When The Lights Go Out, You Might Be Stuck Without A Landline

Now that telephone and cable companies have increasingly moved away from using the old tried and true copper lines to provide landline service, you might find yourself without a phone in a power outage. Our seriously smart siblings at Consumer Reports looked into the drawbacks of landline fiber optic and VoIP telephone systems.

During a power outage, the newer systems aren’t able to maintain landline phone service indefinitely like the old copper lines can. Today’s systems usually provide around eight hours of standby service, says Consumer Reports, and then only if they happen to have an in-home battery backup.

That means if cell phone lines also fail, no dialing out for emergency supplies of cheese or letting your mom know you’re okay and have plenty of bottled water, or more importantly, no 911.

Even as many companies switch to VoIP and fiber systems that keep the copper lines next to the new lines, customers aren’t always aware they can opt for the traditional service.

Consumer Reports found that companies like Verizon, AT&T and others include warnings to consumers in their terms of service, which entails that the customer knows that in cases of service disruptions or power outages, they know they will not be able to place or receive calls to 911.

One reason copper may be falling out of popularity with phone companies — federal law requires them to share copper lines with competitors, but there is no such rule for fiber.

For more info on the pros and cons of copper lines, and whether you should ask your provider about using them, check out ConsumerReports.org.

Surprise! Your high-tech home phone system could go dead in an emergency [Consumer Reports]

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  1. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    What is this landline of which you speak?

    • ThinkingBrian says:

      I like that… well there are alot of consumers who have dropped the landline and just use there cell phones and if I lived on my own, in my own apartment or house, I would drop the landline too. Who really wants to pay $30-50 and sometimes more for a landline that you most likely don’t use when you already pay for a cell phone.

      • SabreDC says:

        “Who really wants to pay $30-50 and sometimes more for a landline that you most likely don’t use when you already pay for a cell phone.”

        What in the world are you talking about? Verizon has copper plans for $1.99/month plus $0.15 per call. Assuming you have one serious emergency each month and you’re on the phone with 911 for 20 minutes, that’s still less than $5. Having a traditional landline plan as a backup is well worth it.

        • SabreDC says:

          Sorry, that should read $0.15 per minute.

        • ThinkingBrian says:

          Sorry that’s $30-$50 or more a month for a landline phone service.

        • SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

          These plans must include 30 dollars in taxes then.

        • manus manum lavat says:

          Back when I first struck out on my own, about 5 yrs ago (I lived with my family until late 20s), my first thought was that I should have an emergency copper landline, just a cheap one. I called the phone company and asked what they had for cheap. $27 was the cheapest, and that was with zero features (just a dialtone) and no LD.

          So I don’t know where you’re getting your TN service, but I wish other places had similar deals.

          On the flip side of that, though, is that when I saw a house I wanted that was in a Fios area, I looked up the cost of service, and a triple play (with 2 yr contract) was exactly the same cost as data only service. So if I ever got to live in a fios area, I’d probably end up having a landline just because the bundle is the same price as stand-alone.

        • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

          I guess they don’t offer that rate everywhere. The cheapest I can get it is about $35 after taxes and surcharges. We haven’t had a land line in three years and we don’t miss it a bit.

          • SabreDC says:

            If the cheapest you can find is $35, then you’re looking at their Freedom Essentials or Fios phone plans. I don’t know where you’re located, but I typed in several different locations and the most expensive “per minute” or “per call” plan is $6/month plus $0.08 per call. Even in the very rural town I grew up in (less than 500 people), they have the $0.15/minute plus $2.00/month plan.

            I think you’re looking in the wrong place. You can easily get a copper land line for far less than $35. I don’t care where you live.

            • usa_gatekeeper says:

              We have a “measured service” Verizon land line in New England, running ~$20/month including fees & taxes (the plan is ~$12/month before the fees & taxes!!). Basic, no frills such as voice mail, caller ID, etc.

