Do I Still Need a Landline?
In my home town, just north of Dallas, we’ve been getting inundated with advertisements from our local cable company: radio and snail-mail flyers in particular. The promotional hook is that service is only $29.99 per month from them. Woo hoo! A real bargain. Except that the real price is $29.99 per service when bundled with other services. So the monthly subscription is more like $130 for all four services including tax, the four services being internet, TV, one cell phone, and a home landline. Not such a great bargain after all, and I won’t be switching to them.
It did get me to thinking, do people still pay for landline telephone service to their home, what we in the trade like to call “POTS,” plain old telephone service. By the way, plain is a rather misrepresentative term to use: synchronous digital multiplexing of thousands of landlines down one copper or fiber optical cable has been ongoing since 1962 and the technology is very far from plain. Nevertheless, with so many internet based communications channels available now, for example Skype, why would anyone still pay $29.99 plus tax, per month, for a service that largely competes with your own cellphone?
I decided to ask some of my friends and relatives if they still have a landline, and discovered that over half still retain their home phone. Some of the reasons given: a discount when bundled with other services; the house alarm system reports through it – especially important to elderly people who may fall down; and e911 services.
What is e911 service? The “e” does not stand for “electronic” as one might assume, but for “enhanced.” Enhanced 911 is the caller location associated with each landline. It means that if someone in the home dials 911 and is unable to speak, the emergency dispatcher knows the address of that landline. With cell phones, it is harder to find a person, though GPS and cell-tower triangulation are in use in many areas. However, coverage is still patchy.
It’s important to note that many of us think we have a POTS landline phone but may not. Several traditional phone companies have replaced copper phone lines to the home with passive optical network systems (PON). Whereas older copper systems have an independent power supply that maintains service duting a home power outage, PON does not. Instead, PON systems have a rechargeable battery inside your home or garage that will keep the phone system working for several hours during a home electricity outage. Having said that, it is worth remembering that mobile phones have batteries that also should last several hours during a house electricity outage.
So do you need to keep your landline phone? As usual, my answer is “it depends.” If your home alarm system depends on it, and you don’t want to switch to a cell-tower supported alternative, keep the landline. If you have several people living in your home and believe that, statistically, one of them will be able to speak on a cell phone during an emergency, then rely on cell phones only. If your landline has become a constant source of unwanted robocalls and the National Do Not Call Registry isn’t stopping them, ditch the landline phone.
One argument often made is that calling abroad is cheaper on a landline. Not so: prepaid phone cards can be used with cell phones and landlines. Separately, Google Voice has a service that can be used to call abroad at very low rates. I regularly call Europe for 1 cent per minute.
However, we have poor cellphone signal at our house so I’ve kept the landline. Except there is no way I am paying $29.99 plus tax every month. Look out for my article “Keeping Your Landline Using A SIP VoIP Service.”
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