Do You Still Need A Landline?

Category: Telephony

Between mobile phone service and free VoIP options such as Skype, does anyone really need to keep paying for a traditional landline? Many families have decided they don’t. But before you cut that cord, there are some things you'll need to consider...

Is a Phone Company Landline Still Necessary?

As you look for ways to trim your household budget, your gaze may fall on that dusty landline telephone languishing in the corner of the kitchen. The bill continues to arrive each month, even though it's rarely used. Mobile phones are ubiquitous, and free internet calling options abound. (See my article about Free Internet Phone Calls.) So do you really need to keep that old-school landline active?

Overall, about a quarter of Americans have ditched landlines. Landline-only households fell from 34 per cent to 13 per cent between 2005 and 2010. About 29 per cent of children live in homes without landline service. About 40 per cent of poverty-level households rely on wireless phones alone. Nearly 18 per cent of households receive nearly all of their calls on wireless phones despite having landlines. Still, there are some good reasons to maintain a home landline.
Cancel Your Landline?

RELIABILITY: Landlines provide redundant protection against service interruptions. They don’t depend on household power or batteries (except for cordless phones). Internet service and cellular towers may be knocked out by natural disasters or power failures, while landlines are more likely to continue functioning.

Given the popularity of mobile phones and carriers’ reluctance to invest in adequate infrastructure, it is not surprising to see network overloads during natural disasters or power outages. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, cellular phone service was knocked out for several days along the eastern U.S. coast. The well established landline network’s capacity is not as strained during emergencies, and is more resilient to damage, as much of the copper wire infrastructure is underground.

EMERGENCY SERVICES: When you call 911, a landline automatically provides your physical address directly to dispatchers, speeding the arrival of police, fire, or medical assistance. Commercial VoIP (internet phone) services such as Vonage may have emergency service, but it may not be available in some areas. If you use a free VoIP service such as Skype or Google Voice, forget about E-911.

Cellular services may not precisely pinpoint a caller’s location; they may be off by a dozen blocks. Emergency dispatchers then have to get location data from panicked, error-prone callers; in certain cases, callers are not even capable of speaking.

Want to learn about free phone calls? See my ebook How To Make Free Phone Calls on Amazon.

WARNING, DANGER! Another consideration is alarm and monitoring systems. If you have a system that automatically calls police, fire or other emergency services, it probably relies on landline service. Some systems can work with VoIP phone service, but that assumes you've got power and a working Internet connection.

It’s best to think of a landline as optional insurance. Evaluate the risks in your own household. Do power outages happen often? Do you get “network busy” errors or dropped wireless calls frequently? What is your VoIP provider’s emergency service provision? What is your tolerance for risk? Having a nearby neighbor with a landline may be a mitigating factor. And of course, if you keep a landline, you should also have a corded phone that doesn’t require an electrical outlet or battery.

Weigh these factors against the cost of a landline carefully. And remember that mobile phone service is not necessarily cheaper, especially if you have multiple phones in the household. (See my related article Five Cheap Mobile Phone Plans, if you want to explore low-cost options.)

Have you cut the landline cord? Was there a downside? And did it save you money? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Posted by on 28 Feb 2013


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Most recent comments on "Do You Still Need A Landline?"

(See all 51 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Dan
28 Feb 2013

I cut the cord over 4 years ago and have never regretted it. I have free caller ID and the GPS locators in phones are getting better all the time. The phone I had before I cut the cord was from the cable company and it was useless in a power-shortage of over 45 minutes. I have no need of one touch systems as I always have my cell with me and it works where ever I am. I agree that it is not for everybody, some of the households with hard of hearing person's just can't get the cell to work for them. The once or twice I have wanted to use a land line over the last 4 years and that doesn't equal $60 per month. For me and my household it is cell only and I am 62 years old and retired.


Posted by:

ManoaHi
28 Feb 2013

I ditched (well not exactly, I moved didn't bother to get a new landline, canceled when I left the last place) the landline about a decade ago. Where I live, there are few towers to blow down, most of the antennas are on buildings. During natural disasters, so far, in the last decade, our cell phones have never failed us.