              Interesting … we’re supposed to be billed per minute for local calls, but after several years we have yet to be billed for even one local call. Perhaps because our having to dial the “1-” prefix even for local calls makes the “measured local service” unmeasurable?

        • teamplur says:

          911 service is free. just plug a phone in and dial it. no service required

    • DFManno says:

      It’s what you use when you live in an apartment when cell reception is uniformly lousy. It’s not just my carrier – everybody who tries to make a call gets bad reception and dropped calls.

  2. ThinkingBrian says:

    I could have told you that. My family use to have Verizon for our landline and even when the power went out, we still had a phone. But now that we have Charter Communications (cable company) were we bundle all three together (phone, internet, TV), the draw back is when the power goes out, so does TV, Internet and yes the phone. I have been left in the dark with no phone, even cell phone before. Its a terrible drawback, but this is nothing new.

    However most of the time, I at least have my cell phone to make and receive calls during a blackout if I need too. Not the best for trade offs if I could be honest.

  3. Retired Again says:

    Very True — But everyone I know has picked up two or three OLD phones and they just plug into phone line when power is out and VOILA — they have phone service.

    • Rachacha says:

      The article is referring to the actual phone line coming into your house. A typical copper phone line has a voltage from the phone company (who has huge battery backup units and large generators to keep their equipment and this voltage always running) on it that powers the ringer and microphone and soaker circuitry of a corded ” old style” phone. Fiber does not provide that service and the voltage to power your phones is generated from the AC utility service from your home. When the power goes out, so does this voltage. Verizon’s FiOS service provides a battery backup that they claim will give you 10 hours of talk time before turning off and if you press a button on the battery you can get another hour of emergency talk time

  4. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    They new phone modems that we’ve had installed have an extra battery in them, in case the power goes out. Would that solve this articles problem ?

    • ThinkingBrian says:

      No, not when you go 5 nights straight without power and up here in Massachusetts, we have some areas after a major storm that goes over 7 days without power, you will be lucky if you have anything left that actually have power including your cell phone or MP3 player.

      • Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

        Keyword of the day: Gas powered generator.

        Hope you live near a gas station.

        • nbarnard says:

          I used my car as my gas powered generator to recharge my cell phone when I had a long power outage…

    • unpolloloco says:

      For the first ~8 hours, like the article says. That said, rarely is power out longer than 8 hours.

      • Not Given says:

        Except when hundred of miles of lines are down, some people’s houses have no power for a month.

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        Uh, power was out 13 days after Hurrican Wilma. Some neighborhoods more. You can have all the power backup and generation you want but if any part of the local phone company network other than the co requires power you’re done. If for no other reason there can be delays in the phone company techs keeping there back up generators fuels/maintained.

        • unpolloloco says:

          In that case, you’re still screwed – the phone company typically doesn’t have backup power that lasts that long either.

    • unpolloloco says:

      “One reason copper may be falling out of popularity with phone companies ‚Äî federal law requires them to share copper lines with competitors, but there is no such rule for fiber.”

      What? The reason phone companies are moving towards fiber is higher bandwidth and high copper prices.

      • StarKillerX says:

        Yeah but that doesn’t sound nearly nefarious enough for a story here and would make it sound like the companies actions were reasonable and oh benifit to the consumer, we can’t allow that kind of thing here.

        • u1itn0w2day says:

          How dare you suggest that phone companies, a utility do things to benefit the consumer. Why you are just as bad as the cry baby bells whinning they have to share outside plant on public rights of way and built by a government sanctioned monoply. How dare you.

      • Rachacha says:

        But in most cases the copper infrastructure is already in place, so from that perspective there is little reason for companies like Verizon to invest +$25 Billion into rolling out a new Fiber network when they could spend several hundred million into maintaining their existing copper based network.

        The primary reason why phone companies moved over to Fiber was so they would not have to lease their lines to co-location companies that were selling services like phone and DSL to consumers, and to break into the video distribution area and compete with Cable providers that were taking some of their phone customers.

