A better question might be: Why don’t the handful who want the copper network preserved reach into their own pockets and pay for it? They could form a nonprofit and call it the Museum of Technology.

This would be a nice change of precedent for Mantoloking and other coastal communities, so used to living off subsidized federal flood insurance. Verizon already has received provisional authority to build out its Voice Link system—which uses the cell network to deliver voice and data to fixed addresses. The company is awaiting formal permission to abandon its copper network destroyed by the storm. On nearby Fire Island in New York, under political pressure, Verizon agreed to deploy its fiber network to the island’s 300 full-time residents. But Fire Island doesn’t have the option of Comcast cable.

Those who cling to circa 1980s analog appliances, to be sure, are inconvenienced by a switch-over to all-digital. Ancient faxes, credit-card readers used by small businesses, and dial-up modems won’t work anymore. People whose heart pacemakers report their status monthly over phone lines might have to trade in for a newer model, as they must periodically anyway.