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Why I'm keeping a landline

Call me a dinosaur, but I have several compelling reasons to own a wired-in telephone. Here's why I don't want to cut the cord.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 28, 2013 10:11AM

Logo: Phone (Corbis)In 2012 nearly 36% of U.S. households had no landline but at least one wireless phone, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Five years before that the figure was 10.5%.

Call me a dinosaur: My partner and I have a corded landline plus three cordless extensions.

 

We also have cellphones, sort of: a pay-as-you go model for him (which rarely gets used) and a 5-year-old flip phone for me (hint: I have never sent a text).

While I realize that landlines aren't for everyone, we have several compelling reasons to keep a phone attached to the wall. They might be reasons you haven't considered, so think them over before deciding to ditch your own old-timey telephone.

Chief among the reasons: Several older relatives and friends have hearing issues and thus have trouble understanding conversation conducted via cellphone. We want to talk to them, and we can't do it wirelessly.

Sometimes cell calls can be hard even for a person with no hearing impairment. Sometimes the voices fade in and out or static will overwhelm the line. (This happens outside Alaska, too, so I can't blame geography.)

Equally important is knowing that if there's an emergency, help will find us: Landlines are attached to addresses. While visiting my dad last summer I accidentally pressed a pre-programmed 911 button on his phone before hanging it up. A state trooper called back to see if everything was all right -- and he verified the home address.

Now imagine that your mom is stricken while babysitting your preschooler, who knows how to dial 911 on Grandma's cell -- but who doesn't know his home address. Minutes lost can mean a life lost.

That sounds hypervigilant, I know. But nobody expects to have a heart attack or to fall off the stepladder while changing a light bulb. Having a landline for emergencies is like having car insurance policy: We pay for it and hope we never really need it.

A phone I can count on
Landlines almost always work during power failures. Last year an early-autumn windstorm caused outages that lasted up to three days. As a home-based writer, I need reliable phone service. If the power goes out on a day when I have interviews scheduled, I'll still be able to do them.

Sure, I could use my cell. But with a land line I don't need to worry about the cell battery dying after the second interview, or about going over my allotted minutes.

However, some landlines may stop working during a power outage, according to Consumer Reports. "Today's VoIP and fiber (optic) systems typically provide up to eight hours of standby service, and then only if they're equipped with an in-home battery backup. Otherwise, the phones go dead," the magazine editors say.

A cellphone would be useful at such a time, assuming that cellular networks don't fail (remember Hurricane Irene?) and that you can recharge your cell battery.

The Consumer Reports article link has a thorough explanation of the issue, and tips on staying connected during outages.

More reasons to consider

Some people ditch their landlines to save money. I understand that. According to Bankrate.com, some consumers can save between $180 and $240 per year by going cell-only

 

But it isn't always cheaper, so do the math before you cut the cord. Some people who give up landlines actually wind up returning to a combination of wired and wireless. One couple interviewed by MSN Money pays $46 each month -- about half the cost of the previous cell bill -- for a stripped-down landline and a prepaid cell.

Your carrier probably has a bare-bones landline plan, too, but you have to ask for it in very specific terms. The customer service reps are there to get you to amp up your Internet speed or add extra channels, not to lead you directly to the simplest, cheapest plan.

So don't say "I'm trying to save money on a landline." Instead, specify that you're looking for the most no-frills phone service you can get -- no bells, no whistles.

Finally, here are three more reasons to stick with a landline:

You always know where the phone is.
How many times have you heard your cellphone buzzing but not been able to find it? Sometimes I temporarily lose track of an extension but (a) there are two others as well as the corded one and (b) it can't get far on foot -- eventually, it will be found. Returning to emergencies for a moment: If a family member keeled over and you needed to call 911, how much time would you want to waste looking for your cell? (Especially if you left it in your car, or on your desk at work?)

