Death of the Landline

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Who needs it? Apparently fewer and fewer people think they need a landline phone. Plus, there's a new cable TV provider in town. Verizon FiOS service has just started this week. Craig Moffett, senior analyst for U.S. telecommunications, cable, and satellite for Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., talks about the wired and wireless world.


Craig Moffett

Comments [65]

Victor from Summit, NJ

I haven't ever heard anyone ask this; why are we paying to watch infomercials? I understand paying for content when you watch a 30 minute program with 6 minutes of commercials, but now we are paying to watch 30 minute commercials. I recently counted 17 infomercials one hour out of about 40 stations.

Aug. 06 2008 11:23 PM
EK from Brooklyn

Re: 56: Yes, Verizon's customer service is THE WORST. 1-2 hour phone wait times are standard, and online help resources are unorganized and uninformative.

And as far as their DSL service goes, their (unnecessary) install software is buggy and crashes my computer, and their hardware is prone to failure. While Time Warner is no picnic either, I'd wait on the FIOS for some consumer reports, and hopefully the increased competition will improve things.

Jul. 29 2008 04:13 PM
Jack from Brooklyn

re post 19: Walter TW does not have an exclusive on NY1 Cablevision also carries it and RCN might also

re post 20: John You should check that. Our coop also has a phone based intercom but it only uses the phone wires you dont have to have phone service for it to work

re post 52: Nat and they gave up the qualty of records to go to CDs for convenience

Jul. 29 2008 11:21 AM

Remember that if you have a medical alert or device you need an old fashioned landline.

Jul. 29 2008 11:01 AM
Karen from Orangeburg, NY

The discussion of cable's future focused on quality and increased costs-- but sidestepped an issue which pervades the system. I have Time Warner and have a lot of stations bundled in the considerable cost of the basic cable package which I have to buy. I do not watch more than 80% of what is bundled. I have no small children at home, so all the cartoon channels and kid oriented programs are of no interest. I do not care for hours of infomercials or home shopping networks, the multiple channels of religious programming, and ALL the sports programming. My idea of an exciting evening is not a rehash of a baseball game from 10 years ago or watching someone kiss a bass or trout he was throwing back.

I especially resent paying for the YES channel. We already subsidize the new stadium for this team and they still have their hands out for other financial perks. They have engaged in an egregious land grab in the Bronx with the complicity of the city and state, have not paid back what was promised. And why should we be giving so many tax and other advantages to a team whose players probably do not even pay taxes on their hugs salaries in NYS. The players probably have their legal residences in Port St. Lucie.

Will someone stand up for us about cable bundling? Being forced to pay for something we do not want is a consumer issue. I want to pay for what I watch and be able to specify what channels come into my home.

Jul. 29 2008 10:51 AM
Arthur A from Metuchen, NJ

A subtle but important difference between using a landline versus a cell phone is that a cell phone only sends or receives at any given moment while a landline does both simultaneously. If both parties speak at one time during a cell phone conversation, one voice is transmitted and the other is dropped.

Jul. 29 2008 10:38 AM
linda from tarrytown

My condo in Westchester is being wired by FIOS as we speak. My question is: do they charge you initially to bring the service from your junction box to your TV, phone, etc.

Jul. 29 2008 10:35 AM
Erin from Brooklyn, NY

Like the landline, traditional TV and cable will eventually die a slow death at the hands of the computer. The internet is offering more and more options for watching tv shows and renting movies, some free and some with the pay-per-download model (i.e. itunes.)

The evidence that the cable business model isn't working is the horrible programming. TV has largely devolved to cheaply made lowest-common-denominator reality shows, all that programmers can afford to produce with decreased ad revenues. I'm certainly not paying $100/month for that, plus 17 minutes of ads per hour.

Jul. 29 2008 10:34 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

I wish that Brian would fact check his guest, a little bit.

It may be true that sports is what is driving the cost of cable up -- though I am not quite convinced of that*.

But athletes salaries certainly have nothing to do with this. Economists have busted this myth over and over again. The price of getting a major sports league on your network is NOT a product of their payrolls.

You see, there simply is no pressure for any of them to cut their prices. There's one baseball league -- one summer long major league sport. There is only on pro football league that anyone cares about. There is only one pro basketball league. The lack of competition there allows them to charge as much as the networks are willing to pay. The networks are bidding against each other, without an alternative in site.

Or, I can put this another way. If MLB salaries were to drop by 5% a year for a decade, do you think that MLB would want less money from ESPN and FOX? Do you think that ESPN and FOX would be any less willing to pay because of the reduced salary?

These -- athlete's salaries and network contracts -- are two almost entirely independent markets.

