Do You Still Have a Landline?

Category: Telephony

If you still have landline phone service, you are in a rapidly shrinking minority. Only 27 percent of U.S. households were still using landlines at the end of 2013, according to data from the FCC. By the end of 2015, households relying exclusively or primarily on landlines will shrink to just 11 percent of total households. Many of those homes are switching to VoIP service. Here's what you need to know...

Best VoIP Services 2015

Most of the cord-cutters -- especially millenials -- are relying upon cellular phone service, but 30 percent of all telephone-using households use “non-traditional services such as VoIP,” says USTelecom. I guess other “non-traditional services” might include smoke signals or the beloved cans-and-string telephone. (Incidentally, the Smithsonian Institute has a gourd and twine telephone invented by an unknown Peruvian hacker 1,200 to 1,400 years ago.)

Let's back up a step and define the term. VoIP stands for "Voice over Internet Protocol" and in simpler terms, it means that your voice calls travel over the Internet instead of a traditional telephone wire. You might have VoIP and not even know it. If your cable or telephone provider offers a "double-play" or "triple-play" bundle that includes Internet and/or TV with phone service, you've got VoIP.

Clearly, the VoIP market is huge, and that has attracted many competitors for consumers’ dollars. If you're not already getting VoIP phone service from Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner or your local utility monopoly, here is the rundown on some of the major independent players.
Cancel Your Landline?

VoIP pioneer Vonage has about 2.1 million residential customers. But the company has been losing residential customers steadily for years. Complaints range from high cost ($25.99/month base price) to dropped calls and customer service that would make Comcast proud in comparison. In June, 2015, Vonage lured Alan Masarek away from Google to be Vonage’s new CEO. His priority is the small business market; Indeed, Vonage Business is currently priced a dollar less than residential service. I can’t recommend Vonage any more.

ITP VoIP offers a Basic plan for just $9.99/month, but its features are limited. True, you get a free ITP adapter/router, and your first month of service is free. You get unlimited incoming calls from anywhere in the world. But the Basic package includes only 500 minutes of outbound calling to the U. S. and Canada. The Premium plan, with unlimited outbound calling to the U. S. and Canada, costs $19.95/month; other features are the same as the Basic plan, and they are numerous.

PhonePower offers unlimited US/Canada calling for $19.95/month on a no-contract basis; by prepaying for a year the price drops to $8.32/month. The company’s VoIP adapter is provided free of charge and works with or without a router. The list of included features is similar to ITP’s or Vonage’s. A noteworthy extra is a free cloned line; it uses the same phone number as the primary line. A cloned line is useful to make or receive calls while someone else in the household is using the primary line.

VoIP on a Budget

VoIPo offers two years of service for $149 - that’s $6.21/month, and includes unlimited US/Canada calling plus 60 minutes/month of internatioanl calling. Two years is a big commitment, so VoIPo offers a 30-day moneyback guarantee. A free adapter is also included.

If you’re prepared to drop some cash up front to save money, consider the Telo VoIP device from Ooma. After purchasing the Telo device ($130 list price; or refurbished by Ooma, $80) you pay nothing for unlimited calling within the U. S. except the inescapable taxes and government fees (under $5 a month). The Premier service plan ($9.99/month) adds a package of features similar to the others mentioned above, including unlimited calling to Canada. Ooma also sells wireless add-ons for extensions and so forth.

Today, VoIP service can cost less than a Big Mac per month, if all you want is basic domestic phone service. Why continue paying $60+ per month for a landline?

The Downside of Ditching the Landline

Reliability is the main reason. Landlines carry their own power, and usually can still be used during electrical power outages. So can cell phones, while their batteries last. But when electrical power goes down, so does Internet service and VoIP service. If you switch to VoIP, keep a cell phone fully charged and handy.

Emergency service is another concern. A landline is mapped to a specific street address, and that address is automatically passed to 911 dispatchers. But Internet devices have IP addresses which are of no use to emergency responders. VoIP providers are required to offer so-called “enhanced 911” services. Basically, that means you provide a street address to the VoIP provider when you sign up. When you call 911 using your VoIP service, that address is given to emergency responders. Woe betide you if you move and forget to update your e911 address.

