Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Landlines Obsolete?

Mike Elgan wonders why you still have a landline phone. As he says, "It's 2008, and the landline phone should have been made obsolete by now." He blames the poor service and expense of wireless carriers, which is a big part of the situation, I'm sure. 20 million American households do rely solely on their cell phone for all telephony needs, but that's "just" around 17 percent. Personally, that's 20 million too many. Far too few people realize their cell phone is unlikely to work in an emergency situation. Terrorist attacks can bring down cell networks by damaging key infrastructure as on 9/11, but also by triggering a massive surge of call use like that which brought down cellular service following the London Tube bombings. Not all cell towers have backup generators for simple power outages, and even those that do will likely be interrupted temporarily. Ditto for the servers that run VoIP-based telephony, whether Skype or digital landlines like Vonage. In short, your "obsolete" landline is the one most likely (by far) to keep working when the lights go out or worse.

Emergency preparedness is pretty low in America these days, the government's well-intentioned efforts notwithstanding. We've already seen far too many Americans incapable of helping themselves when disaster strikes. It won't help the situation when they can't even make a call.

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