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.
A majority of Bell System subscribers in the mid-20th century in the United States and Canada were serviced by party lines, which carried a billing discount over individual service; during wartime shortages, these were often the only available lines.
British users similarly benefited from the party line discount.
The service was common in sparsely populated areas where remote properties were spread across large distances.
An example is Australia where these were operated by the Government Post Master General department.
93 with ringing code 2 long and 2 short, and written as "93R22", (and if outside the given exchange, then the exchange would be asked for by name before the requested number and ringing code, e.g. "(On the) Rockridge (exchange), (subscriber No.) nine, three; ring one long, and two short," and written as “Rockridge 93R12”.
By the 1980s, party lines were displaced in most localities as they could not support subscriber-owned equipment such as answering machines and computer modems.
To signal specific subscribers on party lines selectively, telephone operating companies implemented various signaling systems.
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).
In rural areas in the early 20th century, additional subscribers and telephones, often numbering several dozen, were frequently connected to the single loop available. They were frequently used as a source of entertainment and gossip, as well as a means of quickly alerting entire neighbourhoods of emergencies such as fires, becoming a cultural fixture of rural areas for many decades.
The rapid growth of telephone service demand, especially after World War II, resulted in a large fraction of party line installations in the middle of the 20th century in the United States.