Your cell remains yours
. If your kids aren't old enough for their own cellphones -- or if you don't want your kids to have them -- point them toward the landline when they want to talk with friends. (They'll have to use the dinosaur phone, because Big Meanie Dinosaur Parents won't let them text.) Your battery -- and your plan minutes -- don't wind up drained.

All incoming calls are free
. Even if it isn't 9 p.m. yet. Take that, cell companies!

Readers
: Do you still have a landline? Why or why not?

More on MSN Money:

304Comments
Aug 28, 2013 2:00PM
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It does sort of seem like I'm paying for nothing at times, but frankly I like having a phone number that I can give out to all those banks, credit cards, stores, salesmen, and other contacts that I don't want to have my cell phone number but I do want them to be able to contact me if necessary. I just hooked up an answering machine and recorded a greeting message that clearly states the phone is only answered by machine. If it's important, they'll leave a message, and if it's junk, they just hang up. And I don't get any annoying junk calls on my cell phone.
Aug 28, 2013 4:00PM
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The only phone I have is a landline.  My children and grandchildren INSIST that I need a cell phone "just in case".........HA!  I have a car that is two years old and has 7800 miles on it..........I walk to the library, church, etc.  If the "just in case" happens, I would be willing to bet that someone on the freeway, in the store, in the parking lot, etc. will have a cell phone and knows how to dial 911.  I have no use for a cell phone.  I grew up without one and don't see the need for one now.  Additionally, as they seem to be more than just "phones", all of the activity done on them takes away actual, eye-contact communication.  At this rate, old-fashioned communication, spelling and grammar will be a lost art.
Aug 28, 2013 3:50PM
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Oh for the days when AT&T and General Telephone controlled the phone business.  Cheap phones that always worked or you could rent for a couple of dollars per month. All repairs on lines inside and out were the responsibility of the phone company and your phone bill was seldom over fifteen bucks a month.  Then came our Federal Government who in all their wisdom decided this worked way too well.  We must do something,cried the bureaucrats and low and behold, the antitrust division sued to protect us from this big bad company.  Guess what? We have been paying and paying ever since.
Aug 28, 2013 2:35PM
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Land lines work even during a power outage.  Cell phones can't be charged during a power outage unless you have some way to generat power such as sola etc.  And 911 works better.   
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We're not getting rid of our landline any time soon, the cell service in our rural area is spotty at best and i'd rather have the landline as a backup and i don't have to give out my cell number to anyone i don't want to when they can have the landline.
Aug 28, 2013 2:23PM
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I agree with keeping the land line, my parents and several aunts and uncles I like to call are elderly and can't hear well on my cell phone, I hate to yell so my land line offers more volume and clearer sound.  Also I tend to talk over an hour at times to girlfriends and I don't have to try to  hold the small phone on my shoulder or wear earbuds.  We also have dead zones in our yard for some reason but I can take my cordless land line anywhere in the yard.  All cities 911 centers do not have GPS we are in a small town and they don't pick up GPS from phones yet, so landline again is a good idea.  As far as children go, they already do not have phone etiquette because of texting so having a landline allows you the chance to teach them how to correctly answer a phone which comes in handy when you apply for a JOB!!  Tech savvy is great but will not beat good ole fashion knowledge and courtesy.  No Sexting allowed on a land line Kiddo's.
Aug 28, 2013 2:08PM
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Most home alarm systems need a landline, so that is why I'm keeping my landline.
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Your information is alittle dated, as of today most cell companies provide unlimited calling but now profit from the data transfer. Why is that? Most young people don't want to pickup the phone and say hello, they rather not be personable. They rather text and facebook. How the world has changed!
Aug 28, 2013 3:59PM
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I have a landline because I live in Tornado Alley. The phone lines hereabouts are buried. Unless your house is hit directly, it's likely that the landline will still be working even though the cell towers are all gone or clogged due to traffic or have lost their power. The landline allows one to get help much more quickly--it's for safety.
Aug 28, 2013 2:55PM
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Hmm. I dropped my land line several years ago and have no regrets. first, it has saved me about $50 a month ever since. Secondly, 911 CAN and WILL find you if you are using a cell phone. While it was true that this was difficult 5-6 years ago, that is no longer the case. But this biggest reason I cut the cord was that the only calls I ever received were from telemarketers and politicians. I have very few family members who still have land lines also. While weather can sometimes interfere with cell phones, mine has never gone out during a storm but my land line did all the time. So maybe that aspect is geography based.
Aug 28, 2013 2:13PM
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I don't care for the GPS feature on the newer cell phones...call me paranoid. I have mine shut off, even tho I know that really doesn't help. I keep a landline because all my family and friends have my home phone number, but tend to lose my cell phone number. It's true about the kids and the home address, too. I have a 12 and 13 year old, and while they know the phone number, they didn't know the address. (We will be working on that!). In their defense, however, each has two home addresses to memorize, and remember which one they are. I have a new "dumber" phone, and I still have the static issue. It was worse on the prepaid phone I had tried. So, I'll be keeping my landline, and in the meantime, get junk phone calls on both.
Aug 28, 2013 1:37PM
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I've wondered how long it will be before the wireless phone will be permanently mounted on the wall and connected to the electric supply. One of the reasons I keep my land line is the fear that every time I need a phone, my batteries will be dead.
Aug 28, 2013 1:52PM
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I'll keep mine as well even though I don't use it much.... just play around with robot callers and insurance people..... keep waiting for the free vacation. 
Aug 28, 2013 1:51PM
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I kind of have a land line. I have one of those magic jacks. So I have to have an internet connection (land line based). But I also keep a cell phone for "just in case" emergencies. Like when a distracted driver plows into me while I'm riding my bike and I require a cop and an ambulance. I discovered that our 911 service has a way to locate me via the phone's GPS.
Aug 28, 2013 2:27PM
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I continue to have a landline for one primary reason, and multiple secondary ones. The primary reason is that my high speed internet is provided by Verizon, and that is by far the cheapest internet service available. $20.00/month, as opposed to $69.00/month with anyone else, and a $20,000 hookup fee with Time Warner Cable. (I live out in the country where we do not have fiber optic cable yet!)

