Landlines Will Be Obsolete in 3, 2, 1...
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.
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 17 Dec 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Landlines Will Be Obsolete in 3, 2, 1... (Posted: 17 Dec 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved