Landlines are here to stay

While Elis today vastly prefer cell phones, the 20,000 cords currently tethering landline phones across the University will not be cut anytime soon.

As departments across the University prepare their budgets for the next fiscal year, cutting both their personnel and non-personnel costs by the mandated 7.5 percent, staff members have proposed eliminating landlines campuswide, including dormitories. Indeed, considering only 3 percent of student landlines are in use, the suggestion is, at face value, appealing. Still, Yale Information Technology Services officials said the measure would not yield any short-term savings.

Although there are ways to reduce costs associated with landline use, such as switching from the traditional telephone service to one that uses the Internet, eliminating landlines altogether would not immediately reduce spending, Joseph Paolillo, the senior director of ITS infrastructure services, said. Even though a mass removal of landlines is not cost-effective, Paolillo added that individual departments could save money by cutting some of their office lines based on individual usage.

“It would not save money for some time,” he said. “The cost of wireless technology is still significantly more for a place [like Yale] that has existing wired technology.”

Still, not many would miss landlines were they to go.

Of the 3,000 landlines made available to undergraduate and graduate students this year, Paolillo said only 100 voicemail boxes were activated. (Although students do not need to activate voicemail to use the landline, activated voicemail boxes tend to be a fairly accurate indicator of landline use, he said.)

Despite its decreasing popularity, ITS telephone service costs significantly less than the average cell phone plan. Students who opt for the Central Campus Basic Service, which includes line rental, standard set, voicemail and free on-campus calls, pay a $14.50 monthly fee, according to the ITS Web site. While interstate and intrastate calls are $0.04/minute, some international rates are comparable to domestic rates — calling China and the United Kingdom, for example, cost only $0.06/minute and $0.05/minute, respectively.

Ti Yin ’09, who bought her first cell phone last semester, is one of the handful of students to activate a landline this year. During her first three years at Yale, Yin relied solely on the landline in her suite to talk to her family in Canada.

“When I’m not in a hurry and when I’m in my room, which is usually when I call home, I might as well use the landline, because it is much cheaper,” she said.

But more than a dozen students interviewed said landlines are not worth the hassle: They are hard to set up, not user-friendly and no longer a necessity.

Stav Atir ’10 said although she and her suitemates activated a landline their freshman year, they did not feel the need to maintain it in the following years.

“A friend called me from Israel once, but that was it,” Atir said. “We never really used the landline.”

Paolillo said ITS will take students’ preference for cell phones into account when planning for future phone services.

“We won’t look to create or offer a service where there is no demand,” he said. “Our mission is to meet the technology needs of the Yale community, so our future plans will adjust service offerings to meet those needs.”

With Yale Procurement’s help, ITS has negotiated bulk pricing with four cellular service providers — Verizon, Nextel, T-Mobile and AT&T — for business cell phone plans. As a result, the providers also offer discounted rates for personal plans to both staff and students.

And although it will not have an effect on this year’s budget, Paolillo said ITS is working on a transition from the traditional Private Branch Exchange telephone service, which uses telephone switches, to a newer, cheaper technology, Voice over Internet Protocol, which uses the Internet to provide voice services. The service, he said, is simpler to install and maintain, and offers the potential of advanced features such as integrated voice and video calls.

“We are starting to move in that direction,” Paolillo said. “We will take advantage of new technology as it comes out and phase out our older technology.”

To date, Paolillo said the VoIP service has only been installed in parts of West Campus and at 25 Science Park, where the ITS office is located.

Comments

  • Former 911 Op

    If you're going to cut landline service, I hope that you also find a way to decrease the time that it takes to get phone company authorization to locate individuals using their chip. When it comes to emergency services, cell phones are still at a severe disadvantage. Landlines give instant location information, while cell lines can 5+ minutes to sort out, much more if the call wasn't on an emergency line. Cell broadcast is also a lot more sensitive to natural disasters as we've seen in recent tragedies. This is a poorly-devised plan.