Is It Finally Time to Ditch Your Landline?

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Getty ImagesHere's how to decide if you should cut ties with your landline.
By Geoff Williams

Consumers have been dumping their landlines for years now, but if you're still hanging onto yours, you aren't crazy. There are good reasons to keep it.

Still, 41 percent of U.S. households only have a wireless phone, according to a study that came out last year from the National Center of Health Statistics.

If you're looking for reasons to keep or ditch your landline, let's spell out some of the pros and cons.

Con: Landlines can be expensive. According to CostHelper.com, the average cost for a landline is $15 to $30, which may not sound like much, but that's for basic service. Odds are, you have caller ID, call waiting and voice mail, and your price is considerably higher. Throw in taxes and additional fees, and your price goes up as well.

If you bundle with your cable or Internet, your phone bill may go down, but unfortunately, it may still feel expensive, since a cable/Internet/phone bill can easily go north of $100 or even $200 a month.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-I've known plenty of people who run successful businesses with only a mobile phone, but I don't think it's for me. I need the hard line option.%Pro: Landlines sound better. You may disagree, but talk with your friends and family, and you'll likely come up with a consensus that the landline sounds a little better -- and if nothing else, you'll have far fewer dropped calls on a landline.

That's why Heath Fradkoff, who lives and works in Brooklyn, recently added a landline to his home office after starting his own public relations business, Ward 6 Marketing.

"I've known plenty of people who run successful businesses with only a mobile phone, but I don't think it's for me. I need the hard line option," Fradkoff says, adding: "Honestly, it's mostly for sound quality. I'm old enough to remember those late-80s Sprint long distance commercials with the pin dropping. Sound quality used to be really important to consumers. Since the mobile revolution, however, that's gone mostly by the wayside."

Con: Landlines are conduits for spam. In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission launched a "Do Not Call Registry," which allowed consumers to put themselves on a list, stating that they didn't want to receive phone calls from telemarketers. For a while, it seemed to have stopped telemarketers cold.

But it appears to have been an epic failure. In 2013, apparently the last numbers available, there were more than 3.7 million complaints to the FTC about telemarketers (and think about all the consumers besieged by calls who didn't complain).

According to the Federal Communications Commission, it's illegal for telemarketers to call you on your cellphone. The phone industry might want to consider trying to get similar regulations in place for landlines.

"Marketers killed it for us. Ironic, considering my business," says Ben Landers, a resident of Gaithersburg, Maryland, and the owner of a company that specializes in online marketing. "When we had a home phone, the only calls we ever received were from marketers."

Landers got rid of his landline five years ago and has thought about getting his landline reinstalled, but because of all the telemarketing calls, he says, "I highly doubt we'll ever switch back."

On the other hand, you may enjoy the marketing calls, to an extent. Brent Csutoras, a business owner in Boca Rotan, Florida, says when Caller ID shows that the call isn't coming from someone he knows and he is positive it's a telemarketer, he lets his young son answer the phone.

"It makes for a great experience as well for my 3-year-old, who loves answering the phone," Csutoras says. "When it rings, I just let him have fun with it."

Pro: They're useful in emergencies. The reason Landers has considered returning a landline to his house is because he worries about what might happen in an emergency, and what might happen if his kids were somehow trapped in their room and needed to call for help.

"Back in the old days, there would almost certainly be a phone in the room. Today, that's not the case," Landers says, adding that he realizes it's unlikely that his kids would really wind up trapped in their room and need a phone.

Still, Frankie Wood-Black, an owner of Sophic Pursuits, a firm that specializes in environmental and safety regulatory compliance in Ponca City, Oklahoma, says, "From an emergency-planning perspective, keep the landline. Not a [Voice over Internet Protocol] or cell -- the landline, and make sure that it is hard line connected or at least has that ability. During [hurricanes] Katrina and Rita, when all other power and infrastructures went down, the landlines still worked," she adds.

Rhonda Moret, a public relations professional who lives in Del Mar, California, agrees with Wood-Black. She says she didn't have a landline to save money, but after going on a nighttime run in December of last year with her Siberian husky, she missed a pothole in the road and fell flat on her face. She hobbled back home with a broken ankle, half in shock and her face covered in blood, and her 10-year-old was able to use Moret's cellphone to call 911.

After that incident, and after her daughter received a 911 hero award from the San Diego Fire Department, Moret had a landline installed. She figures she was lucky that time. She wonders now: "What if we couldn't find a cellphone, or the cellphone is dead? These situations are realities which I would rather not deal with if and when we are dealing with a situation where we need help."

Con: It may be more expensive to drop the landline. It will drive you crazy if you think about it for too long, but with bundling phone services into your Internet and cable, you may find that when you try to drop your phone service, the price goes up.

Csutoras says his landline phone service is bundled with his cable and Internet, and he recently looked into dropping it. But as is the trend lately, companies often charge you more if you don't keep your phone connected to your home, which was the case for Csutoras, and he decided to keep his.

Until that falls out of favor, it may be a while before it's the end of the line for landlines.
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