Copper Landline Decline Visualized

MULTIPLE CITIES—Landlines are losing ground, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, visualized byStatista.

“In 2004, more than 90 percent of households in the U.S. had an operational landline phone - now it’s (significantly) less than 50 percent,” writes Felix Richter at Statista. “If the trend continues at the current pace, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t, landline phones could soon become an endangered species, much like the VCR and other technological relics before it.”

The Federal Communications Commission has laid out proposals to supersede local laws and make it easier for telecoms to retire copper and access utility poles, with the intention of promoting broadband access FierceTelecom reports. Incumbent local exchange carriers—the Baby Bells—want to ditch copper, while some competitive local exchange carriers still use it, as do customers who continue to use POTS—“plain old telephone service.” The CDC data indicates nearly 46 percent of U.S. households rely in part or entirely on POTS, which is generally also cheaper (opens in new tab) than cellphone service (opens in new tab).

Meanwhile, copper is being retired, either systematically or by service attrition, even though copper lines possess capabilities and characteristics neither wireless nor fiber connections can reproduce. Namely, copper wires are highly conductive and can keep service up an running longer than their newer replacements. According to one RF engineer who works in a remote location, copper requires only a decent connection to a center of operations, while fiber needs concentrators, muxes and power at each location, making it more vulnerable to outages. Consequently, a copper-connected operation—or phone—will have power for “day-zero communications,” he said.

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