I cut the Verizon landline umbilical cord 12 years ago.
It’s been even longer since I dropped silver — or what passes for it these days from the U.S. Mint — to feed a pay phone.
So the fact that Verizon’s sale of its landline assets in Manteca and Ripon as well as elsewhere in California, Texas and Florida to Frontier Communications that was first announced in 2009 is nearing completion hasn’t really piqued my attention. Besides as a wireless customer I’ll still be sending Verizon a healthy check every month.
Frontiers Communication will be the fifth phone carrier for both Manteca and Ripon. First there were the respective Manteca Telephone Company and the Ripon Telephone Company. They got swallowed up by Contel that then was bought by GTE that eventually became part of Verizon. If past transitions going from Contel to GTE to Verizon are any indication the switch will happen and you won’t even notice a thing until Verizon vehicles are repainted as Frontiers vehicles.
The deal involves 3.7 million voice lines and 2.2 million broadband lines in the three states.
Given that the Center for Disease Control reported a few years back that 51.7 percent of American households no longer have landlines you can expect those numbers that Frontiers is acquiring will drop in the coming years — at least when it comes to voice lines.
It’s not even a sure bet that businesses will stick with landline voice lines given the possibility now exists for wireless protocols to replace company switchboards. To think otherwise, is the same as believing even three years ago that you needed a landline to have a burglar alarm.
To think we could survive without landlines was unthinkable 35 years ago.
That was when you could still call a real operator that actually worked in your community and not on some switchboard in Bombay. It was when it was cutting edge to call POPCORN (767-2676) to hear the recorded female voice go, “At the beep, it will be 3:05 p.m., exactly” You also could call a phone company number for the local weather. Both numbers were disconnected long ago.
Now you use a handheld computer that has replaced your landline, a watch, an alarm clock, a thermometer, and just about anything an app can do.
It’s hard to believe that in 1966 — just 50 years ago — we had family friends that farmed outside of Lincoln that were still on a four party line and still had a phone in their kitchen that was a crank phone. It was finally history a year later.
By then the manual exchanges were gone and so were two letters at the start of a phone number. If you had told somebody back then you would one day be able to call people with a New York area code that were within a block of where you were in California they would have thought you needed to be committed.
It was still possible — although rare — by the mid-1960s to make a call where a human operator had to literally switch or hook you to the number you were calling on a switchboard. It was considered a marvel of modern engineering when Roseville Telephone could house all of the switching equipment for 40,000 customers in a two-story building. Now it doesn’t require a fraction of the space.
It was back in a time when kids were told to treat the phone book with respect. All hell would break loose if you tore the pages. It contained the name and number of anyone you might want to call without worrying about paying for directory assistance.
Today phone books — that look downright anorexic — often don’t even contain residential listings. The phone books are so disrespected now that many of us pick them up from our driveways where they are placed by distributing crews and toss them directly into our recycling Toters.
It was when using a phone was a big deal. As a kid you had to earn the privilege and not abuse it. If the phone bill was more than $10 a month because you called a friend in a town 20 miles away that was outside of the free exchange and talked for more than 20 minutes, your parents would hit the roof.
And if your sister asked for a princess phone that cost $2 more a month, she’d probably get a stern lecture that money doesn’t grow on trees.
Today most parents don’t flinch when they spend $200 on a smartphone and then at least $40 a month for a kid’s monthly service. It kind of makes you pine for the old days when the phone company leased you your phone and a $29 residential phone bill was considered astronomical.
One wonders what Alexander Bell was thinking back on March 10, 1876 when he made that first phone call to his assistant Thomas Watson and uttered the words “Mr. Watson — come here – I want to see you.”
I bet it wasn’t the fact we would literally one day see people face-to-face over the phone.
Welcome to the new Frontier(s) of communication.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.