    • who? says:

      That’s fine for a few hours. You’d think a few hours would be fine, until you’re in the middle of a *real* blackout. Then a few hours of backup battery isn’t enough.

      We realized this during the San Diego blackout.

    • scoosdad says:

      Not if the phone provider’s battery backup further down the line from your house is kaput, too. People tend to forget that if you need power at your house to get your cable company’s phone to work during an outage, so does the cable company.

      Those green boxes with pilot lights on their sides up on telephone poles provide power to the cable line every so often. Some have battery backup, but not all. If the outage is widespread, even if the cable company has a generator at their tech center, you may still be out if any of the line amplifiers between you and them are dead.

      Bottom line is that battery backup at your home is only useful if the outage is very localized to your street or neighborhood. Traditional copper phone lines generally don’t need power anywhere except at the central office, and that’s why they’re reasonably foolproof during an outage. There’s even exceptions to that. If your copper phone line is fed from a ‘remote terminal’ near to your house, the terminal is usually fed by fiber from the central office and converts to copper in the terminal, and in that case if there’s no power at the remote terminal, even copper phone lines could be out. My Verizon copper phone line is fed like that from a remote terminal about 1200 feet from my house.

    • smo0 says:

      It’s why I can’t use voip for my job. I work from home and we need a POTS line. I hate it – there’s a horrible sound, you don’t get that with voip, however – if the power’s out – it works 100% of the time.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      “Today’s systems usually provide around eight hours of standby service, says Consumer Reports, and then only if they happen to have an in-home battery backup.

  5. poco says:

    Will the telegraph still work? How about the pony express?

  6. lenagainster says:

    We have above ground wiring. A tree could fall on the copper line and rip it off the house. A burglar could cut it. My cellphone is kept charged, and if power went out for an extended period, I could go out to the car and charge my cell phone there. A cordless phone needs power. So the only safe bet seems to be underground copper for the landline and an old fashioned corded phone. I think the odds are greater that I will need to call 911 from my car in an accident, than when power goes out for an extended time and at that same time I need to call 911.

    • who? says:

      You do realize, don’t you, that whatever caused the power to go out is likely to be the same thing that would cause you to need to dial 911, right?

    • Browsing says:

      you realize in the civilized world phone lines and electric lines are underground so this whole power going out thing rarely, if ever happens

      • kc2idf says:

        I disagree. Power lines are more often above ground than below. Also, even if the power lines in a given neighbourhood are below ground, know well that the transmission lines that feed those are almost always above ground.

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        Some places buries/underground cable works great. Others not so great. Buried cable trouble in particular as compared to cable in conduit can much more difficult to locate and repair. You have to hope your test equipment & techs are good enough to mark the correct spot where the 5000$ digging crew will either dig up the street or someone’s back yard. The problem here in the US tends to be a little more activity above those buried underground cables like construction, other utilities, landscaping etc than in other countries.

        At least in the air if the wires or cable gets wet it can dryout(not always). In the underground especially if buried directly into the ground those cables can’t dryout. Also minor trouble in the underground is harder to locate because your test voltage can temporarily dryout moist cables affecting test readings. Unless you have a fresh contractor dig or something underground trouble isn’t visible as would be downed poles and cables above ground. In the longrun though underground/buried cable should experience much less trouble.

      • Kuri says:

        And they they have to rip up an entire street to fix it if something happens.

        Also ,I live in a civilized area and w have hanging lines, so nice try.

    • Rachacha says:

      Be aware that when the power goes out, everyone is using their cell phone which can overload the tower leaving you unable to make a call if you have an emergency.

      Also, Cell towers require electricity. They do have battery backup that can keep the tower alive for a number of hours, but for extended outages (several days) the tower will go offline.

      When the remnants of Hurricane Isabel came up the east coast several years ago, I lost power for 8 days in the Washington DC area. Every cell phone call took several attempts to get through, and after about 24 hours the tower was dead for 7 days. I had a corded phone connected to my landline which remained on the entire time.

  7. rpm773 says:

    Sounds like the ad campaign that Verizon was running a few years ago.

