Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Copper Landline Phones vs Digital FIOS / Internet Landline Phones

For several days after Hurricane Sandy, many people struggled to make contact with the outside world. For most people their wireless service failed, rendering their cellphones useless. They also lost power, causing their Internet-based landline to go dead.
But just a few miles away, some individuals, had no problems communicating. They could make and receive calls during the power outage because they still rely on an old form of technology: a corded telephone that runs on copper wires.
The divide beween those people after the storm illustrates one of the major concerns with the reliability of the new telecommunications infrastructure. Phone companies are phasing out their aging copper-line networks and moving customers to either wireless service or landline phones that run over the Internet. But the newer technology relies on something that didn't exist for days across the Northeast: electricity. After the storm, some found that their phones worked only because copper wires carried electricity from the phone companies' offices known as switches or exchanges.
"This storm highlighted that you might want to think twice about removing copper because it provides an alternative source of access," said Christopher White, an attorney with the New Jersey Division of the Rate Counsel, which represents consumers on utility issues.
Phone companies dismiss notions that their old copper networks are more reliable. They say copper lines can be disrupted by falling trees or poles, or get damaged by heavy flooding. Verizon said its newer fiber-optic cables are less vulnerable to water damage.
Phone companies are also trying to get out of their obligation to provide landline phone service in rural areas by saying rural customers can rely on high-speed wireless instead. By freeing themselves from regulations, AT&T and Verizon would no longer need to maintain their aging copper networks. But Hurricane Sandy exposed how vulnerable wireless networks can be in severe weather. After the storm, about a third of all cell phone towers were knocked offline and thousands of wireless customers lost service. 
AT&T has announced to phase out its old, copper-line phone system -- which covers 76 million homes and business in 22 states -- and replace it with a fiber-optic broadband network or high-speed wireless. Verizon has similar plans to abandon its old phone network and move customers to wireless or digital phone service.
"We are not repairing the copper anymore," Fran Shammo, Verizon's executive vice president and chief financial officer, said at an investor conference in August.
On Friday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said the power outages gave the commission "new lessons to learn" about making phone service more reliable after hurricanes, though he did not say whether the agency would introduce new regulations.
Verizon customers who rely on web-based landlines to make calls have eight hours of backup battery power before the lines go dead. Most home consumers use cordless phones that run on electricity, so they could not have made calls during a power outage even if the company still used the old copper system. He suggested that customers use portable generators to keep their phone service running if they lose electricity. The other option is to simply aquire one of the "older" phones that we were accustom to in the 1980's and 1990's that were corded and were not wireless, require a electricity at a base station and a battery on the phone. You can go to Target, Walmart, or RadioShack today and purchase one of these corded telephones for around $5... if you want a CALLER ID display on the corded phone, the corded phone typically costs $10. But in an emergency, would you really care? I have always suggested that people have a basic corded or wired telephone in their emergency kits... even if you have a new digital landline like FIOS from Verizon, Xfinity Voice from Comcast, or VOIP from AT&T/Vonage/Omma etc, you can still connect the wired or corded phone to your digital connection in an emergency as those devices have battery-backup support for around 8 hours after the power goes out.
AT&T, which has 2.7 million digital phone customers, says their customers are responsible for ensuring the backup batteries for their digital landlines, which last for four hours, are operating.
Recent customers have said they recently switched from an old corded phone to Verizon's digital phone service. They said the old phone worked the last time there was a power outage, and they wished they had it last week after the storm. There are others, however, that insist they remain on the old copper network connection...and with good reason!
A great example is Marilyn Askin, 79, of Monroe Township, N.J., as said she never switched to Verizon's digital phone service because she wanted to ensure she could make a phone call if there was an emergency and she lost electricity. After Hurricane Sandy knocked out power in her neighborhood for several days, Askin said her corded telephone kept working, allowing her to contact family and friends. 
The corded phone remained operational because Verizon's copper landline service to her house remained powered. Often phone companies have backup power generators connected to the local exchange or switch (which connects your home to the network via copper wire). They also have backup batteries in place, so that if a generator fails, there will be additional backup battery support for an additional, though not infinite  amount of time. But as for a large-scale disaster? Once the batteries run out of power at the phone company's switch/exchange and the backup generator fails as it consumes all the fuel powering it, even your older or "safer" copper landline will eventually stop working and fail.


  1. Great blog!
    Thanks for sharing and i am also using landline phones and i can understand the significance of some advance functionality that most of the people are using.

  2. Verizon is strong arming people off copper. I called in for static, used to be they go to the outside box fix the lose wire all good.
    No they ordered my copper replaced to FiOS. I already have FiOS on one line. the Copper is my main line and like the people in this story the only reason i could communicate after cell phones died etc. was because of Copper.
    5 days no power.. no generator.. etc..

    Steve C.

  3. Modern day Luddites!

  4. Great piece of info - thank you. My present bundle provider-RCN-is pushing me off the copper wire, but Verizon sales people claim no problem when trying to get my business. I see now that once I switch, I'll still be subject to the same pitch...

  5. Thank you for this info. I have kept my landline phone and will as long as it is available to me. However, just days ago was given this "great deal" by Verizon, lowering my bill to renew my contract and switch from FIOS to Digital phone service. Not knowing the diff and excited to lower the bill, I accepted. In the back of my mind, I was wondering what the real diff was, which led me to check it out and ultimately finding this site. I can hardly wait to hear Verizon's pitch when I call to cancel this...still within my 30 days to change my mind., perfect timing Thank You.