Landlines Will Be Obsolete in 3, 2, 1...

Category: Telephony

Millions of people are cutting the cords of landline phone service and switching to cellular or VoIP (Internet calling) services. If you’re one of the holdouts, you may be forced to give up you copper-based phone line in the next few years. Here is why landlines are doomed, and a look at four alternatives you may be forced to consider...

Landline Alternatives May Soon Be The Only Alternatives

Fifty-two percent of U.S. adults lived in households served only by cell phones as of June, 2017. The chart below from the National Center for Health Statistics shows how the wireless-only trend has accelerated since 2007. Among adults 25-34 years old, almost 75% were living in wireless-only households. But that’s only part of the story. I can’t even estimate the number of cable customers who have given up their traditional landlines in favor of VoIP (Internet calling) service.

Many have done so without even realizing it. If you’re using phone service that’s bundled with cable TV and Internet service, you’re using VoiP even if it’s delivered via a hardwired cable modem. Many cable customers take the “triple play” only because it’s the cheapest option, and continue to use their traditional landlines. In the near future, we may not have that ability. Certainly, there must be many households that have both cellular and VoIP service; but the point is that both have made serious dents in landline subscriber numbers, and the trend lines are clearly pointing upwards.

AT&T, Verizon, and other telephone companies want to ditch the POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) and move everyone to either cellular or VoIP services. The copper wire network that first came into widespread use in the late 19th century is ancient and deteriorating. Telcos don’t want to spend money maintaining a network that customers are abandoning in ever-increasing numbers. So the telcos are trying to end landline service.

Landline telephone network obsolete?

The FCC and the States are inclined to go along. Last year, twenty state legislatures in the USA voted to give AT&T permission to end landline service, and focus more on improving wireless and internet-based phone networks. If these measures receive final approval, AT&T will be able to terminate landline service for customers in those states, with just 60 days notice.

So the writing is on the wall; traditional landlines will be unavailable in many parts of the USA within a few years. Fortunately, there are plenty of landline alternatives.

Some Landline Alternatives to Consider

If you're looking for mobile phone service, I wrote about Consumer Cellular in my October 2017 article, Can You Fall in Love With a Phone Company? Consumer Cellular has built their business by offering low rates, with a no-contract business model, and is especially popular with seniors. See also my reviews of other low-cost and innovative cellular service providers: Ting, Republic Wireless, Net10 and Tracfone.

wireless only households Vonage: a pioneer of residential VoIP, Vonage provides a “Vonage adapter” - actually, a router optimized for VoIP - that plugs into your broadband modem. Then you plug a traditional phone (or cordless phone base station) into the Vonage adapter. The Vonage adapter requires its own power supply from an AC outlet. Right now, the adapter is free and service is $9.99/month for the first 12 months; if you keep Vonage longer, the price is $24.99 per month.

Ooma Telo: provides an adapter, like Vonage, into which any regular phone can be plugged. Ooma’s pricing model is virtually the opposite of Vonage’s. The Ooma adapter costs $99.99 while the basic service is free. So after the initial investment, you pay almost nothing on a monthly basis. (You’ll still pay about $3.50 per month in taxes and fees to the government.) Ooma even encrypts your calls while their data travels over the Internet. Various hardware accessories and a Premier plan can boost your upfront and monthly cost.

Magic Jack Go: is an unassuming little dongle about the size of two USB drives side by side. One end sports a USB connector; the other has jacks for Ethernet and telephone cables (RJ-45 and RJ-11, respectively). You can use a supplied Ethernet cable to connect the Magic Jack directly to a cable or DSL modem, or plug the USB connector into an available port on an Internet-connected PC. If you buy one magicJackGO for $35, you get second one for $9.99 (plus taxes & fees). It comes with one free year of home phone service. After that, you pay just $39 per year, or $89 for three years.

Skype is one of the oldest and most popular providers of free VoIP phone calls. You need to set up a Skype account, then download and install the Skype VoIP software, which is also free. You also need a microphone into which you can speak and speakers through which you can hear, or a headset that plugs into your computer. Then you can call another Skype user without paying anything. You can't call landlines or cell phones using the free Skype, and you won't have a phone number that can be called from "real" phone. But you can add this capability to a Skype account for as little as $4.95 per month.

Another free service called Google Voice offers internet calling as well. With a Google Voice account, you get a free phone number, free voicemail, even automatic transcription of voicemail messages to text. Your free Google Voice phone number can ring on your computer, or you can forward it to another mobile or landline phone. Phone calls via Google Voice are totally free for calls to any kind of phone in the U.S. or Canada. Other international calls can be made for modest fees.

With each of these options, your existing home phone number can be transferred (or "ported") to the new service, so people can continue to reach you on the same number.

What About Emergencies?

Some security systems still rely on landlines to contact emergency services. But modern ones use cellular connectivity. And even if you have VoIP phone service, you can still make 911 calls. When you register with Vonage or another VoIP provider, you must register your residential address with the company, which is used when a 911 call is made.