 

A secondary reason is that I only get cell service in the east half of my house, and that service is spotty. In the winter, when the leaves are off the trees, I get ok service, in the summer, I have to go out in the yard to be able to get reliable cell service.

Aug 28, 2013 6:48PM
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The marketers for the mobile phone industry have done a great job convincing millions of people that their product is a must have item.  The truth is, most people could get by fine without one, but human nature being what it is many people have to keep up with the latest gadget because "everybody else has one".  I recall the early days of cell phones when the user let it be known and seen that they owned one. 

Aug 28, 2013 3:29PM
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I do.  Partly because my DSL service comes through it and there is no data limit to worry about.  Partly because my cell doesn't always work , or the signal is poor.  Mostly, because I LIKE having it !!!!
Aug 29, 2013 12:17AM
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8/28/13  I made a serious inquiry into buying a Smart Phone recently. Not only No but Hell No !

There is No Way I'm going to pay out $300.00 for a Smart Phone then $70.00 per month for a service.

 

I'll stick with My DEPENDABLE EASY TO HEAR Landline & my prepaid $100.00 per Year Cell Phone.

 

Question ? How in the Hell does a Jobless  TeenAger & No Income afford one of these Smart Phones ?                    SPW in Alaska

 

Aug 28, 2013 2:27PM
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I still think in 15 yrs we are going to have phones in every room of the house and on street corners.  we won't have a need to carry a cell phone around with us constantly weighing our pockets down.  It will be revolutionary :) :)
Aug 28, 2013 2:01PM
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I had my number for years and when Magic Jack made it possible to port your number to them I jumped on it. Very pleased with the switch. No more monthly phone bill charging for long distance and loaded with trumped up fees that exceed the monthly charge for basic service.
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