The End of the Line for Landlines

Posted by , , at 6:25 am

FrontPoint Security is a wireless home security company. We’ve reminded you and others constantly about the liabilities of a wired alarm system because of its dependency on landlines. So you can imagine our interest when we came across an article on NPR’s tech blog.

Is it the End of the Line for the Landline? by Martin Kaste, details the recent decline of the American traditional phone system. The article highlights the problems and decay of the current system, but also explains the troubles of transitioning to an all-Internet and wireless service.

Here are a few important tidbits that we pulled from the article, along with our thoughts on how it applies to home security industry.

Decay of the Traditional Phone Line

You need to be able to trust that your home security system will work the moment you need it. The article provides some interesting insights into the state of the phone line system. It reads:

“America’s traditional phone system is not as dependable as it used to be. Just last month, the Federal Communications Commission told phone companies to start collecting stats on calls that fail to complete. According to one estimate, as many as 1 in 5 incoming long-distance calls simply doesn’t connect. The problem may be in the way those calls are being routed — often via the Internet, which is cheaper. It may also have something to do with the gradual decay of traditional landline infrastructure.”

This is not reassuring! What if one of those calls is your system sending out an alert? It sounds as though the problem is growing worse and there may not be plans to fix it.

Companies Abandoning the Landline

Phone companies are transitioning with consumers to all-Internet, all-wireless solutions and are reluctant to maintain landlines. Take, for instance, what happened to Dan Newhouse, a farmer who can hear the decay in his home phone line:

“Repairmen have told [Newhouse] that the wires are just old, and they’re too expensive to be replaced. He says the phone company seems to be allowing the whole system to deteriorate.”

The transition is apparent in other industries as well, including home security. While Frontpoint has been 100% wireless and cellular from the start, more companies have adapted to similar technologies in the past couple of years.

In the article, Rob Freiden, professor of telecommunications and law at Penn State, stated his concerns with abandoning the traditional phone lines.

“This is old-school, but there are plenty of instances where the cable goes out, the electricity goes out and the phone network is there.”

It’s a valid concern and it can be applied to security systems that use internet connections to communicate. We know the internet in our homes fail more often than we’d like, so we can’t imagine how frustrated we’d be if it meant our security systems were no longer working.

This of course, is not a concern with an alarm system that uses cellular monitoring. Even if the power, internet, and phones go down, the signal will still send in an emergency because it uses the same type of communication as cell phones.

Choose Cellular – If You Can

By no means are we suggesting that we get rid of landlines or even wired security systems. We know that many people use traditional phone systems as their main means of communication – about 71 percent of homes have them. And in many areas, it’s the only option. When it’s the only option, a wired security system is better than none at all.

Just keep in mind that phone companies are leaving landlines behind. Is that something you want your home security system to rely on?

What are your thoughts on the future of the landline and wireless technology? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments (5)

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  1. Kris

    Cellular networks are by no means wireless from end to end.
    They utilize the very same landline systems that you so boldly claim is in a state of serious decay.

    Cellular device | Cell tower | PBX switching station | landline | PBX switching station | endpoint

  2. Alan

    The reason the copper landlines are in decay is because these these companies don’t want to invest in maintaining them. A big part of that is their traditional land line phone business is largely serviced by a unionized work force also.

    They want to focus on sub par wireless, which is easier/cheaper and largely devoid of unionized labor. Just like everything, it is all about cost for these big corps. It’s all their quarter to quarter focus cares about. Forget long range thinking. If they were doing that, they would all by now be working hard to extend fiber directly to every home.

    The copper plant is decaying because of lack of investment, no other reason. And they aren’t replacing it with anything remotely as reliable (fiber) anytime soon either. Verizon was, but they stopped that a few years ago, for the most part.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Alan – interesting take, and we appreciate your providing additional perspective on this topic. Yes, it is much harder and more expensive to maintain (and install) physical infrastructure. What is amazing (to us) is that so many alarm systems still in use rely on these vulnerable physical connections. There are people maintaining a hard copper phone line only becasue their alarm system require it. Go figure… Pay more and have less security! Thanks again.

  3. Alan

    The reason the copper landlines are in decay is because these these companies don’t want to invest in maintaining them. A big part of that is their traditional land line phone business is largely serviced by a unionized work force also.

    They want to focus on sub par wireless, which is easier/cheaper and largely devoid of unionized labor. Just like everything, it is all about cost for these big corps. It’s all their quarter to quarter focus cares about. Forget long range thinking. If they were doing that, they would all by now be working hard to extend fiber directly to every home.

    The copper plant is decaying because of lack of investment, no other reason. And they aren’t replacing it with anything remotely as reliable (fiber) anytime soon either. Verizon was, but they stopped that a few years ago, for the most part.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Alan – interesting take, and we appreciate your providing additional perspective on this topic. Yes, it is much harder and more expensive to maintain (and install) physical infrastructure. What is amazing (to us) is that so many alarm systems still in use rely on these vulnerable physical connections. There are people maintaining a hard copper phone line only becasue their alarm system require it. Go figure… Pay more and have less security! Thanks again.

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