone service and internet access if a power outage occurs.

    I've been in the red zone of a cat 5 hurricane and several cat 3+. No power for weeks to a month. Cell phone towers leveled and not rebuilt for over 4 months. Only thing that worked through both events was the simple, archaic copper pair landline (even had internet with a dial-up modem). Current VOIP services are just too dicey for emergencies.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    captaincharisma , December 30, 2009 11:15 PM
    is north America really ready to give up the land line phone system? cell phone plans can be expensive and VOIP may still have some issues with emergency calls

    one thing with landlines i like is you get to see the name of the caller on the caller ID unlike a cellphone where all you get is the phone number. at least in canada that is how it works
  • 1 Hide
    megabyteme6662002 , December 30, 2009 11:20 PM
    So the fat cats want the government to pay for more stuff like we don't have enough problems with our economy already..? AT&T sure won't be the ones paying to get the people that rely on land lines wireless, so taxpayers will. Doesn't sound like a good deal to anybody but AT&Ts bonus checks. One thing that is good about old school phone lines that is often overlooked is they still work sometimes when your electricity goes out in your house (assuming its not a cordless phone.) This is very handy.. Also during times of emergency, cell phone towers seem to fill up fast.
  • Display all 46 comments.
  • 3 Hide
    cadder , December 30, 2009 11:21 PM
    I have an analog landline and I will keep it for now. I'm in the middle of a large suburb but our cell coverage is bad, certainly not good enough to rely on for emergency calls. And our internet service is far less reliable than our analog landline.

    If ATT wants to build more towers, and if someone wants to build a home phone system that works off of cell towers, then we might consider switching, IF the price is comparable.

    ATT came into our neighborhood some years ago and sold us on their new "fixed wireless" system. The put an antenna on our roof, cur our phone line, and plugged our home phone into their transceiver box. It worked fine. Then a year later they changed their mind, told us they were quitting this service in our area, and told us to crawl back to our old phone company on our hands and knees and beg for their service back. So I don't trust ATT anymore.
  • 8 Hide
    rbarone69 , December 30, 2009 11:39 PM
    Right now people with landline services pay about 50% of their phone bill in taxes alone (at least that's how it was for me in NY holding a basic line).

    What is horrible is that the lost tax receipts gained by the ever declining land-line service will be gained in additional taxes on the internet phone companies. So no matter what, you'll be taxed more, just in a different area to make up for the lost receipts.

    I would still be on landline service if it was competitive in price but Americans are being drawn into lower cost services that provide more features. Currently my broadband service with VoIP covers my home needs and I'm happy with the product @ $30 / month.

    What is really sad is that even Verizon's FiOS VoIP service has all the "confusing crap" of older systems... Long distance options, regional calling, local calling etc... Pfft... Leave it to a traditional phone company to over complicate a very simple service. Provide dial tone and a flat rate like your competitors!

    It comes down to this, if you can provide a better service at lower cost people will buy into it. Sooner or later you must eliminate the old systems and upgrade or you'll end up with the space shuttle boosters as wide as 2 rear ends
    http://www.astrodigital.org/space/stshorse.html


    As you can see, I'm one American frustrated with how the traditional phone companies have run things over the last 30 years (dont remember back further from that). I'm also frustrated how our stimulus money is being spent. Why not fund the project to get all Americans on fiber by giving grants to companies willing to hire and get people to start laying the necessary infrastructure? Much like roads, upgraded fiber to the premises doesn't only have to be Verizon's doing and it would immediately make the "land line" issue obsolete. Then all Americans would have public "data pathways" and would be able to order whatever internet, phone and TV provider hooked up. Ambitious yes, possible yes, doable in this country, not within my lifetime. Yet overall it would benefit all Americans and would be a good long term stimulation to the local and national economy. In my eyes THAT'S the proper way to rid the land line requirement.

    Rant done.
  • 2 Hide
    Shadow703793 , December 30, 2009 11:47 PM
    captaincharismais north America really ready to give up the land line phone system? cell phone plans can be expensive and VOIP may still have some issues with emergency callsone thing with landlines i like is you get to see the name of the caller on the caller ID unlike a cellphone where all you get is the phone number. at least in canada that is how it works

    Not just that, you can't send faxes on a VIOP line most of the time.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , December 30, 2009 11:52 PM
    If AT&T gets away with this, that'll spell the end of DSL and Digital Land lines plus a lot of emergency services.

    If anything, the corporate giants are just trying to stuff their pockets while screwing the average joe.
  • 0 Hide
    rubix_1011 , December 31, 2009 12:27 AM
    Is Luke Wilson going to be in a stupid commercial about skewed facts about analog telephone lines now? Maybe Verizon has a map for him on that?
  • -1 Hide
    spectrewind , December 31, 2009 1:45 AM
    Renegade_WarriorIf AT&T gets away with this, that'll spell the end of DSL and Digital Land lines plus a lot of emergency services.If anything, the corporate giants are just trying to stuff their pockets while screwing the average joe.


    In what situation would you want/need to do this, minus the receving party being restricted to POTS lines?
  • -3 Hide
    hakesterman , December 31, 2009 1:47 AM
    Cell phone plans usually don't cost anymore than a landline. I agree with ATT for once and can see theirpoint that old technology should be scraped. Also haveing those extra customers in the mobile world would drive down mobile prices.
  • 1 Hide
    nukemaster , December 31, 2009 2:18 AM
    Shadow703793Not just that, you can't send faxes on a VIOP line most of the time.

