Why don’t we bring back landlines?

Cell phones can go dead when communication is most needed, but modern landlines also rely more on technology. Image via iStock

The idea: Cell phones aren’t reliable during emergencies and PG&E blackouts have already resulted in a loss of cell phone service, so let’s go analog. California should bring back landlines. 

The pros: Landlines are time-tested, typically underground and can be operated with minimal power.   

The cons: They aren’t what they used to be.  Modern landlines frequently operate on Voice over Internet Protocol, which sends calls over the internet, not a traditional phone line. If the power’s out, then a house phone might not work. Nor are companies required to offer backup power for VOIP lines. This is already becoming an issue as blackouts affect the state.  Another problem? Folks with landlines often use cordless phones, which require electricity.  

The odds: Two out of 10. In 2017, more than half of U.S. households relied on cell phones alone. As phone companies increasingly lean on the internet to provide service, landlines figure less and less into California’s emergency back-up plan.