Living Without A Landline
I had been thinking about shedding my landline for a while. I was attached to the convenience for a long time and, more recently, unlimited calls for one price in the United States. What I wanted most from a landline, though, was reliability; but, for me, neither the cable company nor the traditional bell company could deliver. So, after more than four decades, I cut the cord. Here’s how I’m getting along without a regular phone.
Finding the cell phone. Being able to find my cell phone on demand has been my biggest challenge. The landline was useful for calling and locating my phone. My regular phone was always in the same location, attached to a wall in my kitchen, so I didn’t have to worry about finding it. Not being able to find my cell phone is especially troublesome if I am home alone. So, I make it a habit to make sure I always know where my phone is, and if I know my teenage son might be home for a while alone, I make sure his phone is turned on and easily accessible. This process may sound like a lot of trouble but at the rate that my real phone was out, I needed to do this anyway. (Apparently you can use Google's Click-to-Call feature to locate your phone though I haven't tried this yet).
Giving out the home phone number. My cell phone number is my home number, period. Whenever I fill out forms that request my home number, I list my cell number, even if it means listing my cell number twice (once in the home phone section and then in the cell phone section). I remember hearing from someone who said that she didn’t get recorded announcements from her child's school because she didn’t have a landline; no worries, the school calls me on the cell phone/home phone. I have found this method more reliable than using my home phone, because the message goes directly to me. Before, my kids might answer the phone and by the time I reached the phone and started listening to the message, the call was nearly over. With my direct, rather than family line, I get the messages I need.
Getting numbers changed. The first two places that I notified about my new number was my kids’ schools; I wanted to make sure I was reachable for any urgent needs, which is one reason that I had the phone in the first place. I hadn't considered all the places that my home number was listed at first, but there are lots of them. Some changes I made online and some were made by notifying service providers of the change (places to update include the bank, dentist's office, and library). In regard to the phone directory, no change was needed as my home number has been unlisted for several years to avoid telemarketing calls, pre-dating the do-not-call registry.
Keeping it charged. Before I switched to my cell phone full time, I used it so infrequently that I charged its battery just once every couple of weeks. When I started using it more regularly because I didn’t have the landline, such as making after-hours client calls that lasted an hour or so, I found that I needed to charge it more often. Now, I charge it after making a long call. I am planning on getting a solar charger just in case the power goes out (my neighborhood has underground utilities so losing power has happened just one or two times in the last 10 years; also, I live within walking distance of services).
Staying in touch. Most of my friends communicate on a day-to-day basis via email so changing my number wasn't a big deal: I just emailed and let them know to use my cell number. Maybe it's because we keep differing at-home hours and can contact each other at odd hours without disturbing dinner conversation or keeping someone from an important task but email has superseded phone contact.
Getting reliable service. Until recently, I had considered the traditional landline as the most reliable for phone service. I grew up using rotary dial phones in basic black; though analog wasn’t exciting, it never failed even when the power went out.
After VoIP technology had been around awhile, I decided to try digital phone service from the cable company so that I could save on long distance calls, which I make frequently to my family and out-of-town clients. (Technically, the digital phone may not be considered a landline but my phone was connected to wires and not wireless.) There were often outages for no apparent reason; these interruptions didn’t seem to bother the cable company but they disturbed me. And when city workers accidentally cut the cable when they were repairing a drainage pipe in my front yard and I lost phone service for a couple of days, I started to rethink the redundancy of a landline and the reliability of the digital phone. After another misstep by the cable company (sending out a repair crew, unannounced, to make a repair to previously working phone that rendered the service unavailable), I decided to go back to the regular landline.
Or, rather, I tried to go back to the regular landline. I never received the phone service as requested. The initial installation didn’t happen as planned and the tech guy who asked me to call him never returned my calls (I called 3 times over the course of a week; apparently he was sick but didn’t transfer his calls to another service person). A trouble report provided to the service department was cleared without being resolved. The service failures continued with every communication, made via cell phone. I didn’t want to pay a premium price for such unresponsive service, so I cancelled it.
One of my primary concerns about not having a landline was not being able to contact emergency services; however, the phone still has a dial tone and will allow me to call 911, and GPS capabilities in cell phones allow pinpointing of callers' location regardless of where the caller is at home or elsewhere. (For more on 9-1-1 services, see FCC website.)
Exploring Skype. Now that my cell usage has increased, I decided to explore more communication options that might offer even more convenience and cost savings. Though I’d heard of Skype, it sounded somewhat geeky for someone like me who was not even an expert on cell-phone features. But after hearing about it from an acquaintance who uses it to call her family in Poland, receiving a client call from Costa Rica via Skype (the reception was amazing), and following a discussion on the forums, I decided to check it out. I downloaded the interface and tested it for free, ordered a headset with microphone from Amazon using a gift card, and found it simple and intuitive to use. Instructions are in plain English, not bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo with misleading verbiage. You can make calls for free if both the caller and recipient have signed up; if not, you can buy credits or get a subscription ($2.95 per month for unlimited calls in the U.S. plus options for worldwide calling). If you want a fixed number and features such as voice mail, you can buy a number in the area code of your choice.
There are many ways to configure your own telecom plan, depending on your personal situation, work set-up, and lifestyle. If you’re at home a lot and your family lives nearby, you might opt for a traditional line and use a prepaid cell phone (see Linsey’s post on reasons she doesn't have a cell phone plan yet) or if you’re married and work at home, you could try one cell phone only and a two-way radio (Myscha explains how to use tech items to save time and money). But if you happen to have a cell phone set-up (prepaid plan or contract) that meets your needs, dispensing of a landline could save at least $25 every month and $50-80 per month for a business line.