In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that telephone companies were not required to maintain traditional copper telephone lines as long as they had a suitable replacement in place. Since that time, phone companies across the country have been looking into alternative wiring for a number of reasons.
1. Copper isn’t as cheap as it used to be.
Copper is a great conductor – and that made it the top choice for wiring for electrical components, particularly for anything with a microchip. Considering everything from our computers and smartphones to our appliances and robot vacuum cleaners are now equipped with microprocessor technology, the demand for copper has gone way, way up. Any time demand goes up, so does cost.
2. Not as many phone customers need or want landlines.
At the same time copper is getting more expensive, fewer customers want one or multiple landlines. When copper lines were originally run, each individual line supplied one individual phone number. The signal could be split within a building, but each phone number had its own separate line. That changed with VOIP, thus eliminating the need for multiple copper lines. Phone companies had a “suitable replacement” for providing new or expanded phone service WITHOUT having to invest in the rising cost of copper.
3. Copper has internet bandwidth limits.
Under ideal circumstances, copper data transmission speeds max out at around 40Gb per second. It was fast enough when the early internet only sent text emails, but it is only a tiny fraction of what fiber-optic cables can handle. If you remember the days of DSL and dial-up, you might remember how much slower the internet used to be. Phone providers these days know that if they want to keep customers, they have to be able to serve their internet needs – and that means investing in technologies that work faster than copper.
Will Legacy Emergency Call Boxes Stop Working Without Copper Lines?
Unfortunately, for the majority of early model equipment, yes. A lot of call box brands were made specifically for copper and landline connectivity as was the regulation at the time. Boxes made for NFPA 72 and UL 864 compliance and others like them are simply not built to accommodate fiber-optic or cable.
If the local phone company in an area decides to abandon or replace copper wiring, critical emergency communications equipment may cease to operate correctly. AT&T has already announced the switch to some customers. Other providers are doing the same.
This is just one of the many reasons why CASE equipment is built the way it is. Not only are our hard-wired components compatible with existing communications infrastructure, our wireless units and retrofit kits ensure CASE Blue Light Towers, E-phones, and Lexan Call Boxes remain operable no matter what changes utility companies may make to the local grid.