    I was guessing the same thing, but so far it has worked well.
  • 1 Hide
    nekatreven , December 31, 2009 2:50 AM
    The solutions for fax over VoIP are becoming more mainstream, T.38 fax gateways being one example.
  • 13 Hide
    Fargus , December 31, 2009 3:28 AM
    AT&T only wants this because they bet the farm on their Uverse product. VOIP is not a reliable replacement for copper twisted pair, at least, not as it's currently being implemented. Lose power, lose your VOIP. AT&T supplied battery backups for consumers give only ~4 hours of run time (that's if the power doesn't fail at the cross-over boxes as well). Most customers will never think to check their UPS status and when they reach the end of their batteries lifespan, customers will suddenly lose their phone service and internet access if a power outage occurs.

    I've been in the red zone of a cat 5 hurricane and several cat 3+. No power for weeks to a month. Cell phone towers leveled and not rebuilt for over 4 months. Only thing that worked through both events was the simple, archaic copper pair landline (even had internet with a dial-up modem). Current VOIP services are just too dicey for emergencies.
  • 0 Hide
    anamaniac , December 31, 2009 7:31 AM
    Butbutbut... landlines are so much cheaper.
    VoIP: my net is down once a week, too unreliable.
    Cellular: not everywere has coverage, useless if you have no battery life.
    Landline: Down once a month for me (being down for 12 hours in a 'well aged' (most of my neighbros are 50+) community is bad, really bad... luckily it seems these old guys wait til the lines are back up to have their heart attacks), but prove to be the most reliable.

    I say keep VoIP and landlines though. Landlines should be a free public service... what else do I pay out the arse in taxes for? I say rid of cell phone towers and proper 3G/4G/NG service nationally.
  • 2 Hide
    JonnyDough , December 31, 2009 8:06 AM
    I dislike AT&T for the scandals they had with the FCC back in the day. I do however, have a landline. For $50 a month I get unlimited calls in the US and the best part is, its crystal clear most of the time. Way better quality than any cell and it won't give me brain cancer as quickly.

    The solution as I see it is VOIP over cable. What we really need is a monorail system built from the east to the west coast that replaces interstate 80/90 and use the building of it to lay a new high speed fiber optic cable as well. The government needs to get together with big companies and orchestrate this, but the FCC/EPA/Auto Industry/Railways/FFA/NASA/HTS/Congress/and Obama would never work together well enough to be able to come up with a real plan for real modernization of America. I'm afraid I may have to take over and liberate everyone. Just kidding. I work for the military so I have to be careful what I say. :) 
  • -1 Hide
    jonpaul37 , December 31, 2009 11:37 AM
    Finally! AT&T makes a SMART move! begone with landlines! I HATE the fact that i cannot save $$$ unless i "bundle" the landline in, it's stupid, i would have NO use for it other than hearing it ring off the hook due to telemarketers harrasing the shit outta me. Only thing is, those customers who have land lines probably have it because the AT&T wireless service is bad/not available in their area, LOL. It should not be a requirement, it should be an option...
  • 0 Hide
    jabliese , December 31, 2009 12:50 PM
    Gee, maybe investing more money in ISDN would have been worth it? QQ more. Dear FCC, make a rule allowing phone companies to stop offering analog if they convert them to ISDN, mwuhahaha. AT&T better be careful, though. The obvious solution here is for the FCC to say, "OK, but you have to offer straight DSL at the same price as your old analog plans, not the bundled." And if analog lines are such a burden, why does AT&T force you to get landline service with your DSL, hmmm?

    Making less money losing money. Got any numbers backing up the assertion that AT&T loses money on landlines? For example, comparing revenue to maintenance? And, it seems to me AT&T should be reporting analog land line revenue with DSL anyway, they use the same copper.

    Ah, what a glorious day when I disconnected the land line. Whenever it rained enough, voice quality was anywhere from bad to horrible. They "fixed" it probably a dozen times. No fix lasted more than a month.
  • -1 Hide
    jabliese , December 31, 2009 12:54 PM
    Should be a "Making less money does not equal losing money." Guess some mathematical notation conflicts with HTML.
  • 0 Hide
    cablechewer , December 31, 2009 1:48 PM
    Actually where this will really screw people is in rural areas. Cities can be covered by cell phone towers, DSL and cable. However get a short distance from the city and you will often find there is no DSL, no cable and cell phone coverage gets spotty.

    My aunt lives on a farm in one of those areas that is not on cell phone coverage maps. She has dial-up (max 26.4 typically) and up until 2002 she only had pulse dialing.

    My parent's cottage was upgraded from a party line to a private POTS line about 8 years ago. It is sitting right at the edge of 2 cells. Voice coverage is spotty, and data from the tower that is capable of 2G (the other tower is only voice capable as of this past October) is impossible until you climb a nearby hill.


    Nobody wants to be the one who cuts off the rural customers, nobody wants to maintain the system and nobody wants to pay the cost of spreading enough cell towers around to replace the POTS system in rural areas. Everything in capitalism is geared towards ‘economies of scale’ and ‘bigger is better’ so that leaves people who need or want a life in rural areas out of the communications technology loop. When everyone was on the same basic technology this wasn’t such a problem because the revenue pool was sufficient to service everyone.


    Much as I hate to admit it ATT does have one point here – VOIP access to emergency services (I assume this is what they mean about ‘public safety considerations’) is not consistent enough. Since emergency services are typically offered by the government it makes sense that the government set and enforce standards for how those services are accessed by subscribers to each communication technology.

  • 0 Hide
    sliem , December 31, 2009 2:34 PM
    Landline is like paper, we'll always need that!
    What the hell was AT&T thinking??
  • 1 Hide
    blarneypete , December 31, 2009 3:42 PM
    Am I the only one whose biggest beef with this is that AT&T wants broadband regulatory jurisdiction on a federal level rather than a state level?

    That would violate the 10th amendment. Too many things already violate it. Let's not add another.
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