Californians are giving up their landline phones for cellular technology.
In the past two decades, 90% of Californians have upgraded their wired phone service to cellular. The appeal? Freedom from wires, seamless communication on-the-go, enhanced public safety features and greater convenience. The future is, without a doubt, wireless.
And yet, the California Public Utilities Commission seems to hesitate and give undue consideration to people who oppose technical progress.
The first wired telephones came to life in the late 1800s. Most of today’s existing telephone wires have survived for more than half a century. These copper wires, relics of another age, can barely support even basic dial-up modems, let alone the broadband services we rely on.
Despite this, due to outdated regulatory agreements, telephone companies are obliged to pour billions of dollars of time and resources into this declining network. This, although most places have better alternatives available. It’s not just wasteful – it’s counterproductive.
While the CPUC has always been well-intentioned, it has unfortunately been held back by a minority of naysayers who oppose technical progress. It is time for the commission to move our state’s communications network into the 21st century.
Currently, the CPUC is holding hearings to consider making the necessary regulatory reform. It’s time. The commission should stop requiring that phone companies maintain outdated systems that consumers indicate they no longer want or need. This should allow companies to refocus their resources to innovate and meet the demands of Californians.
Look at the facts. In 2021, the Public Policy Institute of California revealed that 95% of California households will have internet access. Reports from Field Poll and the US Centers for Disease Control, which surveyed Americans on the issue as part of its biannual health poll, found a similarly large shift from landlines to smartphones. . The message was loud and clear: Californians are moving away from wired phones.
In the past, wired phones were our only option for long-distance voice. Now there are many choices. Besides cell services, cable broadband and apps like FaceTime and WhatsApp have emerged as popular voice communication channels. Given the alternatives, telephone companies are looking to redirect funds from maintaining old wires to developing and deploying advanced technologies such as cellular and fiber optics.
Cellular is also important for public safety. Last month, the necessity of our smartphones was highlighted in life-saving scenarios. Nationwide testing of the Wireless Emergency Alert system, California’s testing of earthquake early warning during the ShakeOut drill, and actual aftershock warning of an actual earthquake highlight the critical role smartphones play in public safety. . These aren’t just entertainment gadgets — they’re our emergency lifeline.
Here’s why cellular switching is important for our survival:
• Instant alerts: Smartphones, always in our grasp, now offer instant, comprehensive emergency alerts.
• Mobility and accessibility: During unexpected emergencies, we are not always glued to our TVs, radios or landline phones. Cellular alerts, especially for sudden evacuations from fires or tsunamis, are essential today.
• Two-way communication: Modern crises require dynamic communication — whether checking on loved ones or asking for help. Smartphones stand out here, fostering dialogues and connecting communities with emergency personnel.
Let’s face it: Californians yearn for broadband, not outdated modems and fax machines. With cellular tech offering broadband, it’s clear where the future lies. As we navigate the challenges of this century, cellular networks aren’t just a luxury — they’re a lifeline.
Embracing this technology ensures that Californians stay connected and protected. It’s time for the CPUC to ignore the naysayers, recognize that the future is now and let the phone companies pivot toward contemporary, sought-after technologies.
David Witkowski is the executive director of the Wireless Communications Initiative at Joint Venture Silicon Valley.