Does wireline phone service matter anymore? While the priority here in the Houston area remains on getting power and water pressure back on across the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, there has been far less outcry over the widespread outage of landline phone service. In truth, the high household penetration of wireless phones made it hard to notice. It’s proves again how far we’ve come from the era of regulated telecom monopoly and how much better off we are for it. Communications were difficult in the after the initial storm hit, when a surge in wireless calling, combined with power outages at many cell sites, overloaded the system (if anything this drew more complaints than the extended wireline outage). Still, while wireless service was disrupted, it was never off-line. Text messages got through and you could usually get a call connected on the second or third try, at least to leave a voicemail, By Monday, the wireless network was working normally while wireline service was still spotty. And in areas where power is back on, anyone with a VoIP phone has service. This is not meant to impugn those working to restore dial tone to Houston, it just shows the benefits of multiple providers with different technology platforms. It also serves as another reminder that despite its many benefits, wireline can not be objectively deemed superior to other choices.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.