    Personally, while cellphones are great for convenience, I much prefer to talk on a landline.

  8. John says:

    I have 2 landlines, and laugh every time Time Warner wants me to sign up for a triple play. Cable goes out more than anything else (I think my landlines have gone out once, in 10 years).

  9. incident man stole my avatar says:

    As someone who lives in a well populated county next to a major east coast city and lost power 13 extended times last year I will keep my landline. Verizon has refused to upgrade the 50 year old 20 gauge copperline that is disintegrating. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them to sell off their rights to the copper in the next 10 years.

  10. vliam says:

    Now that telephone and cable companies have increasingly moved away from using the old tried and true copper lines to provide landline service, you might find yourself without a phone in a power outage.

    Even if that hadn’t made the transition, you’d probably be screwed.
    I only have cordless phones in my home. They don’t work without an external power source.

  11. coffee100 says:

    Absolutely guaranteed that some smart engineer pointed this out in a design meeting and was immediately shouted down and threatened with termination by the attending management representative.

    Several months later, after a relentless weekly drumbeat of adversarial sabotage of that engineer’s professional life, the engineer was fired for cause and had to litigate for 11 months to get his unemployment benefits. In the meantime his wife left him and took the kids. His house was foreclosed on, naturally, so he lives in a camper. He is working at a Home Depot running the paint mixing machine with an MSEE and accreditation by at least three professional organizations and one industry award for design excellence.

    If you think this story is unusual, you need to wake up.

  12. Chmeeee says:

    That’s what cell phones are for. Even when pretty much my entire region was 100% out of power (and most phone lines, cable, etc) after the October snow storm, cell phones were still working fine. My car turned into a very expensive cell phone charging station.

  13. shepd says:

    If it’s VoIP, it’s not a landline, sorta by definition. ;-)

    Landlines generally have a 48-hour battery backup at the CO, so if you have a REALLY long power outage, I suppose they could go down, too.

  14. FrugalFreak says:

    Don’t convert without a backup. =cellphone.

    • who? says:

      Two questions:

      Is that cellphone going to work in a blackout? During the San Diego blackout, AT&T cellphones went dead, too.

      How long is your cellphone battery going to last?

  15. TheHalfWit says:

    We’ve had voip for the last 4 or 5 years, and other then the occasional interruption when the internet goes out it stays on. I remember last year we had a tropical storm, lost power for 6 hours. I had a big ups that I plugged the modem and voip box into and then I had internet and phone during the power outage.

    I realize that if the ISP has a power outage that wouldn’t work, but so far the ISP usually has power even when we have an outage.

  16. Cat says:

    This is a warning that every old and clueless about the internet person should get when they get talked into a “bundle” from the cable company. Say what you want about POTS, but it’s reliable as fuck.

    For the rest of us with a little knowledge and a few dollars, a UPS backup for your essential gear is a wise investment. I’ve got my router and magic jack on a pretty big UPS that will give me a day of service, and inverters to recharge it should it go over a day. As long as I have internet, my phone will work.

    Important point: Make sure you have a simple non-wireless phone ready to plug in when the power goes out. They cost as little as $5, if you don’t own one, go out and buy one today and put it with your emergency kit. You do have an emergency kit, right? Also buy a cheap pair of FRS radios so you can have some sort of communication when all else fails.

    Call me crazy or paranoid, but when the power goes out and you’re sitting in the dark with no lights, no cell phone, and zombies outside your door, I’ll be sitting home with the lights on, watching you get eaten on the TV.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I have old phone lines in my neighborhood, a landline (where my DSL comes from) and a little princess-type corded phone that stays plugged in all the time. The only time the phone ever went out was during the 2007 ice storm. That was a hellacious storm; not the normal thing at all. While power sometimes goes out during storms here, the phone almost never does.

      The only reason I don’t have internet when the power goes out is that I can’t use the router and my laptop battery goes dead. So if it happens at night, I call the utility company on my corded phone and go to bed.

