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Landline Users Proudly Remain “Old Fashioned” in the Digital Age

When millions of AT&T customers across the country briefly lost cell phone service last month, Francella Jackson, 61, of Fairview Heights, Illinois, said she took her landline to Southwestern Bell push button, very worn, and had called his friends “just so we could make fun of people who couldn't use their phones.

“Why, isn’t it great that we can talk and have a good conversation?” she remembers saying. “We had a good laugh.”

Derek Shaw, 68, of York, Pa., said he owns an Android cell phone but prefers to talk on his black cordless landline at home. The sound quality is better, he said, and the phone is easier to hold during long conversations. Mr Shaw said he also likes talking to people face to face rather than on Zoom and never got rid of his vinyl record collection when CDs became popular in the 1990s.

“I never even thought about giving up my landline,” he said. “I’ll kick and scream when I have to.”

For many, landlines have become as essential as steamships and telegrams in the age of smartphones. But for those who still use them, they offer clear benefits. Encouraged by the AT&T outage February 22 and a push from AT&T to phase out traditional landlines in California, those who own them are defending their old phones.

For them, the landline is a lifeline in the event of a power outage, a welcome return to the days before doom scrolling and push alerts, and a more comfortable and sound alternative to thin, spindly smartphones.

“I love my landline,” said Ms. Jackson, who has had hers since the 1980s. “People call me old-fashioned, but I will be old-fashioned.”

She has a cell phone but no internet at home, she said. She likes to remember her friends' phone numbers and never hear a call interrupted. “I’m a little nostalgic,” Ms. Jackson said. “With technology, as much as I accept it, there are certain things I like to hold on to. »

Some young people also see the benefits of landlines. Cory Sechrest, 32, of Chicago, said he and his girlfriend were given a pink landline phone to use in case there was a power outage. He said he didn't know anyone else his age who had one.

When friends visit us, “they pause, look at it and say, 'What is that?' ” “, did he declare. “It makes you laugh sometimes.”

Landlines can feel like a portal to the pre-Internet era. Many Americans grew up with the classic rotary phone hanging on the kitchen wall, which the entire family had to share, providing reliability but no privacy. Some received the burger phone in their teenage bedroom after begging their parents for weeks. Some coveted the football phone which was free with a Sports Illustrated subscription.

The writer Charli Penn wrote in Apartment therapy that, as a millennial, she got a landline because it gives her a break from her cell phone, is easier for her father to use, and takes him back in time.

“If plaid mini skirts, ivy garlands, and chunky-soled combat boots can make a welcome return, why can't I get comfortable with an hours-long conversation using my phone without wire, just like I did in my teens and early twenties. ? ” Mrs. Penn wrote.

Some people also like landlines for aesthetic reasons. Mark Treutelaar, co-owner with his wife Galina of Old Phone Shop, which sells and repairs landline telephones in Franklin, Wis., said he has noticed an uptick in sales of brightly colored, rotary-dial wall-mounted and desktop devices . phones from the 60s and 70s.

“We are selling more phones than ever before,” Mr. Treutelaar said. “People love them simply because they remember them from when they were younger and, even if they don't have a landline, they buy them as simple decoration or connect them to their cell phones via Bluetooth .”

Others rely on landlines in rural areas with spotty cell coverage. Yet landline users are a distinct minority in the United States.

About 73% of American adults lived in a household without a landline but with at least one cell phone in 2022, according to the most recent data collected by the federal government. Unsurprisingly, age was a key factor in phone use. Nearly 90% of Americans ages 25 to 29 reported using cell phones only, compared to less than half of Americans over 65.

Citing the waning popularity of landlines, AT&T last year asked California regulators for relief from its obligation to maintain its traditional copper-wire telephone network, the one that connected American homes for most of the last century.

AT&T said the number of copper landlines, known as plain old telephone service or POTS, it offers in California fell 89% between 2000 and 2021. Customers typically pay about $34.50 per month for this service, according to the California Public Advocates Office. . But even most landline users rely primarily on their cell phones, according to AT&T.

“As Successful rentals And Kodak filmPOTS went from technological primacy to effective obsolescence over the course of a generation,” AT&T wrote in its application to the California Public Utilities Commission.

AT&T described the proposal as part of a multiyear effort to eventually move customers from landlines to mobile phones or to fiber-optic cables that carry Internet and landline phone services. He says 20 other states have already allowed him to make this transition.

“No customer will be left without voice service or 911 service,” Susan Johnson, executive vice president of wireline transformation at AT&T, said in a statement. “For customers who do not yet have alternative options, we will continue to provide their existing voice service for as long as necessary.”

Yet the proposal sparked a fierce backlash, with hundreds of landline users submitting public comments urging California to reject it. Many claim that the copper wire system, because it is generally self-powered, is the most reliable way to reach emergency services in the event of a power outage during a flood, fire forest or storm. AT&T claims that fiber optic cables are stronger and easier to repair, although a fiber optic phone will die without a battery backup in place.

“If we have health issues, especially, it's the most important thing to be able to use our rotary phone,” said Francesca Ciancutti, who lives in Mendocino County, California. “This is absolutely crucial. And all of our neighbors feel the same way.

It's a concern that has caused many people across the country to keep their landlines.

Katie Lanza, 37, of Fort Worth, said she was once waiting for an insurance replacement for her cell phone, which had been chewed by her dog, when she got sick in the middle of the night. With no way to call for help, she found herself knocking on a neighbor's door at 2 a.m. That was about 14 years ago, she said, and she's had a landline ever since.

“I was always afraid that if something happened to my cell phone, I wouldn't be able to call anyone,” Ms. Lanza said.

Ms Jackson said she was worried about cyberattacks disrupting her cell phone service. But mostly, she says, her landline is just a nicer way to talk to people after work.

“I just like to relax and remember things as they happened,” she said. “It’s relaxing for me to pick up and have a long conversation with my friends on my landline.”

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