The Kentucky legislature has voted on a bill aimed at phasing out landline phone service in the state. If signed by the Governor, Kentucky would join a handful of states that have started to move away from landlines in favor of VoIP phone service and mobile.
Landline phone service is over 100 years old, but pockets of the US still lack reliable access and now with the advent of mobile phones fewer people rely on having a traditional phone line in their homes. Enterprise office systems have steadily moved to VoIP technology as well.
Under the terms of the Kentucky bill, the Public Service Commission will no longer have the authority to make telecommunications companies provide landline service. The bill will start with major metropolitan areas where other networks can fill the gap. Rural and mountainous areas will have to see next generation networks built first before landline service can be set into planned obsolescence. As CivSource has reported, rural broadband continues to be a sticky issue as few major providers have plans to build out those networks given the lower rate of subscribers.
Both AT&T and Verizon have lobbied for years to end regulatory requirements to maintain landline phones, citing the antiquated nature of those services. However, plans for expansion of next generation networks remain focused on major metropolitan areas, leaving open the question of what rural Americans can expect for utility services in the future.
Additionally, ending traditional phone service does raise questions about crisis response. Landline phones can still place calls in many cases if the power goes out. Cellular networks have also been overrun during crisis events making it impossible to place calls or send messages even if the device has power. Service providers have been less than forthcoming on solutions to those problems.