[READ THIS!] Who cares, you may say, I haven’t had a copper phone line in years. Do you ride in elevators? Have a monitored burglar alarm at home or work? Buzz people up from the front door of your apartment building? Use a credit card in stores? Is your heart monitored? God Forbid, do you have a fax machine? Ready or not, here it comes. Do nothing, and in a few years there will be trouble.
This country, indeed, the world, has been well served by telephone service over copper wires for more than 147 years, but all that will end soon. I never thought I’d kiss copper farewell; there are MANY good reasons to keep a landline (know as Plain Old Telephone service or POTS) but they are clearly doomed. See this intelligent and balanced discussion of the copper sunset.
Britain will turn off all its landlines (an event known as PSTN Sunset) during 2025. AT&T has asked for a U.S. PSTN sunset, but the FCC hasn’t authorized one yet―although in August of 2022, the FCC did say that US Telecom companies needn’t provide new copper landline services anymore. What Telcos are not required to do, they won’t do.
The problems of copperpocalypse will be enormous and expensive. For example: phones in elevators will cease to work on Sunset Day. As will most burglar alarms and fax lines (hello 1985; they’re big in the healthcare business).
This is an emotional issue for me, as I started phone hacking in high school, providing touchtone service at my house, free, before it was free and legal on my phone exchange. I was then privileged to work on a real phone system at MIT. I have maintained an avid interest in telephony ever since. I owned a cellphone when they were still an automobile accessory that took up all the space between the two front seats, or the size of a brick or briefcase.
Just as copper wasn’t designed for data, the Internet was not designed for voice. Internet phone service, Voice Over IP (VOIP), is crap. But cellphones aren’t always a viable alternative. For example, there are numerous pockets in hilly Orinda with essentially zero cellphone service from any provider... 25 miles from downtown San Francisco.
The headline refers to the Year 2000 bug (Y2K), when all the computer programs storing two-digit dates would think that Jan. 1, 1900 was the day after Dec. 31, 1999. The apocalypse was projected, but didn’t occur because everyone was so scared they fixed the problem in advance.
The same thing could (and I hope will) be true when copperpacolypse occurs in the United States. We’ve got a few years at most. Of course this doesn’t affect 90% of my readers directly, since they gave up copper a long time ago. But if you have a burglar alarm, a fax machine or a heart monitor, it will affect you. If you’re stuck in an elevator, it very well could lengthen your stay. If you’re attacked in a college parking lot, those lovely kiosks may well be useless.
AT&T doesn’t care. The firm’s unofficial motto is: “We’re the phone company. We don’t care because we don’t have to.”