Did dial-up ever cause a shortage of phone lines? I never heard that,
but I am surprised if the phone companies had the capacity to fulfill
maybe a 50 to 300% increase in demand over the course of 10 years,
from soon after dial-up's startup to its peak. There are people who
spent maybe a half hour a day on the phone before the net, who must
have spent 12 hours a day on the phone/modem after the net. Combined
with all those who only used it for an hour extra, that's an enormous
When I first got dialup, there weren't that many ways to use the Net,
I didn't have that as many ways as one might have. So I was only on
an hour or two a day. And even when I got more uses, I tried to stay
on no more than maybe 3 hours to not tie up the phone lines. But I'm
sure most people are not that considerate.
A lot of people have gone to cable now, but there was a period were
20, 40, 80? million people had dial-up and they stayed on for hours
and hours, maybe all day. (Now that I know usage has slacked off, and
I've never heard of shortages, I've stayed on for 36 hours once, for
some reason I forget. And other days 12 hours.)
Cnversely, is there now a lot of excess capacity on phone-only lines,
now that many people have switched to cable? Doesn't even
switching to DSL end up using new central station hardware, leaving
old phone-only hardware unused?
This seems unlikely because intercity calls began approx.
1960 to use microwave rather than cable links between
cities. Modern circuitry has allowed microwave capacity
to increase to supply current demand just about all the
time. Even if cell phones do not wholly supersede
wired telephones, the same circuitry could be applied
to supply phone service on a smaller scale.
On Wed, 14 Feb 2007 20:36:13 -0500, "Don Phillipson"
I wasn't really thinking about intercity, only about the number of
lines in and out of my local exchange, and in and out of the exchanges
that provide service to ISPs. And I also mean whatever resources I
use when I'm on the phone.
After all, there was a reason they promoted party lines, or ONLY
provided party lines some place, so that only one party out of all
those sharing a party line could use the phone at the same time, that
it takes resources for each phone line.
In locations where everyone had a private line, that worked I believe
because they knew not everyone would be on the phone at the same time.
All day is farily busy, and there are probably especially busy times,
different ones for downtown versus residential areas. But not
everyone is on the phone at the same time. When 20 to 40 to 80
million people in the 90's were on the phone for an extra 3, 6, 16
hours a day, how did they have enough of these resources? Again, not
talking about the functions that microwaves perform.
Multi-party lines were never promoted. They were a necessity due to too few
In the area I have serviced since 1982 (outside Omaha but still a local call
to the "big" city), enough cable had been placed that party lines were no
longer "bridged in the field". Instead, they were bridged in the Central
Office. We haven't had any party lines for YEARS now.
The Bell System planned ahead and built its system to handle the load, before
the internet was even KNOWN in the household. It worked flawlessly.
The only time a modern switching system will bog down is in the event of a
disaster. If "everyone" picks-up their phone at the "same" time, a condition
known as "slow dialtone" will occur. Again, the telco system is built to
handle this overload, doling-out dialtone on a first-come, first-served basis.
The only time I've experienced phone system overload was about 40
years ago, when I was out in the country. The local switching
equipment was an older pulse-dial system. It was the first snowy day
of the year (in an area that doesn't get much snow) and I tried to
call my parents (long distance). They had just started letting you
call long distance without the operator. I would get a busy signal
when all I had dialed was the first '1'.
Most dialup calls were local calls, not intercity. And most people didn't
get a second line, so number of lines was never a problem. Number of lines
in use at any given time may have spiked, but the gooey GUI internet ramped
up same time as analog cell tower build out, so the hardline switches were
adding capacity anyway. I'm sure there were problems here and there, but no
more than a new office park or something opening up would cause. Ma Bell, in
general, was very good at building in plenty of headroom, and service
brownouts since switching from mechanical to electronic switches has been
very rare, like after disasters, or in the actual disaster areas if switches
get taken out.
Main cause for all the area code splits was the exponential growth of cell
phones sucking up available numbers.
Additional lines contribute significantly to the depletion of numbers. Also,
contributing to the rapid consumption of phone numbers is pagers and
Custom/Distinctive Ringing numbers - where you can get up to FOUR numbers to
ring a SINGLE line.
That's likely why ALL phone numbers in this medium-small town used to
have the "657" prefix (and we had 5-digit dialing for local calls).