Only 14% of U. S. adults over the age of 65 have abandoned landlines for cellular, VoIP, or a combination of both. It’s not just a matter of technophobia; older people need reliable, transparent 911 service more than youngsters. But some elders may need to save money even more. For those folks, a combination of budget VoIP and a no-frills mobile phone plan might be ideal. (See my related article No Frills Phones and Service Plans for help with that.)

Have you moved from Landline to VoIP? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Do You Still Have a Landline?"

(See all 83 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Digital Arteeste
13 Nov 2015

I have a runner, you know, a little guy wearing a loincloth, and bare feet, who takes messages and runs to the recipient with them. He just ran up to the library to post this on the internet thing that they have there now...

Posted by:

13 Nov 2015

Verizon has been trying to get us to switch to FiOS from copper for several years. I have one VoIP line (through our ISP) and it's mostly OK, but want a copper line for--you guessed it--reliability and backup.

Funniest part is, Verizon keeps calling and "offering" an "upgrade" to FiOS. I usually let them ramble on until they say "more reliable", at which point I ask them whether they're lying, or are threatening to deliberately degrade my to-date 100% reliable copper service. So far none of them have had any response.

And yes, I do realize that, thanks to spineless politicians (or perhaps they're just ignorant of the historical agreement the ILECs made *and benefited tremendously from* but are now determined to break), Verizon is likely to manage to force me off copper at some point. At that juncture, I doubt I'll go with FiOS, however, on principle. I'd rather depend on cellular (not from VzW, thank you very much!).

Oh, and for those who are considering FiOS: ask them about that battery-powered box in the basement, and who's responsible for replacing that battery when it fails. Guess who...and no, it isn't Verizon. This is true of pretty well all VoIP connections, but Verizon seems to try not to admit it.

Oh for the days of Ma Bell!

Posted by:

13 Nov 2015

I lived in tornado alley for years, and now live near a fault line. Landlines are harder to take down and come back up faster than cell phones. I use corded phones so I don't have to worry about charging a handset.

I have a cell and use it quite a bit, even at home. I'm currently researching solar chargers (any suggestions?). If I have to get rid of my landline at some point, I'll go with the cell and skip VoIP.

Posted by:

13 Nov 2015

in Italy, where I live, I still use landline (copper wire).
Tried a line with Vodafone (wich provided a flat rate using cell phone repeaters), but didn't allow me to send faxes using my fax machine, so I reverted to classic copper line, where I added DSL for the internet and I am fine (except for bills).
For those who might be slightly interested, landline (free calls to all Italian landline and cell phone numbers)+ADSL connection in Italy are offered from about 40 euros/month

Posted by:

13 Nov 2015

We were paying nearly $50/month for our landline and using it an average of 12 minutes/month for local calls only. I liked the idea of the 911 security, but the price was way too high.
So we bought the Ooma box and use their basic service, paying only the tax of about $5/month. I haven't gotten a UPS yet, but we do have battery backups for the cell phones to use if there's a power outage.
The call quality on Ooma seems good.

Posted by:

steve lloyd
13 Nov 2015

As a UK customer, i have Vonage. And i pay £15 a month. But for that i get unlimited calls to landlines and mobiles. The service seems to be good, so maybe Vonage is getting it's act together?

Posted by:

Walt Higginbotham
13 Nov 2015

I switched to Magicjack several years ago. Never had a problem with it. Your existing phone number can be retained. Voice quality is as good as a land line and the service is far cheaper than other options. 911 is available as well. Just be sure to sign up for it. Also, be sure to add your number to the federal "do not call" list to stop the telemarketing calls. I did and never receive solicitations on the phone. I am 67 years of age and utilize technology whenever and wherever possible to save money and/or enhance my lifestyle.

Posted by:

13 Nov 2015

We use a landline primarily. Having been through ice storms, with power outages of up to a week, I have relied on the landline and it has not let me down. With no electricity, internet or cable, I could at least talk to friends and relatives, and it was reassuring to know that I could reach emergency services if I needed to. I make sure to have a phone that plugs directly into the jack, because the cordless phones will also be useless when the power is out.

Posted by:

14 Nov 2015

We switched to Vonage 7 years ago and lowered our home phone bill by 30%. Two years ago, I realized we were making very few outgoing calls. I changed to Vonage's 400 minute-a-month plan (now $12.95). Service has been excellent and we're saving nearly $30/month over a copper land line. We use our cell phones extensively, but still haven't dropped our "land line." My battery backup keeps the internet and phone powered for 8 hours, more if I turn off my computer. I'm often tempted to move to another VOIP provider to save a few more dollars, but, if it ain't broke...

