The Slow Extinction of the American Landline

Just over half of Americans have yet to cut the cord. When will landlines disappear?

Depending on where you’re from and how old you are, you may be shocked by the following information: Most American homes—54.6 percent of them—still have a landline, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics release this past June. Perhaps less surprising? Millennials are tilting that ratio in the other direction. More than two-thirds of adults aged 25 to 29 (69.2 percent) and 30 to 34 (67.4 percent) live in homes with only wireless phones. And they’re not alone. The bulk of kids under 18 have never had a landline, while older generations are starting to cut the cord, too.

Overall, the cell-phone-only population has grown 70 percent since 2010, and 4.4 percent since 2013. It may be hard to believe, but only a decade ago, nine out of 10 U.S. households were dependent on landlines. As reported in The Atlantic, “It took landlines until 1975 to achieve the prevalence that mobile has today.” Michael Pennell, Ph.D, an electrical engineer and high-speed communications expert based in Phoenix, says that more and more Americans value the portability offered by mobile phones, along with the ability to decline unwanted calls and dodge telemarketers.

“With the popularity of technologies like smartphones, Google Voice, VoIP (internet phone services), and tablets, there is a real momentum in home telecom to move away from traditional copper landlines,” he adds. Those copper phone lines are deteriorating, and many phone companies no longer see the point in investing the time, money, and manpower necessary to maintain them.

Yet millions of Americans are landline loyalists. A study last year from Pew Research Center revealed that 17 percent of U.S. adults described their landline phones as being “very hard to give up.” It’s the kind of statement that Pennell attributes to fear and habit. “There’s fear that 911 services won’t be readily available unless you dial from a landline,” he says. And in many ways, that fear is a valid one—landlines are inherently tied to exact locations, while cell phone 911 calls must rely on nearby towers and GPS signals, which can be inaccurate or blocked entirely, especially when calls are made indoors.

It’s not all about anticipating an emergency, however. A small number Americans still have fax machines in their homes, and many home security systems today require the use of a landline. Which might be why the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed regulations this past August requiring phone companies to give three months advance warning to customers before disabling old copper phone lines and switching them over to new technology. The FCC also ruled that internet providers must offer back-up batteries to support fiber optic lines in case of power outages or flooding.

For many, however, wireless phones would never be a back-up: They’re a necessity. The NCHS reports that for adults in rented homes, as well as for those living below the poverty line, landlines are a rarity. Renters are inherently more transient, making landlines a burdensome commitment. And for low-income Americans, pay-as-you-go cell phones—including many smartphones—are simply cheaper than landlines. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2015, nearly two-thirds of Americans own at least one smartphone. Ten percent rely entirely on their phone’s data plan to access the internet.

And despite the fears of the tethered 17 percent, about 70 percent of 911 calls are made from cell phones, according to the FCC, which discussed that scary location tracking issue in recent congressional hearings. One easy solution is already being put into place: Operators are trained to ask for a caller’s location first, before they describe their emergency. Besides, landlines aren’t perfect. Lawmakers also pointed out that in a natural disaster like a flood or an earthquake, many people are unable to dial 911 using a landline, due to damage to those aging copper wire systems—not to mention the fact that even landline users tend to have cordless phones, so they require power that could go out in a crisis.

The wisest move, for those who can afford it, might be to keep both their cell phones and their landlines active—at least until landlines go the way of the Walkman or VCR. A report from the U.K. estimates that landlines will be extinct by 2025. In the United States, it could be much sooner, according statistics portal Statista. One of their analysts, Felix Richter, says that “if the trend continues at the current pace, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t, the majority of U.S. households could be without a landline phone as early as this year.”


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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The Planet
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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The Planet
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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The Planet
Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

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The Planet