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Do You Really Need a Land-Line Phone?

In one of every five U.S. homes in the U.S., there is no traditional land-line telephone anymore, according to an Associated Press story by Alan Fram. And the share of households that relies only on a cell phone rose rapidly last year, driven in large part by household cost-cutting.

The statistics come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why do the folks who are charged with figuring out the ways of flu pandemics bother to track the number of cell-only households? It's because cell-only households are not covered by their telephone surveys, reducing the accuracy of the CDC's health studies.

I've been considering cutting the cord myself--or at least drastically reducing my land-line service. Why spend for overlapping phone service when I already have a phone in my pocket? My daughter, who is living away at college, won't consider using anything but her cell. Even my 70-something year-old aunt, who began her career as a Bell Telephone operator, calls me on her cell so she can avoid long-distance charges. (She would be appalled at the idea of doing without the old copper-wire phone, however.)

Reliable access to 911 emergency service is probably the most compelling argument for keeping a land line, but even that is becoming less of an issue. Pete Piringer, spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, said most of the new cell phones have GPS technology that enables dispatchers to figure out where callers are. But the switch to the new technology is not complete, and they can have trouble tracing calls to an address if there's a problem such as a dropped call, a dead battery or a caller who simply doesn't know where he is. They have the same problem with internet-based phone services.

Before you cut the cord, you should make sure your cell has the latest GPS technology so emergency responders can find you even if you're too flustered to blurt out your address.

I will admit to one frivolous reason why I would like to keep at least minimal land-line service. I own a reconditioned antique phone from the 1940s, and I would like to continue to hear its bright ring. (Children are shocked at how long it takes to actually dial a phone number.)

Are you ready to cut the cord?

By Elizabeth Razzi  |  May 7, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Home features  
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I planned to cut the cord last year. Then we switched to FiOS, and a land line came with our package (it is Verizon, after all). But we haven't even found the land line phone since we finished our remodel over a year ago!

Posted by: laura33 | May 7, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm not getting rid of my land line. Frankly, I don't trust the safety of using cell phones habitually. I want to see another 10 years of thorough research on the affect of cell phones on our health (particularly out brains).

Posted by: dconover | May 7, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

We actually added a land line to our FIOS package last year after going cell-only for six years. We found we were missing calls when we were home--the cell was left in a purse, or set to buzz, or I was in the basement and the cell was in the bedroom, etc. We have only given the number to a few family members(I don't even know the phone number off the top of my head), and still use the cell for most purposes. The land line doesn't even have voice mail; to leave a message call the cell. To ensure us picking up in the evening and weekends, call the landline.

Posted by: webbrats | May 7, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Done: I haven't had a landline in eight years. We live near a radio station tower, so we can't even use a landline at our house without mysterious voices in he background interfering with our calls. I'm a little uncertain about when the kids get older since there are two phones/phone numbers in use; guess we'll decide that one is the "home phone" and use that for teaching phone use, listing on emergency forms, and such.

Posted by: OneSockOn | May 7, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

i would love to get rid of my land line and save a few bucks a month. to cut costs, i reduced my service to the very basic, local service. however, i'm afraid to cancel altogether because cell phone are not always reliable. if you forget to charge, if you don't have a signal, or if your phone malfunctions in some kind of way (which cell phones DO from time to time), in an emergency you are out of options without a land line. where i live, cell phone service is sometimes hit-or-miss. i'd hate to have to dial 911 in some scary situation only to discover i don't have any "bars."

Posted by: MDLady1009 | May 7, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I lived in New York during the last big northeast blackout. My land line was hooked up to a cordless phone, which didn't work because there was no electricity. My cell phone had enough power for a day or so, but the tower in my neighborhood went out after about six hours. I had to trek out a mile or so to find a place with a signal to check in with my parents and tell them I was OK. I leaned my lesson and I now have a land line hooked up to a corded phone. It's local calls only to save money, but I won't be caught without a way to communicate ever again.

Posted by: willowj | May 7, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I dumped my land line last year and now have only a cell phone. But I went a step further and got a Tracfone and pay upfront for use. It’s much more cost-effective and the service is fine.

The only reason I’d kept my landline was to send faxes but I do that on the Internet now, so who needs a landline?

Plus I have no contract anymore for my phone and the quality is great.

Posted by: rpachter | May 7, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I do not miss my land line (which I gave up about 2 years ago) at all. My NET10 phone has excellent coverage at my home and all the surrounding areas. It's the least expensive way I could find to stay in touch and is working very well for me.

Posted by: Wayne765 | May 8, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I think the landline is on its way out of U.S. households, for good. Wrote about that here,

Posted by: nebben | May 11, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

The "no bars" thing seems to only happen to me if I am truly in the middle of nowhere -- in which case I'm without a landline phone anyways. To me, having just a cell phone seems to do the job. It's always with me; in fact, getting up to get the landline is more of a pain and I'd prefer it if people just called me on my cell! Both have their downsides; what if there is a "911-type" emergency and the power's knocked out? Then you're pretty much stranded too -- unless you have your cell! You can't prepare for everything. Maybe having both types of service is the answer.

Posted by: LisaChristine88 | May 12, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

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