Google Fiber: Landline Resurrection?

I recently read an article on CNET discussing how Google wants to revive the use of landline phones. Ummm… ok. But… why? Landlines are an endangered species, and Google is advertising there Google Fiber landline option as though they are on some mission to save the home phone service from extinction. Nice try.

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Google revealed a new Fiber Phone service that will be offered to a few US markets and then expanded later to other cities where they offer high-speed internet for $10 per month.It can be used from any computer, phone or tablet as it operates as a cloud-based phone number.

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It’s currently being offered in certain parts of the country where Google Fiber is available. As you can see by the map above, there currently aren’t many Google Fiber supported areas in most parts of the country, so I’m not even sure when it will become more widespread or if it will actually expand nationwide. That remains to be seen.

But, from my viewpoint, I don’t see a point in consumers buying into this $10 a month landline feature when they can use their current phone service over the Google Fiber data they will already be paying for. Why would consumers be willing to make the switch in terms of landline service in an increasingly mobile world? Unless they are marketing to our senior citizen segment who treasure and value landlines as their lifelines, it doesn’t add much value to their existing services.

Keep in mind what Google is offering isn’t even a true land line, just a landline service. You’ll still need a traditional plug in a phone jack phone, therefore, those that don’t have a landline phone would have to go out and buy one, and I don’t see that happening in most cases. In addition, if there is inclement weather, it’s going to go out when the power goes out or when your internet is down, therefore how does this beat people solely sticking to their mobile devices in these potential emergency situations?

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For these reasons, it’s difficult for me to really see the value in this service as it relates to keeping or getting a landline. I’m just not connecting the dots on how this would make people use their landlines more. Even friends of mine with landlines through Comcast service bundles barely use their home phones. They just get the bundles because getting the landline phone included in their bundle offer made for a cheaper package; however, they still rarely used their landline.

Mobile phones are still the future and I still think landlines are a dying breed, andI doubt the result of this service will cause a huge uprising in home phone service. Google wants to make having a landline easy and affordable, but it’s a new generation, and many people are okay just using their cellphones. Who wants to pay an additional $10 on top of what they already pay for their cellphone? Not me. It personally wouldn’t serve as a huge benefit for me.

When I had a landline however many years ago, and I began to use my cellphone more and more, it just sat there, literally collecting dust, and hardly ever rang, and when it did, it was most likely a telemarketer, therefore I never picked it up. I was increasingly not home, always on the go, and everyone had my mobile number, so I never felt chained to the house waiting for a phone call. Also as time went on and texting and social media platforms became more popular, people had more ways to get in contact with me apart from calling. Consequently, I got rid of my landline because there was no longer a need for it, and there still hasn’t been a need for it as technology continues to make great strides. I could probably bet if I got a landline now, it’s still not going to ring. If your friends, family or employer have your mobile phone number, chances are they’re going to use that number to contact you.

I also thought about the small business aspect as well, however, currently Google Fiber landline option’s primary target is focused more on individual and/or family residences as opposed to commercial locations hosting small businesses. I think if anything they should maybe work to advertise this as a bundle deal to small businesses in areas where Google Fiber is supported. This way businesses who are willing to make the switch to Google Fiber can utilize the fast internet service and switch there landlines service over to the Google Fiber landline option.

I don’t know. We live in an age where cellphone use and other digital alternatives are expanding, and I find it difficult to see the value at this stage in the game in Google adding a landline option to their Fiber service. What are your thoughts on this?

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11 comments

  1. I doubt Google is trying to revive landlines, but your post did get me thinking. Here’s what I think is going on: they need landlines to bundle with their fiber services, lest they are fighting with one hand tied behind their back when competing with incumbent ISPs. There’s a key demographic who still need/want landlines – families with children. We hardly use our landline at all, but I still want/need one until each of my kids has a cellphone. I’d be reluctant to switch from an incumbent ISP if it also forced me to give up my landline. If they have a landline option, the switch is a nobrainer. So, I think their move is less about reviving landlines than keeping it as a barrier for companies to switch to their fiber service. Took me a while to come up with that one, so thanks for a post that made me think!

