Please hold: Verizon's $5 phone plan still up in the air

Yesterday, reports about Verizon's $5 landline offer were popping up all over the Internet. I'm surprised the Google search for it didn't hit Denny's free breakfast offer numbers. I mean, $5 for landline service? Sweet deal.

Well, not yet.

The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, noted that the $5 plan will be offered closer to summer. However, a Verizon executive, who asked to remain unnamed, stated that the third-party source providing information to the WSJ reporter made an error and there is no set time table for the roll-out of the plan.

Bill Kula, Verizon's director of media relations, confirms that no firm plans to offer the $5 or $10 voice plans have been made. "We're merely considering a wide range of offers now and are looking at different types of plans that encourage people to continue using their landlines," he says. However, discussions regarding the offers have been going on for at least two months.

The $5 service in question would allow for unlimited incoming calls and the ability to place a call to 911 and to Verizon's customer support line. The $10 service in consideration would also include unlimited outbound local calls. Both services are basic connection plans and exclude features such as call-wating, call-forwarding and caller ID. These plans, if introduced, would be offered to customers who live in areas where Verizon wireline services are offered: 25 states (plus Washington D.C.), or approximately 32 million households.

According to Kula, Verizon has seen a roughly 8% landline phone service loss every year, for the past five to eight years. The company hopes that by purchasing the basic telephone plans, customers would be motivated to order Verizon's high-speed Internet and digital entertainment services as well. Kula stresses that individuals do not have to subscribe to Verizon's wireless or broadband services in order to take advantage of the $5 and $10 plans, if they are introduced. Therefore, consumers, regardless of who your cable or cell phone providers are, you can purchase Verizon's voice plans with no hassle.

Landline phone vs. the cellular phone

Although it may be tempting to do away with the landline and sign up for an all-inclusive deal such as Sprint Nextel Corp.'s $149.99 unlimited nationwide calling, wireless Internet, text and data plan, note that landlines offer us benefits we often overlook. Remember the Northeast blackout of 2003? Well, if it weren't for my father's old kitchen handset phone (the off-white one, with the coiled 7-feet cord), which was plugged into his wall jack, I don't know when I would have found out that he was all right. That day, as I demon-dialed my relatives' cellular phones in New York (worried in Indiana that NYC experienced another terrorist attack), I could not get through. There were tremendous service disruptions, most likely caused by the high volume of calls. And last April, when his neighborhood north of Dallas was hit by a tornado and "cell phones were clogged," Kula says he was able to place calls with his landline phone when the power went out. A low degree of voltage (12 volts) travels over the public switched telephone network (with the exception of a cordless phone that requires electricity) and enables that line to stay working even when commercial power is out. Also, during emergencies, you're guaranteed someone will pinpoint your exact location if you dial 911 from a landline, which is not always the case with mobile phones as signals are sent through the air and the tower that picks up the signal may not be near.

But aside from offering us a peace of mind and an outlet for safety

during natural disasters and unexplained widespread power outages, landlines eliminate hassles of dropped calls and signal interruptions and ensure greater voice quality, not to mention increased security of communication (unless, of course, the FBI comes to your house to tap the phone).

Cell phones, however, are far more convenient and with increasing promotions for all-in-one packages, it's tempting to drop the landline and stay connected on the go only. After all, it is an additional expense and in today's economy, how many of us can afford monthly bills for something we rarely--if ever--use?

Of course, there's no right answer, but I--a worry wort who always ponders "What if?"--decided to keep my landline and although I don't use it as often as I do my cell phone, the knowledge that I can call wherever during a possible crisis is a definite bonus.

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