  17. Tiercelet says:

    Well, there went the last reason to have a land line…

  18. captadam says:

    I haven’t had a landline in eight years, and I get along well. But I’m in my early 30s. My neighbor across the street is 89 and was sold, a year or two ago, on a VOIP phone from RoadRunner. That was a rather rotten trick for the RoadRunner representative, because this is a lady who does not owner a computer, has never used the internet, and is not technologically savvy at all. She’s bright and sharp and quick, but not a user of technology. And, since she’s 89, I think we can forgive that. Anyway, this means that concepts such as “restart the router if you have no dial tone” are completely foreign to her. Yes, I restarted the router for her. No, she didn’t keep that service for long, and she went back to her landline.

  19. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    People may want to get one of those spare cell phone batteries off the interwebs and keep it charged every month. Mine cost me less than $4 total.

    You’ll also want to have at least one phone that works without power.

    I doubt that the copper vs. fiber access rules make much difference to a phone company. The phone companies body slammed CLECs already. They won. We lost. I would speculate that the reasons phone companies switch to fiber are:
    1 – mo money, mo money, mo money for all the services they can sell (TV, broadband, home security, etc.)
    2 – higher capacity without trenching
    3 – all that precious copper can be recycled $$$ and replaced with a few strands of glass.
    4 – reliability even in wet conditions

  20. Guppy06 says:

    But is it worth paying more than double what equivalent VoIP service costs?

    Even basic “lifeline” service ends up costing more than (e.g.) Vonage. And that doesn’t include little thing like long-distance service or Caller ID. And let’s not forget the fee you need to pay to keep your phone number from being published.

    Preparing your VoIP network for power outages will pay for itself in less than a year versus paying your PSTN bill. And you’d likely evacuate long before you care about the difference between “8 hours” and “indefinitely.”

  21. HenryES says:

    Fios Digital Voice is supposed to have the ability to forward your landline calls to your mobile if you lose power to the ONT, but I have never lost power long enough to verify that it works.

  22. polishhillbilly says:

    who says I need 911?

  23. ScarletAnn says:

    Question – Could OnStar be used as an emergency phone? It uses satellite service so that should work as long as I have fuel in my tank.

  24. SmokeyBacon says:

    The people who lived in our house before us had Comcast phone service and when we moved in we didn’t – we went with regular old AT&T. Our neighbors, however, had Comcast for their phones. So any time we had our cable fixed (which was often when we first moved in) their phones went out. Same with when the power was out. If I still had a landline I would want it to be old school

  25. Lyn Torden says:

    Isn’t this what cell phones are for? Oh wait, how do I charge them? Never mind.

  26. nickmark says:

    Being in the Security and telephone business. How many of my customers had to find out the hard way about IP and other fancy phone line services the hard way.
    when power goes out or internet
    many now back up there security and fire systems with cellular units or keep couple old analog landlines for emergency. Some even contract with both Verizon FIOS and Comcast so they can switch IP service when one or the other goes out. The digital world is a scary place because there is no back up like analog has.

  27. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    If you know where your network interface is, you can plug in any corded phone and dial 911 without any phone service, and “usually” get through. I have in the past at least.

  28. MrEvil says:

    I would say it’s probably BETTER to have a cell phone, even a prepaid burner phone, for emergencies. If you live in an area that’s prone to natural disaster it’s far easier for the cell companies to establish a cell site mounted on a truck than it is to repair fallen copper lines.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Yeah, I didn’t have a cell phone at the time of the big ice storm. Some lady let me use hers to call my work. I have one now, however, and a car charger.

  29. jeni1122 says:

    Generally, companies that have taken the resources to install VOIP usually have UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supplies) hooked up to anything that needs power. These UPS units can last for several days if need be without additional power.

    The reason for the big shift, for the government at least, to VOIP was Sept. 11. People were not able to get through on cell phones or regular phone lines, but the internet was up and people were able to email.