(*Other than the big four broadcast networks, ESPN, TNT, TBS & Versus might be the only cable networks with sports contracts. That's a small minority of the channels I have. Are they really exclusively responsible for the increase in cable TV costs?)

Jul. 29 2008 10:34 AM
Gabriel from NYC

FYI Verizon has the worst customer service in the corporate world. Beware, be very aware. Pull the string!! Pull the string!!!

Jul. 29 2008 10:34 AM
Kenneth R. Moore from weehawken,nj

(Verbatim from Verizon re. FIOS backup)-- "In case your ONT Power Supply Unit is accidentally unplugged - or in the event of a commercial power failure - a BBU is installed to provide you with backup power for standard voice service (but not Voice-Over-IP services) for approximately eight hours."

BBU Battery Backup Unit

Jul. 29 2008 10:31 AM
Dwayne from Prospect Heights

You still need a land line if you live in some places like Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village. The reception in those places in terrible.

3G calling quality sounds just as good as my landline.

Jul. 29 2008 10:29 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

Your guest is misinformed. The technician who hooked me up assured me that in the event of a blackout I would not loose phone service. We tested it by cutting power to the main and I still had phone. The Fios phone service is a newer type of land line.

Jul. 29 2008 10:29 AM
sat from NYC

Talking about quality, people gave up the great sound quality of CDs and moved to MP3 format because of convenience.

Jul. 29 2008 10:29 AM
Mark Waterman from Jersey City

It's not about land lines. It's about quality of internet and TV picture. Cable service is inferior in picture quality to FIOS. HD over the air is better than cable. That's the future. The better quality of FIOS will become the standard.

Jul. 29 2008 10:29 AM
Robert from NYC

I don't even own a cell. I don't want one and will stay landline as long as it's available.

Jul. 29 2008 10:27 AM
Robert from NYC

I hate both Verizon and Time Warner but TW is far more insidious. So I will opt for FiOs when available. What other options do I have, my building would let me install DirectTV. The whole thing should be open to every company to make it really competitive. The "open market" is open when the powers that be want it to be open.

Jul. 29 2008 10:26 AM
Mark from Westchester NY

I have cable phone service, which while a little quirky is fine, domestically. But the service to Asian locations is terrible, particularly to Indonesia. Singapore is spotty, Europe and Britain OK. I end up using a Sprint fonecard to make the calls, and it's not cheap. ATT won't service overseas calls only, so I'd have to disembowel the whole package now in place (phone/cable/internet).

Jul. 29 2008 10:26 AM
John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ

FIOS just came to my NJ town. I want the internet connection and phone service, which will cost less than my current DSL and land line service. I think the speed of FIOS internet is the major selling point. I’ve never had cable, so I don’t plan to get TV yet.

Jul. 29 2008 10:24 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

The phone line and internet router are separate entities. My home wiring was disconnected from the street line and attached to the Fios box in my garage. Inside my home there is a router that my tv service and internet is connected to. The router is also a wireless router which negates the need of buying one.

Jul. 29 2008 10:24 AM
Zan Kelly from Long Island City

Verizon is charging me an extra 40% in surcharges on my landline services package...I certainly don't want to expand my relationship....meanwhile cancelled my cable service a year ago and I'm very much happier without it.

Jul. 29 2008 10:24 AM
GC from Manhattan

New York City is one of the largest content producing cities in the country, but has one of the fewest number of HD channels available to its residents. Time Warner has been dragging its feet on HD service in Manhattan for years. I wonder how many people will leave TWC for Fios purely based on HD availability.

Jul. 29 2008 10:24 AM
Miss Grace from NYC

My parents changed from landline & DSL service to FIOS phone, tv & internet. Phone & tv services have been great.
Establishing functioning and reliable internet service was a BIG challenge. Verizon does not guarantee that FIOS WIRELESS service will work. They provide a Verizon router and they do not guarantee that it will work with your wireless laptop. It took 3 weeks for Verizon to finally send a knowledgable technician to bridge a second non-verizon independent router to the Verizon router to get the wireless signal to work.
Frustrating but all is finally good.

Jul. 29 2008 10:23 AM
Charlotte Fahn from Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

People are not generally aware that in a blackout, phones powered by FIOS can become useless as the battery that powers the phone is used up, which happens fairly quickly. This happened to us. Your landline stays usable and gives you a link to family and emergency services.

Jul. 29 2008 10:21 AM
Ben Fraser from Lambertville, NJ

I've got fios out here. It's how I listen to you guys. I use Vonage ip phone with a 718 number so my clients don't know that I've left NY. As for TV, I only watch about 30 min/day. Paying $60 for that doesn't make sense ($4 per hour). Instead I buy my show a la cart from iTunes for $2 an hour and they play on all my devices.