Now, there are several different prefixes (and even a second "overlay"
area code). Now it's 10-digit dialing. You have to use the area code
to call someone across the street.
Cellphones have limited number of calls at one time.
In a TRUE emergency the system is designed to prohibit all but
emergency workers from calling people, although everyone can still
I get system busy on a rare occasion here.
When terrorists strike again cell users will be VERY UNHAPPY
I've told this before, but when my mother moved to New Castle, Pa. in
1945, after she married my father, she would pick up the phone and ask
for say, OLiver 4 1234. Finally, after a few days, the operator said,
"You don't have to say OLiver 4, Ma'am. They're all OLiver 4."
Just as bad as overlay area codes is repeated area code
changes. Just saw an announcement in the local paper
that we're in for our fifth area code change in 25 years.
I have to occasionally stop and think what our current
I do remember some areas where you could never get a v.90 modem
They did that here a couple of years ago. The new area code is an
"overlay", so someone just across the street could have a different
area code. All local calls now require 10-digit dialing (you get a
recording if you just dial 7). I don't know of actual phone number
with the new area code.
BTW, It took me a couple of months to discover why my DVR wasn't
dialing for the guide any more. It needed to be told to dial 10 digits
instead of 7.
BTW2, you used to be able to dial local calls here with just FIVE
digits. That lasted until they put in the new ESS exchange around
1990. When I bought a washer & dryer last year (from an older person
at an older store), he still wrote my number down like "7-xxxx" (5
Sure, there were lots of such areas. Had nothing to do with running
out of phone lines though. The problem with getting higher speed
modems to work was most directly related to the condition of the
lines. If you lived 5 blocks from the CO, it usually worked. If
you lived 5 miles away and had numerous branch taps and wire gauge
changes, then it most likely would not.
That's a big problem too, and the causes are pretty well known to
In the US and almost the entire world, the numbers used are Arabic
numbers. Arabs invented these numbers many centuries ago and have
controlled their production ever since. They purposely limit the
supply of numbers to keep the price high. Even large corporations
like AT&T can only afford to buy so many, based on a cost-benefit
analysis. In other words, they can't afford to invest too much
capital funding and have too many spare numbers sitting around not
Although some numbers are produced outside of Arab lands, they do that
to save on the cost of shipping. But every production facility is
licensed and strictly controlled the ANPB (the Arabic Number
Production Board). The one or two locations which exceeded their
quota were totally shut down, and the management was got no severance
pay and lost their pensions.
There have been proposals to use other number systems or to create a
new one specifically designed for electronics and telecommunications,
but so far nothing has come of it. Some think that key corporate and
govenment personnel have been bribed to prevent progress in that. I
choose to think it is just the technical difficulties that have made
it slow going.
dsl "rides" on existing phone cable. and with folks using
dsl and cable, the need for phone LINES for internet have
but there still are big problems with phone NUMBERS, there
just weren't enough for all the new uses (cellphones, faxes,
and other data devices). most of the US has gone to
mandatory 10 digit dialing and 10,000 number blocks are no
longer handed out to new phone companies. even so, plans
are in place to go to four digit area codes when the number
combinations available finally run out.
-larry / dallas
Dial up internet never caused a shortage of physical lines. The
increased use of second/additional lines for internet, fax, etc did
cause numbers to be used up to the point that more exchanges and area
codes were needed. And except for the analog line between your house
and the central office, the vast majority of phone traffic has been on
digital fiber backbone for decades. Most people don't realize this
and think that only with VOIP is their phone call handled as digital
data. In fact, whether you use your ordinary land line with Verizon
or VOIP with a cable company, the voice is digitized at your central
office, transmitted digitally to wherever it;s going, then converted
back to analog at the destination CO. The essential difference is
the traditional land line establishes a guaranteed end to end digital
connection with voice sampled at 8khz and each sample guaranteed to
arrive at the other end at exactly that rate and sequence because it
gets assigned its own time slot in the network. With VOIP, the
digital sample is packetized and routed just like data from a
website. Which is why VOIP still has quality issues as compared to a
The main attraction in going to VOIP had nothing really to do with
superior technology or doing something radically different. Instead,
it was a way of avoiding tarrifs and opened up another route to
It was a huge breakthrough a few years ago when the area codes were able to
use all the digits in the second position. Originally, it has to be a 1 or 0
there. There are now multiple area codes used in the same geographical
region for cell phones now too.
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