    After that a lot of government offices moved to VOIP. Now more and more schools are starting to move in that direction as well (I sell these services through my company).

    I don’t think VOIP is necessarily perfect for consumer use yet, but I think it is a good solution for large companies that can afford the necessary backup power.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Regular folks might not have been able to get through, but if you have a job that requires access to it, there is a way to get your call pushed through. These guys I know also have IDs that allow them to get past roadblocks in the event of the emergency since they need to get to a post.

  30. MyTQuinn says:

    They’re just discovering this now?

  31. Jeff asks: "WTF could you possibly have been thinking? says:

    That’s why I always have a back-up plan. 12 volts inverted to 120V, a small gas generator, solar panels, they all play a part in my living “off the grid”. With some 3 – 6 outages lasting more than an hour per year where I live, I’ve learned to be self-reliant.

  32. humphrmi says:

    Hmm. I’ve always thought that “landline” meant the copper based phone in your house. I’ve never considered cable a “landline”. I definately do not consider VoiP a “landline”. So “the lights” don’t affect my landline, by my definition.

  33. Orrie says:

    The problem is, bad enough weather or, even more so, any unexpected non-weather disaster (earthquake, terrorists, wildfire, etc.) severe enough to cut the power for any length of time always seems to result in enough cellular traffic to completely overwhelm the network into “all circuits are busy”. If the carriers would upgrade their friggin’ networks, we’d be fine with a backup battery and maybe a solar charger from ThinkGeek, but noooooo, then we would post 10,000% profit instead of 100,000%, and our shareholders would get pissy…

  34. u1itn0w2day says:

    Yep, as soon as your local bell switches you to fiber even though you are billed at a pots line rate you minus well get a triple play package from a local cable company.

    I’m hearing all sorts of time on the local bells backup system. I’ve heard anything from you can only dial 911 on a back-up battery for 1-6 hours to you can dial local for upto 10 hours on a back up battery. Then there’s your back up battery on premises and then you have to hope the back up systems of your local bell kick in/were maintained on the outside plant and their central office. The landline networks that are partially fiber and copper will be the most trouble some.

    In the old days the cos had shelves of back up batteries. The problem is now need a battery at too many locations for fiber and/or broadband to work. You need a co battery, outside facilities battery and battery at the premises-3 locations were backups can fail instead of one.

  35. PsiCop says:

    It’s true this is a potential snag, but here in Connecticut we found out the hard way that it’s pretty much irrelevant. In the wake of the Snowtoberocalypse that hit before Halloween 2011, not only did upwards of 70% of the state lose power, thus zapping all the optic/VOIP phone customers, but the copper phone wires were all toast, too. About half of the cell towers had backup power, so cell coverage remained, but most of these ran on batteries, and over the course of over a week without power, they petered out. A few towers had generators and those held out, but they were few and far between.

    The lesson is: If the disaster is bad enough, and infrastructure maintenance poor enough, it doesn’t matter which you’ve got; you’re hosed anyway. Might as well hang it up and live like a third-worlder for a couple weeks (like a lot of folks in the Nutmeg State had to do) and forget about civilization for a while.

  36. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    Most cordless phones won’t work without power even if the land line is working. I have been through two hurricanes and my mobile phone worked fine. However, the land line was out for several days according to our neighbors. I’ll take my chances with my mobile service.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Not only do cordless fail to work in a power failure since the base or transmitter/receiver needs power that base is frequently the first thing to fry from a power surge when the power comes back on. Put it on a surge protector please.

      If you have landline from the phone company always keep a regular plug in phone that requires no power or batteries.

  37. gman863 says:

    The aftermath of Hurricane Ike a few years ago in Houston exposed the dirty little secret of what companies had backup generators installed at their service hubs (“head ends”0 and who did not.

    A rare +1 to AT&T Wireless: Other than a few busy circuits due to everyone using their cell phones at once during the first 24 hours, my cell phone worked.

    My dad has Verizon landline service in League City, TX. +1 to Verizon, he never lost service.

    Now for…ahem…Comcast.