Jul. 29 2008 10:21 AM
donna from bloomfield, nj

This is important, they remove your landline when you get FIOS. In the event of a power outage of more than a day, you have no phone.

I did not know this. I had a power outage of five days a few years ago and the first thing I did was get an old phone. When they put in my FIOS they took out my land line and don't support it.

Jul. 29 2008 10:20 AM
Peter Coughlin from Washington Heights

Isn't this a ploy to get rid of the copper land lines?

Jul. 29 2008 10:19 AM
anthony.clune from Brooklyn

This is great news for everyone involved, Time Warner included.

-cable prices aside, this will give the players the creative shot of adrenalin that a healthy FREE MARKET needs. Currently, Time Warner is an inefficient unwieldy beast.

- If Fios is as fast as they say. I'm signing up immediately.

Jul. 29 2008 10:18 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

I don't know if someone already said this, but why are cable prices so high? Weren't we originally paying for cable for programs without advertising? Cable TV now has just as many commercials as network TV so what gives?

Jul. 29 2008 10:18 AM
mk from rockaway

what I would like to ask Mr. Moffat is: will Verizon and the other big cable (or FIOS) providers still require their extraneous software to be installed? Contrary to popular belief, this software IS NOT to provide functionality but only to push content, and since it is made ONLY for windows and macs, linux users, etc. are left out in the cable cold. I would gladly give up my land line and dial-up if not for this.

Verizon is, effectively, conspiring to extend a Microsoft/Apple monopoly UNNECESSARILY. (So you have to pay for all of them...)

Jul. 29 2008 10:18 AM
rudy from Queens

Time Warner is advertising that they can lower "my" cable bill, for two years. Something like that. Are they trying to lock me in so I can't switch to Verizon?

Jul. 29 2008 10:18 AM
nathan from Red Hook, Brooklyn

I haven't had a land line for over 7 years, around the same time I got a cellular phone. Thats the great thing about some new technologies, not only is the cell more convenient, but it is quite a bit more inexpensive (even when you factor in things like service drop out, or dead batteries). In the best of possible worlds, new technologies, unhindered by excessive regulation (and powerful lobbies) helps lower the costs to the consumer, approximating something closer to a true "free" market

Jul. 29 2008 10:18 AM
John Bell from Manhattan

If everyone used only a cell phone, and saved WNYC's new #, we wouldn't have to hear the "word" Spud-ray again.

Jul. 29 2008 10:18 AM
Jamey Sadownick from Astoria, NY

If nothing else, I hope FIOS forces TIme Warner to improve its dreadful customer service and unfair prices. Time Warner has a smugness and lack of customer concern that only comes from being a monopoly.

Jul. 29 2008 10:18 AM
Joseph from Brooklyn

We've already paid for Fios, but never got it. In the early 90s NYNEX told regulators that they would roll out fiber to all of New York State if regulators would give them a rate increase. They got their rate increase but never bothered to deliver the fiber they promised. For all the details see:

Jul. 29 2008 10:18 AM
Carl Murrell from Bronx

T-Mobile a cell phone company is providing home service now. How does that figure in to all this?

Jul. 29 2008 10:17 AM
michael winslow from INWOOD

Lindsy from Jersey City.

The cheapest cable you can get is $13 and that gives you basically the dial. bear bones channels.

This is what i have.

People don't realize that the lowest cable package you can get is $13 a month.

There is also a $50 installation charge.

Jul. 29 2008 10:17 AM
Sam Tilden Godfrey from Rockland County, NY

We have had FIOS for close to a year, specifically for the high speed internet. The package we have includes land line, internet and TV. For some reason in this immediate area, cell phones don't work which is just fine by me. I will forever be of the mind that a telephone needs a silent nook and comfortable chair to properly carry on a conversation. My big old bakelite Western Electric desk phone suits me just fine!

Jul. 29 2008 10:17 AM
tash from les

cable by the hour?
why not just use
I don't have a tv or a landline, and its great!

Jul. 29 2008 10:17 AM
John from Jersey City, NJ

Does telephone over the cable lines work in the event of a power outage.

Jul. 29 2008 10:17 AM
Mary from Upper West Side

Can you ask the guest about naked DSL? I don't have cable, too much money, but I need my land line from Verizon for DSL.

Jul. 29 2008 10:17 AM
Fred from Brooklyn

I'm cell phone only... precisely because Verizon was completely unable to get their act together to get a regular phone installed in my apartment!

I can't imagine what would make people think that Verizon would be able to handle even more complicated technology than they already have.

Better off with two cans and a string!

Jul. 29 2008 10:17 AM
Neal from Port Washington

I am on LI but switched to FiOS last October and it is fantastic! The TV, Internet and phone service is great and, best of all, I don't have to deal with that evil monster--Cablevision.