  2. To me this just seems like a desperate diversification attempt by Google. They’re relying on their huge reach to try to be viable in a saturated market. I don’t see any way that landlines make a comeback, even if Google is pushing it. Crazier things have happened though, I suppose.

  3. Another potential reason why they may be adding landline phones to their bundle offerings could be to have all the same products as their competitors. I agree with Jak, moving backwards towards mobil phones doesn’t seem to be in Google’s best interest, but maybe they want to ensure that people who are using landline phones don’t write off Google fiber just because it doesn’t offer this one product. In addition, online it says that Fiber will allow you to have access to one phone number that will ring both your mobil phone and your landlines. I think that this feature makes the product seem a bit more modern, particularly because you’re not going to miss any calls just because you’re not in your house.

  4. Interesting post! I definitely agree with everything you said about landlines being dead for our generation. I can’t remember the last time I used a landline and don’t imagine why I would ever buy one going forward. However, my parents see valuable in having a landline and I think the older generation also wants to have one. I obviously don’t think any of us would switch to have a landline, but there still is a market for them, at least for as long as the older generation is around (another 20, 30, 40 years potentially). If Google could implement this at relatively low costs and attract current users to switch over, I see it as an additional source of revenue without a lot of effort on their part. So although it won’t be changing the world, it could be profitable for Google. Great topic, we’ll see how it plays out.

  5. Nice post! And interesting move by Google. I honestly cannot make any sense of this move. But who knows! There might be a niche market for landlines that the Fiber service would be good for. Like Professor Kane mentioned, it could be good for families with children too young for cellphones, or for areas where cell service isn’t great (even though the Google Fiber cities are well, cities).

  6. To be honest, I think you’re a little mistaken. Google is not trying to revive landlines at all. Many people in cities where Google Fiber is available have switched over almost immediately, because Fiber is a much faster (1000mpbs vs 25-50) and cheaper alternative to ISP/TV providers like Comcast. If you go on the Google Fiber website, the first tagline you see is “A different kind of Internet and TV.” The fact that you *could* have a landline if you *wanted* to set up a home phone is practically an afterthought. There’s actually a theory that Google introduced Fiber just to push and shame current cable companies to provide consumers the service they deserve. Time magazine reported on it, too. Anyway, not trying to burst your journalistic bubble, but simply trying to get you to look at this from a different perspective. Landlines are dead; Google knows that.

    1. I wouldn’t say that I’m mistaken, however, I would say that the article and the way Google has advertised this is very misleading.

  7. I enjoyed your post very much. I too went through the trouble of getting a landline package last year when I was off campus simply because it was cheaper. I did not even have a phone unit and was a pain to deal with Verizon when I was moving out because they wanted the land line number which I obviously didn’t know. I do not see a need for a landline other than giving people a number I most likely will not pick up. When I am back home and I need to give a number, I will give my home phone if I want to avoid being contacted.

  8. Absolutely agree that its not a needed option these days, but as Prof. Kane said it is a no brainer for them to add in to a bundle and throw it in the faces of all the incumbents. Good thoughts!

  9. I agree with prof kane with this one. A switch to land lines would never happen, but i totally forgot about the parts of the market that are not on cellular. On a side note, i bet these land lines und up being superior quality.

  10. Great post! The conversation about landline phones is a relevant topic in my house because my parents have very conflicting views on it. My dad works in tech and thinks we need to turn our home into “smart house” and get rid of all old technology. My mom thinks the landline is still important since we have bad cell service in our house plus we still get important calls from relatives/doctors on that line. I agree with the previous comments that Google isn’t necessarily trying to revive landlines. I checked out the website and it seems like they’re bundling landline services with TV and Internet, which I think is a powerful combination.

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