    Comcast wouldn’t know what a backup generator is if it hit them in the ass. Although my home’s electricity was restored 36 hours after the storm hit, there were parts of Houston that didn’t have power for almost four weeks.

    The local reps at Comcast kept blaming the problem on “technical difficulties”. I finally called after hours and got a help desk tech in Tennessee who owned up to the fact Concast’s ONLY problem was lack of power at a few key switching stations and that they had no intention of bringing in backup generators to solve the problem! On top of this, Comcast had the balls to bill me for a full month of service; I had to call up and bitch to get my bill credited for the 20 days I had no Internet service.

    Finally, a +1 to the guy who installed my DirecTV dish two years prior: Although half the shingles were blown off my roof, the dish stayed put and I has TV the following morning using my backup generator.

  38. Darkneuro says:

    The neighborhood I live in is 80 years old, and the copper wire in the neighborhood was last replaced in the mid ’80’s. We get a lot of rain that seeps into the copper wires and causes phone service to go out anyway every time it rains. So no, no copper wire for me. We use Vonage for the ‘land line’ and we each have mobiles. If we can’t get an outside connection with one of the three, we’re getting the hell outta Dodge!

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      The local phone company isn’t repairing their lines. They are still responsible for repairing those copper lines. After divestiture in 1984 alot of older Bell techs refused to train newer technicians fearing they would take their job although with a union & contract they’d be last to be layed off. This perpetuated the huge knowledge gaps and irradic service that plagues most cry baby bell copper landlines today.

      Most of the local cry babybells stopped copper upgrades by the early 1990s because they assumed that they would have fiber fully deployed around y2k. This practice exacerbated the poor conditions in the older or damaged plant because alot of new techs never bothered to chase troubled copper lines, they would just transfer the customer to a new set of wires. The company made this policy to save time and money. They assumed they would get to it later or fiber would come in and save the day.

      If copper plant is properly mainted and deployed there’s alot you can do with it but the copper plant is jerry rigged patch work of various types & gauges of copper which includes too many connectors and taps which affect data transmission let alone voice lines.

      As far as I’m concerned most cry bells were grotesquely negligent with their copper plant costing the rate payers service and money. The FCC and state regulators let them get away with just about anything except murder although the murder of the POTS line should be included.

  39. MikeVx says:

    I’ve had VoIP for a “landline” connection for years now. Reliable as long at the internet works. It is connected to an SPS (Standby Power Supply, the correct term for what marketers call a “Switching UPS”, a real UPS cost a LOT more) and can hold out for several hours if the computer is not draining the system as well.

    Combine that with a cell phone and I’ve never had to worry about losing communications in a blackout. The time I lost power for a week was annoying, but I’d just tuck the cell phone in the car to charge overnight.

    I used to live in an area with very unstable power, I am equipped to deal with extended failures with ample supplies of candles and small-gadget batteries. I have an all-mechanical gas stove/range so I can always cook, power or not.

  40. mubd says:

    I’d bet that if your local cell phone tower goes down, even powered landlines would be down too. I don’t see the problem here.

  41. IGNORE says:

    Yes, a corded phone, and a propane lantern.

  42. IGNORE says:

    Yes, a corded phone and a propane lantern.

  43. Herman X says:

    I have a slim-line, princess, rotary telephone – with third number redial and hooked up to copper!

    Let the winter winds and storms do their worst. I will not be stopped from calling all the voip phones which will be down during a blizzard!

