Will landlines become a piece of history? Experts say not just yet

Pay phones have all but disappeared. Now a new report from utility regulators says landlines are likely to suffer a similar fate.

Last year, two of Florida’s three biggest landline providers took major hits to their customer base. Landline customers dropped 22 percent at AT&T. Frontier lost 25 percent but Century Link managed to get by with only a six percent drop.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Mark Long helped create the report. He says competition is still healthy between providers, which is largely due to the legislature deregulating the market.

“Competitors are finding different ways of getting their customers,” Long said.

There were only three million landlines in use in 2016, down from more than 4.5 million just three years before.

While pay phones have virtually disappeared, landlines are likely to be around for a while longer because of their appeal to businesses.

Businesses account for nearly two-thirds of the existing landlines in the state. Although the market may be declining more slowly than residential users, business users aren’t immune to change.

“There is more data transfer that is available through 5G. That will also decline,” said Ronald BriĆ©, who is a commissioner with Florida Public Service.

And while landline use has decreased for the last six years, regulators say the decline is leveling off, suggesting it may take a while longer before land lines are hung up for good.

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