Bye-Bye Landlines, Hello New Problem

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2009 7:44 AM CDT
Americans are ditching landlines without regard for long-term consequences to emergency services and taxes needed to keep the copper-wire phone system alive, the Economist says.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Americans are gleefully dropping landlines at a rate of 700,000 per month without any regard for the long-term consequences, the Economist says. Few of us will weep for businesses that rely on landlines—telemarketers and pollsters come to mind—but emergency services like fire and police also need them. And as home phones fade away, landline taxes are liable to rise to keep the outdated copper-wire system alive.

One analyst warns that those taxes—which pay for universal landline access—could end up being foisted onto cellphone users. To avoid a tax crisis, President Obama must battle bureaucracies and replace the nation's archaic phone system with wireless and fiber-optic technology. "There are hard choices for Mr Obama’s people to make," says the Economist, "but sticking with old rules devised for copper wires is not one of them."