  44. Nighthawke says:

    Telecoms are under obligation by both fed and state regulation to maintain landline service due to their UTILITY, no excuses. Cellular systems are still not considered to be a utility and so they can screw around with redundancy on them as they like. If you NEED a telephone, there are services available for those who are on limited income (No long distance, but you got local, E911, 811, 411, 211, and a ton other services at your fingertips for free), for the asking. You will need to provide proof of income (or lack thereof) to the telecom, but you would get service for about 10-15/mo. Regular POTS service will run you about 25-30/month, and if you have a problem with your service or wiring going to the telephone interface box, call them and tell them. Don’t give up on wet copper issues, keep the pressure on, get the community involved. The more pressure on them, and they will move on it. They may be monolithic and might have a ton of paperwork (fed, state, and local permits, plus their own puzzle palaces, but that’s their own problem), but once under The Eye, they would get it done in a timely manner.
    Cellular service is an accessory to life, not an utility. With that said, service goes out, you are SOL until the tech being paid minimal wages and is 2 hours away at minimal gets to the site and tries to sort out the problem. If he can’t fix it, then it may take a bit longer. All the while your voice mail is piling up and you are without service. In Texas, they got 5 days to deal with POTS outages or the state gets froggy on their case and starts to ask questions, the kind they don’t want to hear. Read your state PUC regulations on telecom land line service. They have consumer-friendly FAQs listed, or if you really want to dig, the regs are available for your perusal. You can make your local telecom squirm like a worm on a hook if you know your stuff and use it to your advantage. Using those laws and regulations, you can put a BIG set of ChannelLocks on a suit’s privates and make them squeal uncle or auntie, take your pick.

    Know your local laws and regs, and you can make them dance to your tune.

  45. No Fat Chicks says:

    Cable companies (Charter for sure) offer a battery backup telephone modem (MTA) to keep the phone going when the power is off. Consumer Reports is outdated on this one. You just have to pay for the battery that goes in it.

  46. cornstalker says:

    I don’t think anybody is going to be switching back to landlines as long as the local phone monopolies keep charging such crazy rates. My mother-in-law was paying $90 a month for her landline phone until we moved her over to an Ooma.

  47. SalParadise says:

    A traditional land line is connected to a Central Office. Inside the Central Office there are batteries the size of garbage cans, linked together to supply power for about a week. A week is a long time, but it is not “indefinitely”.

  48. pinkyismycat says:

    Three years ago we had a disastrous windstorm which cut off power to half a million customers. It took a week to get it back up. We have a landline so we still had phone service. We didn’t have power at our house for four days and I had to charge our cell phones at work. It sucked. I have a new respect and appreciation for electricity and gladly keep my landline.

    One more thing: Every call you make on a cell phone is recorded on your phone bill, which isn’t the case on a landline. I am paranoid, I know, but having recently gone through a divorce and having had my ex’s evil lawyer poring through all my cell phone bills I also have a new appreciation for having an old-fashioned landline bill that doesn’t itemize calls.

  49. Eugene says:

    Our cable/internet/phone company gave us a cable modem with a small battery inside it and instructions that if the battery light ever turns on to request a replacement. I assumed that was the norm.
    several years ago the local phone company was bought out by AT&T and copper ceased to be tried and true. Our land line was the least reliable of any of the services. Same thing with my parents out in the country, the phone is out or too noisy to use most of the time.

  50. DrPizza says:

    Fear-mongering at its best to make a profit. The odds of losing cell phone service, internet access, AND needing emergency services at the same time are incredibly remote – except in the possible situation of a natural disaster where 1000’s would need the overwhelmed emergency services. Wild shot in the dark – the vast, vast majority of people would never find themselves in that situation in their lifetime. At $25 per month for 30 years, that’s $9000 in the telco’s pocket for maintaining a reminder of the past.

  51. BurtReynolds says:

    I don’t even know if my house has copper running to it. It was built 5 years ago and all I know is we can choose from Fios or Comcrap for internet/TV. My wife has always had Fios phone from one of the bundles (it was her house).

    Anyone know if there is a way to find out if you can even get a traditional landline?

    I’m not too worried about it, as we’ve maybe lost power three times over 5 years for a cumulative down time of 5 hours or so, plus we have the battery backup for Fios and I have two cell phone batteries. When a storm is on the horizon I charge up both batteries and shut the phone off to have it in reserve. Yes, I am becoming paranoid at the age of 29. I’d love nothing more than to make my house self sufficient with a roof full of PV panels.