The security system that we purchased uses a cell phone, and doesn't use that as a backup. The cell phone charge is included in the service. As far as landlines, unless you have multiple phones, if you are injured, the landline phone could be out of reach. Each of the children have their own cell phones.


Posted by:

Walter
28 Feb 2013

Our ISP did something a little odd. They were afraid of being absorbed or sidestepped by cable and phone companies. So they became a phone company. We now have Sonic Fusion service which is high speed DSL over a phone line provided by Sonic. Dial 0 and a Sonic operator answers. They have given us unlimited nationwide calling and cheap international. The whole thing costs about $50 a month after the federal taxes and is real copper.


Posted by:

Kimmie
28 Feb 2013

Yes, I still prefer a landline phone; you don't have to worry about dropped service calls or static noises while talking with someone like a cell phone. BIG DIFFERENCE!


Posted by:

Lynn Eldredge
28 Feb 2013

I would never be without my landline. I simply cut out all those extra charges that I paid - for too many years -and now have a landline bill of $16 a month. Cells will be zapped one of these days via satellite interference.


Posted by:

Marilyn
28 Feb 2013

My daughter's building has front door security that gives access by a landline phone. Altho she uses her cellphone exclusively, she cannot give up her landline without losing the ability to give access to visitors and deliveries at the door.


Posted by:

JamesinVictoria
28 Feb 2013

We cut the cord over 5 years ago. Even with just the bare bones Telus service, the land line was costing $40 a month, and never used. In fact, it was forwarded to my cel phone for a couple of years before the plug was pulled. My cel phone bill is around $400 a month (5 iPhones with data service) so anything that could be saved helped. This cel phone cost would not change with a land line back. We have backup generators for emergency power (still waiting for 1st time needed and hope to be waiting much longer!) When power has gone out, it has only been for a very short time, and cel service was not interrupted. Here in Greater Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) 911 operators know who you are and where you are, even with cel phones. They do confim your location and there never has been an issue.

BUT there is a downside. No fax machine service available. Perhaps there is an internet work around for this issue. I will have to google it to see.


Posted by:

Bob S
28 Feb 2013

Just for the reasons you mentioned regarding reliability I would never cut off the land line. I am in NJ and the only form of communication that was certain was my land line. The cell phones were totally useless. The fact that towers were affected was one thing but the simple fact that without power there was no way to even charge the cell phone. I was in my car charging the cell phone quite a bit. Also, the pay phone outside of my apartment had a consistent line of at least 20 people for a solid week. The phone companies should rethink their policy of eliminating land lines all together as they are already going to the "cheaper maintenance" fiber optic lines which STILL NEED POWER to operate as do the cell phones.


Posted by:

KRS
28 Feb 2013

When the NYC power went out in 2003, my Verizon cell network went down, though my wife's AT&T cell network stayed up. I couldn't make a cell call and relied on street phone booths to stay in touch, so she could meet me when I walked 5 miles from Rockefeller Center down and over the Brooklyn Bridge. The street phone booths are all gone now. I'll always keep a land line, even at $35 a month. That I can easily afford, and the peace of mind is invaluable.


Posted by:

Lucy
28 Feb 2013

@JamesinVictoria

No need for google, just search right here on Ask Bob for "free internet faxing" and you'll link to his fine article.


Posted by:

KatieA
01 Mar 2013

We live in an area that is still quite rural. We get some intense storms here where we have lost our power, but our land line phone has still been available. Our land line service has always been really dependable. We don't intend to give it up.


Posted by:

Phil
01 Mar 2013

Great article. Everyone has to evaluate and act on their own well thought out needs, expectations and concerns with land line alternatives.

I bought a MagicJack Plus and installed it. We evaluated it for about two months before deciding to pull the plug on the Verizon land line. I then had our number ported to the MJP and installed it in a power slot on my UPS. This will give me 20 minutes to act if needed during a power disruption event. I also connected the MJP to our original land line wiring. I have a wired phone, wireless console with three wireless remotes and a printer/fax machine hooked to the household wiring. You would never know that we don't have a traditional land line.

I thought hard about the reliability factor then decided that our two cell phones would suffice in an emergency. We could recharge them in our car if need be.

In our area all land lines are above ground. In the case of a weather or other natural disaster occurring it's highly unlikely that the land line system would survive intact.

