Phone service through the years

So now I read that some telephone companies are asking the government to end traditional landline service. It has something to do with regulations that require maintenance of outdated, little-used infrastructure when the phone companies would rather be devoting those funds to technology upgrades.

Traditional phone service that’s in place now has been in use since phone service was first introduced in the U.S. And during that span of time, there’s been plenty of opportunity to work regulations into the network, but Internet-based telephone has way fewer regulations.

So some folks are dropping their land lines in favor of their cell phones; in fact, lots of folks. The article I read reported that the number of people in Iowa using traditional landlines continues to drop, while wireless adoption picks up. Although I seem to be going against the Iowa trend, I still have my landline, along with my cell phone, something I don’t plan to change.

Wouldn’t it be sad if we didn’t have land lines in our rural area? It’s tradition. How excited our grandparents and great-grandparents must have been when their isolation was reduced with a telephone right in their own home to connect them to their neighbors and beyond. Consider where we’ve come from–the crank telephones mounted on the wall, party lines, rejoicing over the first dial telephones.

This winter when I did a long article on rural telephone companies, I did some reading on the history of the three independent telephone companies in our county. What impressed me was the dedication of men in these communities who, about one hundred years ago, stepped out and made things happen when they decided that their little towns should to be linked up to the outside world.

I don’t remember much more about party lines than the stories I’ve heard about them. I was probably too little to answer our phone then, and I was too young to understand about the neighborhood gossip I could gather just by answering the phone whenever it rang in my house. But I do remember getting a line ring. That was a special ring that everyone on the party line was supposed to pick up to hear a general, important announcement like “no school tomorrow” or someone in the community had died or a meeting had been changed.

You know, there are still occasions now when I think that a line ring sure would be handy.

I heard this week that it was the 40th anniversary of the first cell phone. And I must admit that I probably like my cell phone, just a simple flip phone, as well as anyone. Except for maybe my children and others their age who have not had a land line since they left for college. And now Baby Boomers like me are giving up their land lines, too.

I guess it’s called progress.