Power issues are another concern. When the electricity fails, landlines typically continue to operate, as long as the lines (and your home) are not damaged by a storm. Most residential VoIP providers offer some sort of battery backup, but it's limited to about 8 hours. In a severe or extended emergency where both landline and VoIP are unavailable, a cell phone that you can charge in your car is a must, and may be your only option.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Landlines Will Be Obsolete in 3, 2, 1..."

(See all 57 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Jim
17 Dec 2018

Bob-very few cell towers have backup power and would go down with the power grid. Forget crowded networks consider no network!


Posted by:

Marge Teilhaber
17 Dec 2018

I held on to my Verizon POTS until I was forced by Verizon to give it up. I loved knowing that when the power is out that I still have a land line. But I paid dearly for that. So I finally got the triple play (land line, internet, TV) with Spectrum blood-suckers and although I'm paying more for the package than everyone I know because Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) only gives deals to new customers and completely DGAS about 30-year customers, I'm saving money, about $50/month, and the service on the land line with Spectrum is not terrible. Not a good as the POTS line but that's fine with me due to the savings.


Posted by:

HowardL
18 Dec 2018

What empowers the telco to silence me? There is no cell phone service in my rural area, so I must rely on a landline. I use my landline to call the utility company on the 6 or so occasions a year power goes out in my area. During a power outage there is no computer service. Without a landline, I'd be without any form of communication with the outside world.


Posted by:

Chuck Johnson
18 Dec 2018

While we have cell phones and internet connectivity provided by our cable service, my wife needs and uses a hearing assisted phone (provided by the state) which only works on the POTS network. What will AT&T (or any other provider do to ameliorate this problem?


Posted by:

Karen
18 Dec 2018

Duane -- I use a landline and a Medtronic monitor. I was sent a Wire-X adapter directly from the company. It plugged into the monitor and allowed it to connect to the network without a home telephone. Since then, they have sent me a newer monitor model which eliminated lots of wires! It sends data from my defibrillator four times a year (or more, if needed)


Posted by:

Mark G.
18 Dec 2018

1. I'm surprised not to see Obi mentioned. I've had it for about 5 years and have been pleased overall.
2. With all of these, what about 911 service? The article touches on it but doesn't go into any depth, especially for each of the services. With Obi & Google Voice, I currently have a third party service (Callcentric) for 911, because GV doesn't have it. That could be a crucial point, and I' like to know how all the services deal with it.


Posted by:

Butch
18 Dec 2018

CaptionCall provides phones for the deaf and hard of hearing. It provides a display which is nice as my eyes "hear" just fine. Yes I have 2 hearing aids. Can you suggest an alternative for those of us who whom a cell phone is inadequate for our needs? (Turning up the volume on a borrowed cell phone partially works for me but not for the totally deaf.) Any suggestions for those of us in this situation?


Posted by:

Jeannie
18 Dec 2018

Like Don above, I'm using Straight Talk's Home Connect. It's basically a modem that connects with a cellular tower (in my case, Verizon) and converts the signal to one that is compatible with regular landline phones. I have the base station of my cordless home phones connected to it. It works great!


Posted by:

Charles
18 Dec 2018

I have had Vonage since 2004 and have been highly pleased with it. The quality has improved greatly in that time and it even works here in Thailand. There is an option to port it to my mobile which really helps me out. Now I have my 14 years running phone number, in a foreign country, anytime I have internet, for a great price. I have been with Ting for a few years now as well. It blew me away the first time I got a cell phone call, in Thailand! Sure, I have to pay a modest fee for each international call, but it's great since I don't need internet for that. Ting is dirt cheap anyway, so a minor fee for using it overseas is fine. I am not aware of any POTS here, but they get along just fine. One last point. Anyone in the US can call me either in Texas, or Tacoma where my area codes are and I get the call halfway across the world, without the caller paying a dime extra, unless they have POTS where there used to be a long distance fee. It's been so long since I had that, that I don't know if they still do that. The world is getting more connected and the US is only starting to catch up. I think that with many countries never having had the old system, they don't miss it. Once the infrastructure is built out, the US won't miss it either.


Posted by:

FrancesMC
18 Dec 2018

We have a landline and I use a hearing aid. I find that cellphones often aren't very easy for me to hear. Ditto with the portable phones (not cellphones). And the landline works when the power goes out and has good 911 connectivity which is important to us because my husband is not well and we have had many occasions to call 911. Also we get our internet service via the landline.


Posted by:

Jay R
18 Dec 2018

Once again we see that big business has absolutely nothing to do with its customers; it's only about the bottom line. How sad. Here's a Paul Thorn quote, "The Five & Dime, the corner drug store They used to shake your hand when you walked through the door. Red, white, and blue. It was our little town 'til the supercenter came and it shut 'em all down."

I connect to the internet thru a landline, an AT&T stand alone DSL. It's slow but it's not real cheap. I guess I'll be looking at some real expensive stuff here in the hear future.


Posted by:

Jim Horn
18 Dec 2018

Thanks for the article. Not very savvy in this new technology, I need all of the help I can get. The topic is still mud to sift through with several providers that seem to come up somewhat short of what landline offers.