Anyway.... Dropping the land line saved us $540/yr and the MJP is costing us $50/yr saving us $490/yr.

We're pleased and we're not looking back.


Posted by:

Ben
01 Mar 2013

You need one here- everything is either cable or satellite, and in the Plains storms-aplenty we get here, the power and cell towers go down, and if you have Cable phone /Internet/TV, you lose it all. I keep my ATT basic landline so I can at least call out for help.


Posted by:

Lee McIntyre
01 Mar 2013

I cancelled both my home line and my home-office line with AT&T nine months ago to switch to a high-end VOIP service with lots of bells and whistles. It doesn't work with analog phones, however, so I had to buy a $200+ Polycom phone. Plus I had to get a radio transmitter for my security system. My wife wants a phone by her bed, so I had to buy an expensive VOIP-to-Analog adapter, plus a cordless phone set to sit next to my modem and router.

But poor quality VOIP service, plus bells and whistles that frequently fail, have led me to cancel that. I was going to go with phone service from my cable company for both lines, but reading this article and comments, I've decided to get a bare-bones "lifeline" service from AT&T for the home line (which we rarely use, thanks to cell phones). This will be used for the security system and during power outages.

A cable phone, with bells and whistles, should work for the business phone.

Thanks for helping me clarify my decision about keeping a land line.


Posted by:

Jean
01 Mar 2013

I have both a landline and a cell phone, but only use the cell phone for emergencies and when I'm on the road. One of my frustrations about cell phones is how to look up a phone number. Cell phone numbers are not listed with information, phone books or Anywho.


Posted by:

T Nash
01 Mar 2013

We cut the cord!

My husband is a Fireman. We were very concerned about being able to reach Emergency Services especially since we are distanced from them. He was fairly certain that dialing Emergency Services would still work on a phone that had disconnected service but was still plugged in. We tested it, and yes, we can still reach emergency services on our old landline phones. Since they are for emergencies only we have them labeled and I have even entertained the idea of getting red phones just for fun.

We have found MagicJack to be helpful to reach our teens at home in situations when they have let their cells run down or can't hear them. It is nice to have a phones that will ring in the entire house.


Posted by:

Beverly
01 Mar 2013

I use my cell phone for personal calls only, I will not give out my cell phone to companies, for the main reason, they will call just to leave garbage on my phone, I have to pay for them to try and sell me something, I don't think so, that phone is for my convenience not theirs.


Posted by:

Dave
01 Mar 2013

During Hurrican Sandy, we were without power for nearly 2 weeks. We are connected by Verizon FIOS as a landline. At first, the battery power kicks in, and you think you are OK. Then after a few hours, the battery runs out of power, and you are helpless. In case of emergency, there is a button, on the backup battery, that will give you about 1 hour of EMERGENCY power. After that you are dead. Thanks to a power inverter, and our cell phone, we could still have some communication with the outside world. Since that occurrance,I dropped FIOS as my landline provider, and went with cell phones.
BTW:I understand cable phones have the same limitation, although I'm not 100% sure.


Posted by:

Al. S
04 Mar 2013

I spent 18 years as a EMD in the Fire Department taking Ems and Fire Calls as well as dispatching all three. Even when we went to computers and the phone numberand address of course would not show.
Calls to 911 went to the Police Call Center and werte routed to us if FD related.

The Police dispatcher may have gotten the address and phone number, but were not allowed to give it to us. They first had to call a Supervisor who then had to call our supervisor and contact the Carrier, which coud take minutes to hoursb= because te carrier needed a Supervisor also. BS about privacy. Cell Phone and land line calls show now, but MJack and other calls made through a computer do not in many cases. Many of those numbers use a national AC and number.


Posted by:

Mark
22 Mar 2013

I am late in responding to this; a lot of my time is spend in reading all that Bob sends to me for free. I thank him for that.
One year ago I went with an alternative service for $30.00 a year. It worked so well that I dumped the land line.
The "line item" costs for my land line make me sick. What is a "universal line fee"? Yes, even their billing supervisor did not know. The line items totaled a lot of money times 12. All were some form of a taxation. I am feeding the monster more than my fair share already, and any way I can stop doing that I will.


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