Why are traditional copper landlines still working after August 2, 2022?
There was a recent rumor flying around in the telecommunications space that had people scrambling and asking, “Are landlines going away on August 2, 2022?”
This myth is centered around the idea that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ordered the mass decommissioning of the traditional landline phone system to be completed by August 2, 2022. Well, that date has come and gone, and landlines are still working! So, what gives?
We’re here to set the record straight about what’s really going on. Keep reading to get the facts and tips about what to do next.
Here’s what’s actually happening to copper-wire landlines
To understand the full context of the rumors, we have to go back 26 years to when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (1996 Act) became law. Congress has acknowledged that before it passed the 1996 Act, local telephone companies had a monopoly on local telephone service, so they passed the Act to open up the market and make it easier for new communication businesses to compete.
At the same time, Congress knew that the provisions would eventually become outdated because of new technology and made it possible for the requirements to be removed over time. Fast-forwarding to 2019, the FCC did exactly that.
For years, businesses and consumers have been moving away from traditional landlines—i.e. the plain old telephone service (POTS) provided over copper wires—and toward voice services from cable, wireless and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers. Therefore, on August 2, 2019, the FCC, in its 19-72 Memorandum Opinion and Order (Order), relieved certain local telephone companies of two outdated obligations from the 1996 Act:
1) the requirement that they offer competitors “analog voice-grade copper loops” on an unbundled basis at regulated rates
2) the requirement that they offer legacy services for resale at regulated rates
With those obligations gone, the telephone companies would no longer be subject to price caps nor would they be forced to offer copper wire phone services (POTS). Instead, the companies would be free to migrate to the next-generation networks and services. We’re talking about technology like fiber optic cables and VoIP internet phone systems.
Of course, such a drastic change would be difficult to adapt to if it happened overnight. So, to give the affected customers and competitors time to adjust their strategies, a three-year transition period was provided by the Order. The day that period ended? August 2, 2022.
Where the rumors come in
While the August 2022 “deadline” was actually the end of a period given to help companies transition to a new competitive landscape, businesses and media have been twisting the news.
By dramatically implying that the FCC was forcing the shutdown of all copper phone services on August 2, 2022, companies hoped to scare customers into transferring off legacy landlines and switching to VoIP.
In reality, a very small number of lines—an estimated 200,000 out of 38 million—are actually affected by the Order. Even then, the solution would simply be to move them from one service type to another (still over copper). Bottom-line? There was never any plan to have a full-scale shutdown of landlines by August 2. That’s why your landline phone still works!
A big catch: The copper sunset continues
Despite there being no mandated decommissioning of analog copper landlines, they’re still on a steep decline and headed toward an “inevitable sunset.”
For most customers, having a traditional POTS landline has become burdensome because of rising costs and less reliability. With companies no longer required to provide copper wire phone services and price caps gone, POTS rates are skyrocketing, outages are longer and carriers are even shutting down POTS lines altogether.
News about AT&T eliminating landlines further emphasizes this new reality, with AT&T, the nation’s largest provider of POTS, announcing a plan in March to “reduce our copper footprint 50% by 2025.”
Ultimately, transitioning off of POTS landlines makes good economic sense. Rather than being scared into switching because of a false “forced shutdown,” businesses should migrate over to modern phone services like VoIP because it future-proofs their phone service, saves money and offers more features.
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