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Should You Drop Your Landline? The Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Phillip Dampier May 13, 2010 Consumer News, Video 9 Comments

One out of every four American families has now cut the cord on their landline phone service.

With cellular bills increasing, many people are deciding the traditional phone line that has been them for decades is no longer worth the expense, especially if you spend most of your time reaching for your cell phone to make or receive calls.

But is dropping landline service such a great idea?

Here are some things to consider:

PRO

  • Reduced expense for the family budget
  • If you don’t use it much, why pay for it?
  • Many cable companies offer less expensive “digital phone” products that can be bundled with your cable and broadband service
  • Skype, Google Voice, and Voice Over IP services can often knock phone service costs down to just a few dollars a month
  • Portability

CON

  • 911 emergency services have a harder time identifying your location
  • Call sound quality is usually lower than traditional landlines
  • Your telephone directory listing will become unavailable unless you make special provisions to keep it
  • The costs for cell phone service are often higher than basic landline service
  • Monitored alarms and certain other services require either a landline or added-cost wireless technology
  • During periods of unrest or bad weather, call volumes can increase exponentially causing disruptions to cell phone service

Telephone companies are increasingly desperate to hold on to their customers, and many remind departing customers the chance to retain their landline service at dramatically lower pricing.  Many companies offer budget, non-flat rate calling plans for less than $10 a month, but you’ll pay between 8-11 cents for every local call.  Others offer calling allowances of 250 or fewer local calls per month.  A few larger cities have calling plans that charge by the minute.

If you are considering dropping your landline, be sure to consider all of the options and alternatives before disconnecting service.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WCPO Cincinnati Pros cons of dropping your landline phone 5-12-10.flv

WCPO-TV in Cincinnati provides additional insight into landline disconnections and your alternatives.  (2 minutes)

Currently there are 9 comments on this Article:

  1. PreventCAPS says:

    I have been landlineless for years now and have not had an issue. My biggest concearn was being able to reach 911, and the one time I needed to, I had no problems. If I am able to whip out my cell, dial 911, I can also clarify my location.

  2. Andrew Madigan says:

    When I moved out and got my own place, I decided not to get landline service. Sure, I may be running a small risk with 911, but that’s just about the only realistic disadvantage. I’m not going to call friends or family with a landline since then they would call back to the landline, when it’s always more likely that they can reach me by cell.

    Frontier is the local phone monopoly, they don’t publish the price of their most basic plan. They have other plans for $25 (local + 100 mins long distance), $30 (unlimited in-state) and $40 (unlimited). I don’t make enough calls to even exceed Verizon’s lowest plan, with $40/month, the same price I would pay Frontier to make sure I didn’t start paying by-the-minute when my aunt calls from St. Louis (during the cell’s night/weekend period).

    For the younger generation, it’s not a question of landline OR cell. The cell is required, the landline is optional. Not having a publicly listed phone number helps cut down on telemarketing calls (so does have a cell number in general).

    “Digital phone” from cable companies isn’t really comparable, since it fails if the power goes out, which isn’t always true in the case of cell phones (towers often have battery backup, and your cell battery won’t die immediately).

    The fact that Frontier doesn’t publish the price of their lowest service is important too, if I’m forced to call a company for pricing then I’d prefer to do business with someone who isn’t ashamed to publish their prices.

  3. James R Curry says:

    “Many cable companies offer less expensive “digital phone” products that can be bundled with your cable and broadband service”. This seems like a non-argument, as most consumers would consider these to be land line services, even if the underlying technology is different.

    I switched to Vonage years ago, but I still call it my “land line”. Would I ditch it entirely? If it weren’t for that UK telephone number and free calling to Europe which keep me in contact with my friends and family back home then yes, in a heartbeat.

  4. BrionS says:

    I have to say I’m a little surprised by this article. It almost sounds like Phillip is advocating in favor of Frontier land line service and only a cursory glance is given to VoIP providers besides your local cable co. (TWC here).

    This is anecdotal but I think it’s a fairly accurate picture of many cities.

    Frontier, the local telephone carrier, on their basic advertised plan charges somewhere around $20/mo for the plan with no calling features and no long distance. Then you get the bill and it’s closer to $30 or $40 after adding in all the surcharges and fees. I also do not recall ever having a very responsive customer service call with them. One time my phone went out and I called in only to find that they had cancelled my account 6 months earlier and just got around to shutting off the line. I did not request my account be cancelled and I asked them to reconnect it. At that point I got a cell phone for the interim period which turned out to be a month. That is, it took them 1 month from shutting off my only phone line to turning it back on.