My phone/TV/internet are bundled. If I drop the "landline" phone, how much will my bundle be lowered.

Can all of the benefits of the landline be ported to a smart phone negating the need for a landline?

I'm still confused.


Posted by:

Francesca
18 Dec 2018

Here in Australia, our copper cables have been swapped for fibre-optics. I still have my land-line as it now costs me nothing for calls, locally, around Australia and overseas. Whereas I would probably need a loan to use a mobile phone for all my needs.


Posted by:

Howard Spencer
18 Dec 2018

What about rural areas that do not have good internet or cell service?? What ever happened to that B.S. stimulus money that was supposed to upgrade rural areas? That was one big joke and a ripoff to us tax payers. So they're(meaning the phone company's) going to force us to rely on unreliable technology after all the money they received and basically did nothing with. Thats typical of today's corporations and government, out for themselves and screw us little people. It will end up being a disaster for us normal folk....


Posted by:

VNVet72
18 Dec 2018

You never mentioned THAT in MANY cases DSL is delivered over that aged antiquated copper pair or pairs from the CO to the D-MARK/POE. Not everyone has CATV modems for their highspeed INet. I am one of them as are the rest of the residents living on my 2.5 mile long dead end road. Starting with GTE, then Verizon and now Frontier that bought Verizon's copper since they went to cellular.

Another thing not mentioned is, with copper dial tone and DSL the norm is a package deal. If you have dial tone you get a package deal with DSL. I haven't looked into yet but I am going to find out how much more it will cost just to have DSL and VOIP keeping my existing number but canceling dial tone. I pay 29.99/M now for DSL but I am sure it will cost more if I dump dial tone.

CATV ends 2.2 miles from my road and WAVE Broadband has no plans to extend it so the hundreds of residences past that last point are dependant on copper OR, cellular.


Posted by:

Carolyn Korkmas
18 Dec 2018

This makes me very sad because I hate my smart phone and use it only when I am away from home. Everything about it is inferior: it gets lost all the time, it is hard to hear on it, calls in progress get cut off if you happen to touch the wrong spot on the cell phone, I can't hear it ring in my purse, on and on... I can always find my home phone,I can hear it ring, I have a phone in every room where I might need it. My cell phone is usually lost, and I can't easily tell when someone has left a message. Cell phone are fine for the car, but not for the home. Cell phones can be stolen; I never heard of a landline phone being stolen. Cell phones are good only for emergencies in my book!


Posted by:

Stuart Berg
18 Dec 2018

@DUANE:
My wife also has a pacemaker and we send in her pacemaker readings once a year over the telephone network. When we switched from POTS to VOIP it no longer worked UNTIL we got a small digital-to-analog device that you connect between the pacemaker and your home Internet (Ethernet) network. You can read about the device here:
https://www.edevice.com/products/wirex
I don't know how much it costs because it was given to us, but I'm sure medical insurance would cover the cost.


Posted by:

Bob
18 Dec 2018

I was told that my fax machine at home would not work when I switched to VOIP. Took their word for it and haven't tested it to find out.


Posted by:

Lee
19 Dec 2018

I am hard of hearing and will hang onto the landline until no other choice. I like that 911 can find it, and it works in a storm. I cannot hear on many phones with my hearing aid (leave it out when home--I live alone) I too do not like that rural people will no longer have a landline and can get no service. Not to mention people in the mountains of WV where if you live in a hollow cell phones do NOT work at all!


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
08 Jan 2019

I will keep my landline for as long as possible.


What floors me is that AT&T is asking to eliminate the landlines and copper wires. I use AT&T's UVerse Router and it is DSL ... Which is copper wire!!! I can't even get Internet speed higher than 24 Mbps ... Due to only copper wire being the only thing available. There is NO Fiber of Optical in my area and I live in Metro Atlanta!!!


AT&T is not rushing to get the more modern equipment to the areas they are complaining about.


I want a landline so that I have the capability of communicating to the outside when the power goes out. Just this past October ... I had a tree from next door crack and fall across my driveway. The tree hit the power line to my house and my house only. It took me a couple of hours to realize that I did have some older phones that I could connect to the wall in my kitchen. Otherwise, I would have been up a creek without a paddle!!!


I now have that phone on the kitchen wall, so that if I do lose power in the future ... Which is a given where I live ... I can always call not only 911 but any place else that I want to call.


I also have 2 heart patients living in the house ... My Hubby who has 11 Coronary Stents and a Bi-Ventricular Pacemaker, plus my Son-in-law who has 1 Coronary Stent and Congestive Heart Failure ... Needless to say, having a landline makes it much easier to dial 911 and they have your address immediately.


My Hubby also has a Medtronic Pacemaker that can be monitored, but it is a wireless monitor that connects to my AT&T UVerse Router. However, should the power to go out ... He can't connect, due to the router not working, it is run by electricity.


There are times where I really wonder if the new technology is that much better or not! Mind you, I truly am a Computer Geek and I love technology.


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