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The earliest selective system was the code ringing system, in which each telephone subscriber was assigned a specific ringing cadence, (not to be confused with modern ring tones).
This meant firstly, frequently ringing telephones were a disruptive annoyance, as each party on the line had to stop to listen every time the telephone rang in order to determine according to the ringing cadence if they were the party being called on any given ring.
Farmers in rural Australia used party lines, where a single line spanned miles from the nearest town to one property and on to the next.
although subscribers in all but the most rural areas may have had the option to upgrade to private-line service at an additional monthly charge.
Such laws also provide penalties for abuse by falsifying emergency situations.
In May 1955, a Rhinebeck, New York woman was indicted by a grand jury after her refusal to relinquish a party line delayed a volunteer firefighter's effort to report a grass fire; the fire destroyed a shed and a barn.
Party lines in the United States were ineligible for Universal Service Fund subsidies and telephone companies converted them to private lines to benefit from the subsidies.