by Lee DeVito
Legislation in Michigan has passed the Senate that will set the phasing out of landlines in Michigan into motion, Click On Detroit reports. The bill, which heads to the House next, plans to eliminate landline service in Michigan by 2017.
Traditionally, landline service has been subsidized by the government, viewed as an essential service. But the market in Michigan seems to indicate otherwise: landline customers have dropped by more than 60% in the last decade, from 6.5 million in 2002 to 2.6 million in 2012, according to the FCC. Meanwhile cell phone users have more than doubled from 4.5 million in 2002 to more than 9 million people in 2012.
Senate bill 636 removes the requirement that at least two other providers offer comparable service in an area before a phone company can discontinue service there.
Groups like the AARP have opposed the plan, citing concerns that affordable service and access to medical alert systems could be compromised.
Another part of the country was forced to experiment with eliminating landlines when Hurricane Sandy destroyed the system on New York's Fire Island. Initially, Verizon opted to not restore the system, instead installing a wireless system called Voice Link that connected house phones to the Internet. Fire Islanders complained that Voice Link offered "all the problems of a cellphone system, but none of the advantages." Verizon since reversed course and offered a fiberoptic plan in addition to Voice Link.