Time to throw that old analog phone away

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On Feb. 18, most analog phone service will cease to exist.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is no longer requiring that cellphone providers offer both digital and the older analog service after that date, so most are pulling the plug.

What this means, explained Kirk Hatting of the Plymouth County Communications Center, is that the few people still using analog phones right now won't even be able to make any calls, not even 911, from their phone after Feb. 18.

"Their phone will do nothing at that point," he said. "Other phones, even when their contract has run out, still will make a 911 call, but analog phones will do absolutely nothing at all."

The change shouldn't affect more than a very small percentage of people, according to Britt Jervik, assistant manager at Verizon Wireless in Le Mars.

"It's probably people who have had their phones for six or seven years or more," he said.

Verizon, he said, has been sending letters to any customers who have still been using analog phones to alert them to switch to digital.

The analog services don't just support phones. Some home alarms and vehicle assistance systems run on analog as well. They'll have to be updated or the service providers will simply not receive the emergency calls once analog systems go off-line. Most security providers are contacting their customers to alert them of the change

Providers like Verizon and AT&T are dropping analog service simply as a practical business move, like switching from selling cassette tapes to CDs.

"Otherwise they're keeping up two sets of equipment," Hatting said.

Compared to digital service, analog is lacking, Jervik explained.

"With digital phones, the signal is a lot more intense and it's a higher-capacity network," he said. There's the ability to send text messages and transmit data for email or the internet."

If you don't know if your phone uses analog service, Jervik suggested calling your provider, whether it's Verizon, Sprint, Long Lines, Alltel or another company.

"We can look up and see whether you use analog or digital," Jervik said.

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