Posted by:

14 Nov 2015

i have had Magicjack from almost their beginning and am very happy. Voice quality is great. They email you with a .wav file of any voicemails left. They have other features including conference calls. My last subscription extension was 5 years for $79.95 so I am paid up through 2019. Faxes work also.

Posted by:

15 Nov 2015

I'm an old lady & I'm keeping my landline. Now that I am retired I keep a cell phone only to make emergency calls if I'm in my car & it breaks down. What I could use is some cheaper cell service--I'm looking into Consumer Cellular. And I'm keeping my stand-alone fax machine, too. I don't like the fax on my all-in-one printer.

Posted by:

16 Nov 2015

I live in the sticks, and cell service is lousy, so I will be keeping my landline.

Posted by:

16 Nov 2015

I've tried Vonage 3 years ago, and it was fine, except for faxes. I can't remember whether I couldn't send faxes or receive them, but it was a conflict between analog vs digital. Faxes are important to me, so I went back to landline. A year ago I tried MyFax. Kept my fax number, and received/sent faxes through my laptop. You need to scan your outgoing faxes, file them in Word, etc., and send the file to your destination. If you already have a file that you want to send, just upload it in your email, and send it, via, the fax number you send the file to. Plus, you have a record of faxes sent and received, a nice perk.

Posted by:

16 Nov 2015

I have NetTalk. Have for about 5 years. Costs about $35 a year. Has all the features etc. Occasionally there is a lag time in conversations. You just need to be careful and not talk over your recipient. I usually remind them that I am using a VOIP phone and that there is delay in transmission. They usually understand.

Posted by:

16 Nov 2015

My internet service is a Comcast monopoly, so forget reliaility. Around 5pm most days, cell signal quality is extremely poor, especially cell-to-cell (A QOS if 1 or 2). So if I want to have any assurance of making a phone call, a landline is the way to go. Oh, and the reliability and voice quality are terrific. Switching only trades a few dollars a month for poor quality and/or poor reliability. If Comcast ran FIOS to the premises here, I might switch.

Posted by:

19 Nov 2015

I use net 10 home phone service It costs 20.08 monthly, it is a volp type service however it works using cell phone connectivity thru a device you purchase around $40 which includes first month service. It has built in battery backup and allows using your existing home phones. The battery backup allows service during power outage. It includes all the features of a landline and it has worked flawlessly for over 2 years. The only feature you cant get is fax because it is a cellular based service. My wife and I prefer a land line type service and after lots of research this has proven to offer what we wanted. We are retired and don't care for regular cell phones which are expensive when you need 2 of them. We keep a pay as you go for emergency when out in the car the 2 phones cost less then my old land line.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2015

I'm part of the 14% ("oldsters")still using a digital land line phone. I do have a smartphone and use it a lot but when the power goes out and the battery dies I pull out the old dial-up clunker and plug it in. Some of the old ways do stand up to the test of time. :)

Fun to read all the different responses.

Posted by:

26 Nov 2015

Fewer choices in Canada. Rogers cable offers VOIP but price is too high. I dropped landline with Bell Canada after more than 40 years and they made no effort to keep me as a "valued" customer! Bell bill was almost $50 per month.
Bought Ooma. $14 per month Canada wide and USA calls are included. Voice mail too! Fax is tricky and requires some testing but once set properly works fine. No regrets on this choice!

Posted by:

09 Dec 2015

In suburban Philadelphia, a summer storm knocked out power to my area for 3.5 days. We had FIOS at the time and yes, that battery back-up lasts 18 hours max. Verizon refused to add a second battery. We switched to an alternate provider and ran DSL over Verizon's installed copper.
Now I live several miles away, in a borough, still running DSL over Verizon copper. The house came with FIOS equipment installed, and if we hadn't already had a provider Verizon would have forced us onto FIOS. I am required to have a landline as a freelance medical interpreter. Hurray for alternatives!

Posted by:

17 Dec 2015

My home security system, while not new, is landline based, and directly connected to the Police department, 3 blocks away. Between it, and the German Shepherds on patrol in this home, I doubt any burglar would get away with much :)

As an senior-aged woman, living alone, I will continue to pay for this sense of security as long as I can continue to pay for it.

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