Landlines are dropping fast all across the country. The most aggressive in the act has been Verizon, which has been actively practicing "copper neglect" in its service region, purposely letting lines deteriorate and threatening its employees with termination if they do their due diligence and repair them.
One Verizon lineman, whom we'll call Fred, agreed to speak with us anonymously about the rationale behind Verizon's tactics.
"At first, I thought it was kind of dumb," Fred said. "When my dad was a lineman, quality and service were important values. But of course, that's old-fashioned today. Nobody wants quality and service, anymore. That's all old hat. What people want is flashy and delicate convenience that will fail on a dime. And so of course, that's exactly what we're giving them."
Fred is one of a growing number of Verizon POTS "de-installers". POTS referred to traditional analog telephone circuits from the local exchange. Until recently, it was the only form of communications for most people. Today, a variety of options exist, and so companies like Verizon see the infrastructure as redundant. Linemen like Fred frequently go out on service calls to homes in its service area to try to tamper with and vandalize the copper infrastructure. "It's a lot more effective than just waiting for that copper in the ground to fail," Fred explained. "That could take, geez, hundreds of years. By actively dismantling the network, we expedite the process a lot. It's actually kind of fun, now. We linemen have a competition of seeing how many wires we can cut in a day. Of course, then we get service calls, so we can actually enter homes and properties and rip out the rest of the copper."
Why is Verizon purposely destroying its outside plant? "It's not as cheap as wireless," Fred explained. "Cell towers are cheap to setup. They're not designed to have 99.999% uptime like landlines are. The quality sucks. Naturally, it costs us a fraction of what it would cost to provide high-quality landline service as it would to provide crappy cellular service, you see?"
The growing number of young people without a landline is good news for Verizon. "Young people are so accustomed to the pathetic quality of a cellular connection, they don't know what they're missing." Indeed, and Verizon intends for it to stay that way. In addition to not repairing any landlines that go out of service, it also requires that customers be at least 50 years old to subscribe to landline service. "The rationale," Fred explained, "is that if some teenager picked up a landline and made a call, he would be so blown away by the quality that he would never go back. Naturally, Verizon doesn't want that, so we're trying to turn landline service into more of an inside secret. Unfortunately, the cat's already out of the bag for most people over 40. Fortunately, Alzheimer's, breast cancer, and a myriad of other degenerative diseases are slowly killing many of them, our wireless division has been seeing to that."
No act of corporate negligence is complete without bribery, of course, and Verizon is no exception.
"We actually sold our payphone assets to third-party providers a few years back," Fred elaborated. "Most people think it was because payphone revenues were declining. Actually, it was to keep the FCC happy. You see, now whenever hurricanes or disasters hit, or blackouts occur, we see these massive lines for payphones and revenues are through the roof. By keeping people in the dark about the benefits of having a landline, we can guarantee exorbitant profits whenever some kind of disaster hits."
Linemen like Fred are an invaluable resource for learning about the rationale behind Verizon's decisions. However, most people, Fred argues, will be better off left in the dark, literally and metaphorically. "At the end of the day, Verizon wants people dead. And right now, anyone with a landline is a serious threat to that business goal. While Verizon's wireless division is working proactively to that end by producing ever more powerful silent killers, also known as "iPhones with unlimited data plans", Verizon's wireline division is working reactively to dismantle its copper infrastructure to leave customers disconnected in an emergency. And because payphone providers, in kahoots with Verizon, have lobbied to reduce payphone regulation, they can now price gouge during a disaster. You won't need just a handful of quarters to make a call next hurricane, you'll need a whole sack!"