Verizon outage may boost image of land lines

Lost in all of the teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling from Grand Valley Verizon Wireless customers fretting about a loss in cell-phone service Monday and Tuesday was a message from yesteryear:

Hello, I’m a land-line phone. Yes, I still exist.

You remember land lines. They plug into the wall. They operate through a metal wire or optical fiber that require the user to stay within a few hundred feet of the phone base to work properly. Or, in the case of the ones attached to those squiggly cords, a few inches.

Go ahead, scoff if you like. Accuse them of being as outdated as compact discs and non-high-definition TV sets. But if you were a Verizon customer in the valley, southern Wyoming or Pueblo and needed to call, text or e-mail anyone the last two days, well, let’s just say that no one could hear, see or Facebook you now.

More and more people are cutting the cord in favor of using just a cell phone. The National Center for Health Statistics found that in the second half of 2009 nearly one out of every four U.S. households relied solely on cell phones, while one in eight had land lines but rarely used them.

It’s unlikely that this week’s service outage — Verizon’s second in this area in the past six weeks — will prompt the masses to rush back to their land lines. But it demonstrates there is still value in those contraptions.

Shawn Beqaj, vice president of public affairs for Bresnan Communications, which dealt with its own phone and Internet service daylong outage here last October, said he thinks reports of land lines being yesterday’s technology are exaggerated.

“We firmly believe, particularly for families or the elderly, that having a land line for things like emergencies and alarm systems, there is still a very important role for wired phone services,” he said.

Although he declined to give specific numbers, Beqaj said the number of subscribers to Bresnan’s digital phone service has increased each quarter since the company launched the service in Grand Junction in 2004. Bresnan provides phone service to more than 125,000 customers in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

Beqaj said stand-alone phone service through Bresnan costs $49 a month in Grand Junction. That includes multiple calling features and unlimited local and long distance service.

Monica Martinez, spokeswoman for Denver-based Qwest, which provides 1.65 million phone lines in Colorado, said the cost of phone services ranges from $17 a month for local-service only and no calling features to $35 a month for all the bells and whistles.

“There’s tremendous value with land-line service. You can’t beat the dependability and sound quality of a wired phone service,” she said.


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