The Rise and Fall of the Landline

The first telephone call happened on March 10, 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell called for his assistant with the famous phrase, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Phones started out as something only the wealthy could afford, but by 1945 almost all homes in America had a phone. It may sound strange, but in the early 1980s many consumers actually rented their phones. The rental from AT&T was anywhere from $1.50 to $5 a month, depending on the type of phone. That changed in 1983, when the government ended AT&T’s monopoly. Consumers all over the country suddenly had the option to buy their own phone beginning at $19.95 for a black rotary dial or $55 for the fanciest Trimline phone with push-buttons. There has been a dramatic shift in the last few years from landlines to cellphones, with a surprising connection to our well-being. Almost 55% of households now use cellphones exclusively, while 36% have both a cellphone and a landline, and the remaining 9% have no phone at all. So, who are those people who still only use landlines? As you might expect, they are primarily the elderly, and yes……what scares them off is the technology of cellphones. The landline telephone network is over 100 years old. It’s had a full life, passing through different corporate hands and complying with many historic federal regulations. Will landlines ever be eliminated? As of August 22, 2022, major providers are no longer required to provide landline service, and as they focus on their bottom line, it’s only a matter of time before they end the service completely.