No more landlines: Verizon won't fix storm damaged wires

(CBS News) Walter Veth hasn't had a phone line inside his home since Superstorm Sandy blasted Mantoloking, N.J, over eight months ago.

Verizon, the company that owns the phone lines, has decided not to replace the copper wire infrastructure that once provided Veth, and hundreds of other residents here, with a landline.

When Sandy hit phone lines were snapped, others underground were flooded out. For 855 homeowners that meant the end of hard line phone service as they knew it.

Instead, Verizon is offering customers an alternative system called Voice Link, which is a home phone service that runs on a cellular network.

However, Veth, like many other residents here, is hesitant to have the system installed, saying the service is unreliable and is incompatible with his home security system and fax machine.

Tom Maguire, the Verizon executive in charge of operations, says that all-digital land lines are the wave of the future. But he doesn't necessarily think it will be the end of copper phone wires.

"I think that the bigger question is not whether copper will be physically out there, but whether anyone will really care if it's really out there or are they going to be using other technologies to communicate with their friends and relatives," he said.

Maguire insists that the Voice Link technology being offered to homeowners comes with the same capabilities as a traditional landline, including access to emergency services and security systems.

But advocacy groups like the AARP oppose Verizon's plan, saying more research needs to be done before abandoning the land line.

"If you can't pick up the phone and dial zero and get an operator, and you can't use your life alert system, and you can't use your home security system and there's a burglar at your door, those are basic necessities. We need to make sure there are consumer protections in place," said AARP's Beth Finkel.

If state legislators put a stop to Verizon's plan, the company will have no choice but to restore its copper lines.

If the plan is approved, land lines that have existed for over a century could soon become a thing of the past.

For Michelle Miller's full report, watch the video in the player above.

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