6 Reasons Cutting Your Landline Is a Bad Deal
It's a perennial item on save-money lists — cancel the landline and rely on cell phones for communications.
It's also a sacrifice that I will never make if I can help it, because the security and quality I get from my landline is more than worth the small monthly fee.
First, let's put the cost of a landline in perspective.
Our household spends approximately $25 per month on a plan with unlimited calling both domestically and to a number of foreign countries. More limited plans, such as several offered by AT&T without long-distance and with a per-call charge, are available for $18 a month or less, depending on your state. If you cancel your home phone service, you are saving the cost of taking a family of four out for fast food once a month. I know that every penny counts, but there are lots of other ways to save $15-$25 a month without sacrificing so much.
You may think that giving up a landline is worthwhile even though the savings are small, simply because you rarely pick up the phone to make a call. But even if you use your cell phone for most calls, that landline sitting there is providing you with value. (For a counterpoint, see: Seriously, Get Rid of Your Landline)
What do you lose when you give up a landline?
1. Better 911 Response
The main reason I will not give up my landline is that I have three children whose safety is worth more than $25 a month to me. When you call 911 from a landline, your home address appears on the dispatcher's screen; if you call from a cell phone, they will probably see geographical coordinates but not an exact address, according to Consumer Reports. If you have children in the house, ask yourself — if they need to call 911, will they be able to clearly tell a dispatcher their address under pressure? Do they know how to unlock and dial a cell phone? Even if you call yourself, what if you are incapacitated and can't speak? Are you willing to hope that the location information the dispatcher gets from your cell phone is good enough for emergency workers to find you?
You should also know that when you dial 911 from a cell phone, your call may not be answered by the dispatcher in charge of sending an ambulance or police to your address. In some locations, the call may need to be transferred, wasting valuable time in an emergency. I once called 911 from my cell phone because a woman had just fallen off a ladder in her yard as I walked past. When the dispatcher asked where I was, I could not see an address but told her I was "right across from the high school." "But what city are you in?" she asked. When I told her the name of the town, she transferred me to my local dispatcher, and I had to start over again.
2. Backup During Natural Disasters
I live just a few miles from the Hayward fault, called a "tectonic time bomb" by one seismologist. But as catastrophic weather events increase, even people who don't live in earthquake country are living in the shadow of a natural disaster. Even if you used your landline at no other time, wouldn’t it be worth a couple hundred dollars a year to keep an emergency back-up communication system in the house?
"We are very concerned by incidents where emergency wireless calls to 9-1-1 after yesterday's earthquake were hampered by network congestion," FCC Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett told Fox News after the 2011 5.9 earthquake on the East Coast. Superstorm Sandy knocked down 25% of cell towers in the area, and even people who had cell coverage soon lost the ability to use their mobile phones due to power outages.
Sure, telephone service can be knocked out in natural disasters, too. But if you have both a cell phone and a landline, your odds are better that you'll be left with some connection to the rest of the world in a disaster.
Plus, landlines still work even if the power goes out — as long you have at least one handset with a cord that doesn't need to be charged.
3. Reliability and Quality
Recently I was waiting for an important call on my cell phone. The phone never rang, but later I found out that the caller had dialed my number and gotten no answer. Nothing showed up in my phone's "missed calls" list. This kind of thing has happened to me while using various carriers over the years. Other people find that they can't get a strong cell signal inside their own homes or find a call interrupted by a lost signal.
When interviewing sources over a cell phone, I often have to stop and ask them to repeat things to make sure I quote them correctly. The sound quality is nowhere near as good as a landline's.
Cellular phones' reliability and sound quality problems are a trade-off that we accept because of the huge convenience of being able to make and receive calls wherever we are. But when given the alternative of using a more reliable and better-quality connection at home, I'll take it!
Maybe you're one of those people who responsibly deposits their cell phone in a charging station as soon as you walk in the door. I'm not. Chances are, my cell phone is in my coat pocket inside a closet or in my purse in another room. And what this means is that it is not a form of communication that's easily accessible to me or to other members of the household. If a call comes in, I want everyone in the house to be able to hear it clearly. If I'm not free to answer, I want one of my children to be able to answer it without having to search my purse. For one thing, having the chance to receive and make phone calls gives them a chance to learn proper phone etiquette. For another, it's good training if they ever do have to use the phone in an emergency.
We keep one handset that is attached to the base with a good old-fashioned cord, so that it can't be lost and everyone in the family knows where to find it.
"The World Health Organization has declared that cell phone radiation may be linked to brain cancer. Ten studies connect cell phone radiation to diminished sperm count and sperm damage. Others raise health concerns such as altered brain metabolism, sleep disturbance and behavioral changes in children," reads the Environmental Working Group's Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use. The guide also notes that "young children's brains can absorb twice as much cell phone radiation as those of adults."
I limit my chlidren's cell phone use, and one thing that helps us do that is having a landline they can use to talk to their grandparents and friends. I'd also just as soon avoid holding a radiation-emitting device to my own head for long conversations.
6. High-Speed Internet
We don't have cable, but my impression from practically everyone else I know is that dealing with cable companies is a nightmare. So another reason I appreciate my landline is that it allows me to get fast Internet service with DSL instead of a cable modem. In fact, we take advantage of a package deal that gives us both phone and Internet for a pretty reasonable price.
What About Other Alternatives to the Landline?
Of course, there are other alternatives to landlines besides cell phones. People are using Skype and FaceTime, as well as PC-based voice-over IP and work-arounds like Magic Jack. All of these are great ways to cut down your phone bill, but they don't provide a safe and reliable connection the way a landline does.
Keep Your Landline and Save
If you want to save money on your phone bill, instead of eliminating it, I recommend getting the most basic service just for emergencies, and using these other communication methods or your cell phone for most of your calls.
On the flip side, you may find that using a landline for most of your calls allows you to reduce your cell phone plan to a limited number of minutes, just enough to handle calls that can't wait until you get home. It's entirely possible that you can cut more money from your cell phone bill by reducing the number of minutes you use than you would save by eliminating home phone service.
You might find a work-around for any one of the disadvantages of not having a landline. But when you look at the landline's many benefits together, you may find that giving up this high quality and valuable service to save a small amount of money is no bargain at all.
Have you cut your landline service? Or did you decide to keep it for one of the reasons above (or for some other I haven’t mentioned)?