Do You Still Have a Landline?
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Nov 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Do You Still Have a Landline? (Posted: 12 Nov 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved