Land Ho! The Pros and Cons of Dropping Your Landline

August 10, 2009

If only the Middle East, Africa, and Asia were stamping out landmines as quickly as we Americans are stamping out our landlines, Princess Di would rest easier in her grave and the third world would be a safer place for children, farmers, and their animals .

I’m all for ridding the world of landmines but I would encourage you to think twice about getting rid of your landline. While reviewing our household budget, recently, we considered this move. After all, we no longer need a landline to access the Internet; every member of our family now has his or her own cell phone; and getting rid of our landline would rid us of all those annoying telemarketers who ignore the Do Not Call list and all those computerized calls from candidates the week before election. (When I am otherwise undecided on which candidate to vote for, I vote for the one who has not had a computer dial my home).

Those were our pros for ridding ourselves of the landline. Now for the cons.

1. In an emergency, if you dial 9-1-1 from your landline, a screen will display your address and a map at the dispatcher’s end. The obvious benefit of this is that if you’re choking on a piece of beef jerky and can’t speak, or you pass out, mid-stroke, or a home invader snatches the phone out of your hand, the dispatcher will send someone to your home to check on you. If you call from a cell phone, they may not be able to pinpoint your location.

2. If you have keep one of those old-fashioned home phones (one that is not cordless), you will never have to worry about a battery going dead or about not being able to find a phone in the event of an emergency. I don’t know about you, but I have been known to leave my cell phone and, less often, my cordless home phone, in some strange places – the back pocket of my jeans in the laundry hamper, under the cushion of the couch where I dozed off during Saturday Night Live, out on my deck, beneath the seat of my car, in the refrigerator, and wherever that one cell phone I lost five years ago (and have since replaced) is still hiding.

3. Unlike a cordless phone, when your power goes out, an old-fashioned corded phone connected to your landline will still work. We had purchased an old-fashioned phone for this very reason several years ago, plugged it into a backroom phone jack, and all but forgot about it. After Hurricane Ike, when we were without electricity for a full week and without cell phone service for a couple of days, our landline only went out for two hours. Once it returned, the landline and that old-fashioned phone together served as our one link to the outside world. Out of state relatives were able to check on us and we were able to call out. Later, when our cell phones worked but before power had been restored, we conserved batteries by using the landline as much as possible.

Weighing these pros and cons, we asked ourselves whether the benefits of maintaining a landline was worth the monthly expense. To determine exactly how much money were talking about, I called the phone company and had them strip our account of every single feature, including a long distance plan, down to a barebones line. The landline was still going to cost of over thirty-dollars a month – thirteen dollars a month for the line and eighteen something for surcharges and taxes. With the surcharges and taxes amounting to over a hundred-percent of the cost of the line itself, I was ready to cancel the line on principle alone.

Only when I uttered the secret password “Cancel” did the customer service representative reveal to me a closely guarded secret of the phone company. They actually offer what they called a “restricted” or “measured” phone line. For eight dollars a month plus some five dollars in surcharges and taxes (ah, we were down to a mere sixty-two percent), we could receive unlimited in-coming calls and make up to twenty-five outgoing calls per month. Those twenty-five calls should more than cover any 9-1-1 we ever have to make. It will also cover most, if not all, of the phone calls we will make if another storm ever takes down the local cell tower. If we go over our twenty-five call quota or make any long distance calls, we just pay a small additional stipend per call.

So, in the end, we were able to stamp out the goldmine the phone company had been excavating at our expense all these years without stamping out our landline.

If you are facing the same dilemma, whether to keep or cancel your landline service, give the phone company a call, whisper the secret password “Cancel”, and ask whether they offer a restricted phone service at a steeply reduced rate.

Now if only we landlubbers could stamp out those phone calls from pesky politicians, telemarketers, and charlatans masquerading as charities.