Jul. 29 2008 10:16 AM
Gregory Cohen Frumin from Park Slope

The Home Phone is a beautiful thing. Period. I remain an exclusive non-mobile phone user, as I have my whole life as a NYer. Sure cell phone's can be useful, but I believe that keeping one's personal phone at home can be a very wholesome decision.

Jul. 29 2008 10:16 AM

I'm 25 and have used cellphones for almost a decade. I wish I could afford a landline though because cellphones hurt my ears. We're definitely hurting ourselves.

Jul. 29 2008 10:16 AM
John from Manhattan

I can't get rid of my landline because my coop building hooked the intercom - front door through our phones.

Jul. 29 2008 10:15 AM

FIOS TV does not offer NY-1 local news. Time Warner is the exclusive provider. Without this I won't switch.

Jul. 29 2008 10:14 AM
Matt from Bushwick

I haven't had a landline in my home in eight years as I'm not home enough to make it worth it and I communicate via email and instant messenger all day at work anyway.

Jul. 29 2008 10:14 AM
Laura from Staten Island

I recently moved from Manhattan to Staten Island and I switched my Internet connection from Road Runner to Fios. I love the Fios connection. It's much faster! I am signed up to get the TV package in August. So far the service is much better and I am paying about $60 less a month than I paid in Manhattan.

Jul. 29 2008 10:14 AM
Luke from NYC

i havent had a landline since 2002.

Jul. 29 2008 10:14 AM
amorris from nyc

Anyone that has to regularly make calls outside the US to family or for business reasons has to keep a landline as cellphone international rates are still exorbitant

Jul. 29 2008 10:14 AM
Peter from LIC

No land line, no cable. Not worth the money - 2 cel phones, cable internet and netflix is all we need.

Jul. 29 2008 10:13 AM
O from Forest Hills

Cell phones cause radiation so I have kept my landline and still have my cell phone for when I am out but I prefer to use a landline phone to avoid radiation.

Jul. 29 2008 10:13 AM
Susan from Kingston, New York

Unfortunately, cell phones only work well when there is substantial wireless coverage. In many places outside the city, my cell phone does not work very well, particularly Upstate New York.

Jul. 29 2008 10:12 AM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

If Verizon offers real selection instead of making you buy 16 channels you don't want to get the one you do want, it just might catch on. Of course there's no chance of that ...

Jul. 29 2008 10:12 AM

I'm concerned about the reliability of fios phone over a traditional landline phone.

Just seems like less pieces can break in the a landline system.

Jul. 29 2008 10:12 AM
fios user

Why are they framing this as "a land line with internet". It's more like you get fiber internet and tv and they throw in telephone too. It's very fast both upload and downloading. The tv doesn't have the same problems as satellite tv such as broken service during a storm. Fios is massively faster than any wireless that would be affordable. This is the kind of speed 10 years ago you only got in universities or datacenters. Also it doesn't suffer from all the problems of dsl (asymmetrical) or cable (shared bandwidth).

Jul. 29 2008 10:11 AM
David from Queens

FYI - My land line phone (with a cord) was the only thing in my Apt. that worked during the blackout in 2003. My parents called me from Indiana to tell me what was going on. I'm keeping my ma bell phone.

Jul. 29 2008 10:10 AM
Hugh from Crown Heights

This is the market at work. For years (even decades) the real cost of a call _anywhere in the world_ has been in the range of pennies. BUT Verizon and pals have hosed with endless rate increases and exorbitant charges for long distance. So the market responded.

It's worth noting also that the US has some of the worst telephony in the industrialized world. So Verizon is about as bad as it gets _anywhere on Earth_.

Jul. 29 2008 10:09 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

I need it for my fax phone until another option for that comes out.

Jul. 29 2008 10:07 AM
Bill from New York

Someone at your studios keeps rolling his chair over the land-line to web-listening....

Jul. 29 2008 10:07 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

I just upgraded to Verizon form Dish and found out the hard way that they do not have MSNBC included on any available package. The picture and sound are astounding though.

Jul. 29 2008 10:07 AM
Neil from Astoria, Queens

Welcome to Fios! The more competition in this field the better. That's the only way to keep prices down, and if I'm to believe the TV ads (hummm...) then basic internet access (my main concern) is very, very fast. Something that I have to pay a premium for with my current provider - Time Warner.
Just a pity that Fios won't be arriving in my part of Queens for at least another year...

Jul. 29 2008 10:04 AM
Joan from Manhattan

That should be "fewer and fewer people," not "less and less people."

Jul. 29 2008 09:42 AM
michael winslow from INWOOD

When is the NFL going to be on cable???

Enough already this is rediculous!

So if you don't follow a home team you have to have a dish and cable.

This is nuts!!!

Jul. 29 2008 09:40 AM

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