Why Your Local Wireline Carrier is Going out of Business

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HP used to have a motto that went like this: “We eat our own cake.” What it meant was that HP would introduce a new model that was better, faster, and cheaper than the last model before their competitors could do so. That is, before a competitor could eat HP’s cake.

The wireline carriers don’t get that concept. And, that is why they will go out of business.

Wireline landlines have been declining by about 7% per year for the past several years. Estimates vary, but its between 45% and 10% per year. That means there is a whole lot of empty copper up there in the skies.

Why is this happening? Well, of course cell phones make having a landline a bit superfluous. But the problem is deeper than that.

My elderly parents recently moved so they could be closer to the kids. It wasn’t a huge multi-state move, but it was to the next city over. They wanted to take their phone number with them. After all, they have had the same number for almost 40 years and learning a new number is a pain…as is notifying everybody in your life that your number has changed.

I called Century Link and asked if they could move and take their number with them. The answer was “No.” I think I said something like “H-e-l-l-o Are you living in this century?” or perhaps I was less nice. The agent wasn’t amused and suggested I might like a new random phone number, along with an installer to come out and wire up their new home. They would be happy to include unlimited long distance in a calling plan.

I had to pause at that point. It suddenly dawned on me that my parents still lived in a world where they paid by the minute to call “long distance.” I didn’t think anybody did that anymore. How quaint.

Century Link proposed $50 to $60 a month for a shiny new phone number that included long distance.

I thought to myself: No wonder these guys are dead.

By that afternoon I had signed my parents up for VOIP service from Voip.ms (any of a zillion other carriers would have worked equally well.) I bought a $40 Grandstream HT-502 that had two phone lines on it. And then I turned in the paperwork to port their existing phone number.

Within a few days I had their 40-year old phone number coming in on the VOIP box. It was easy to hook up: I just plugged it into the wall jack and all of the existing phones worked the same.

Now here is the good part: The monthly charge was $1.49 plus 1-cent a minute. No long-distance charges.

When moving day came I picked up the VOIP box and took it to their new home. I plugged it in and you know what? They had their same 40-year old phone number in their new home in the next-town over. But their rate dropped from $60 a month to about $7.

That has been in service for about 9 months now and they claim the quality is better. They like knowing they can call any time of day and that it is “free.” And, they no longer worry about the cost of calling the relatives up in Canada. Good, eh?

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This is just a stunning example of why Century Link is doomed. They could have kept my parents as customers if they provided the VOIP box and let them carry it to their new home. But instead they just lost everything. In an effort to protect their copper-wire business they literally forced my parents into VOIP and suffered a 100% loss of revenue.

If I ran Century Link I would focus on the customer. And, I would have programs set up for customers that needed to move across town or to the next city over. But they don’t. Nor do they care.

And, that my friends, is why wireline companies are doomed,

Oh, I should add that they do have e911 service. This is available on VOIP, contrary to the dire warnings of the Century Link Customer-disservice agent.

Colin Berkshire