    Eventually I was paying for cable, cable internet, telephone, and cell phone. Cable and telephone went away and cell phone and internet remained. However, like James I did like having the comfort of a “land line” at home especially since I get poor reception in my house on my cell. I started with Vonage and went through a few other VoIP providers and now I’m very VERY happy with the one I’m using. Here’s brief (incomplete) list of features I get with VoIP that I never got included with my telephone company:

    – voicemail (with email and/or SMS notification)
    – call logs
    – web access to all voice features and controls
    – anonymous call routing/blocking
    – do not disturb (phone won’t ring during specified times)
    – caller id
    – call routing (incoming and outgoing – send to another number / voicemail)
    – call recording
    – custom ringers
    – simultaneous ring (incoming call rings multiple different phone numbers)
    – call forward
    – call waiting
    – 3-way calling
    – free 411 directory service
    – free in-network calling
    – free local and long distance in US & Canada
    – automated wake-up-call
    – E911 support
    – soft phone access (call using a computer)
    – second phone line included
    network unavailable forward (when your power’s out or TWC’s internet is down, route all calls to another number)

    All of this for the high price of about $15/month or $200/year though there are deals all the time that bring it down to $8/month. Frontier and Time Warner cannot compete.

    With E911 you don’t have to be able to speak for them to know your location at home (though you do need to provide your address where the phone resides when you sign up). With network unavailable forward you don’t have to worry about missing calls when your power’s out or the network is down because calls are automatically re-routed to another phone (cell phone or voicemail you can check at another location with internet access).

    And really, is a wire connected to your house any safer in terms of 911 than a mobile phone? What if a branch falls and rips out your telephone / cable? What if a telephone pole falls down between you and the CO? What if your telephone operator’s switch goes on the fritz?

    The 911 argument is weak at best and the price of competitive VoIP services leaves little reason to ever pay for traditional phone service ever again. The only downside right now is that you have to have cable internet (getting DSL defeats the point because you’re required to have a phone line) and in most places there’s only one internet provider who’s got you over a barrel in terms of pricing and speed.

    Lastly as pertains to call quality, depending on VoIP provider I’ve found quality to be very subjective. However my experience is that VoIP is superior in quality to both POTS service and cell service with the only exception being when I download/upload large amounts of data while trying to talk on the phone (though that is mitigated somewhat by adjusting Quality of Service – QoS – settings on the router in favor of VoIP data).

  5. Ron Dafoe says:

    What service are you using right now? I am using Vonage and it is about $35 a month with those features with 1 phone line.

  6. Larry says:

    We had our house alarm monitored via a digital phone line from TWC for two years. So, the monitoring will work with them, but your mileage may vary. When I cut my digital telephone service, we called the monitoring company to see what alternatives we could use. They specifically said Vontage would not work. I did some research and found that it was very hit or miss with Vontage and alarm monitoring. The compression used to decrease the bandwidth usage kills the alarm’s message signals. There is an option that Vontage can set on your account to decrease the amount of compression, but that increases bandwidth usage and didn’t always do the trick. I asked about the wireless cell backup, and they quoted me $350 to install and $12/month more for monitoring. I then asked about our early termination fee, which was $450. I told them that we weren’t going to pay for the cell backup, and due to other financial burdens the current month, I would be calling back the next month to cancel.

    Come the next month, I called to cancel and was given the $350 install, $12/month monitoring with the cell back-up option again. When I declined and restated that I wanted cancel, they dropped the price to $200 install and $6/month monitoring. Again, I declined and was then offered $100 installed and $3/month monitoring. My reply was “if I keep declining, what is the cell back-up going to get down to? Nothing to install and $0/month monitoring?” They replied without hesitation that they could waive the monthly monitoring costs, and then, after a moment of silence from me, dropped the install price to $50.

    The cell back-up has actually worked better than the digital phone line, since the alarm doesn’t complain when there’s a TWC outage or “planned upgrade” at 3 a.m.

    On another note, Alarm companies need to wake up and make their product compatible with the Internet. There is no reason one shouldn’t be able to plug the alarm into their home network, and have it communicate with the monitoring service over encrypted Internet connections. The home phone is dying, landlines and digital lines as well. Younger generations find their cell phones indispensable, and are seeing home phones as an unnecessary relic of the past. Having your business so tied to a dying market means you’re going to go down with it.

  7. Earl Cooley III says:

    I went pure mobile many year ago, but I see no compelling reason to drop my mobile service in favor of cable bundle digital phone. Why make all of my information services (television, internet, phone) vulnerable to being cut by a rogue backhoe? I can’t afford both mobile and digital cable phone service at the same time, either.

  8. Ian L says:

    Nobody I know at college has a landline. It’s cells only for everyone. If a long call needs to be made it’s in-network or during nights and weekends…or you have an unlimited plan or one with enough minutes to cover.

    Back home, landlines are more prevalent, though there are plenty of folks who have gone cell-only. Parents still have their zero-feature unlimited-local landline though ($20 per month including all taxes and fees), plus a cheap long distance provider (roughly 3 cents per minute direct-dial). I’m the only one in the family with a postpaid cell, so everyone else’s cellular bill is directly proportional to the number of minutes they use in a given month. As such, the landline gets used when family members are at home (except me…I’ll use my cell).

    One other thing: Verizon DSL rides over the phone line. Dry-line DSL would have doubled the price of the service (got six months “free”…actually about $5 including taxes, then $30 per month thereafter) and parents were keeping the landline anyway.

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