Why keep a landline?

June 25, 2022 • 11:00 am

I’m in a conundrum that many share: I have a cellphone and an AT&T landline (at home), as well as a work phone. I never get calls on my landline and I use it only when I’m calling my cellphone because I’ve misplaced it in my flat and need to find it by making it ring. But I can do that on Skype, too, for you can use Skype as a telephone, buying ten bucks’ worth of calls, which will last for months (overseas calls by phone using Skype can be as low as 2¢ per minute, and of course video calls are free).

So why do I keep a landline. Laziness, I suppose, but also I have the fantasy that one day I won’t have my cellphone and need to call 911, which you can’t do on Skype. In that case I’d use the regular phone. But I always have my cellphone, so that is an improbable event.

I pay about $45/month to keep the damn landline (I also have AT&T wireless), but while I use the wireless, I never use the landline. Give me one reason why I should keep it!

It’s strange, as I usually have no trouble getting rid of stuff I never use, but this is an exception.

I just found an article from 2020 (I knew I would) called “8 reasons you should consider keeping your landline“. It turns out that it’s somewhat of a geezer thing: 60% of adults over 45 have a landline, and I bet that many fewer under 30 would have one.

The reasons given:

1.) “It’s a connection to your past.”  I don’t give a hoot about that.

2.) “The sound quality is better.” It’s fine on my cellphone.

3.) “It costs almost nothing.” Not for me, as I don’t have a phone bundled with cable.

4.) “You need it for medical devices or security systems.” I don’t use these things, and anyway I suspect these will now be compatible with cellphones.

5.) “You send and receive faxes”.  Nope. I would get them at work, but who faxes any more? People can send documents as pdf files.

6.) “You need your phone to work when you lose power”  Both cellphones and Skype on my computer work fine, and I keep both devices charged.

7.) “You really just don’t see the need for a smartphone.”  Seriously? Smartphones have greatly improved my life and my ability to get work done. Yes, I know we lived without them, but we used to live (or die) without antibiotics.

8.) “You want 911 access tied to your location.” I think that my iPhone 13 is as well, but you can always tell 911 where you are.

None of these reasons are convincing for me. Maybe I’ll ditch the landline.

You? Do you have one? If so, why?

116 thoughts on “Why keep a landline?

  1. For point 3: It does not even cost that much, they pretty much pay me for it, because my internet is cheaper when bundled with phone than just alone. I can’t imagine how this is good business for the service provider, they are just plain weird.

    And the funniest part: I do not have an actual phone, just the service.

    1. We don’t have the circa 1999 Sony wallphone connected anymore, and forward calls to our cells (unlike Jerry, we do get a lot of junk calls on our old number). But when the power went out the other day, I wondered if an old red classic rotary dial phone would still work on land-line. And once again, I wondered how the phone company keeps power up when the municipal utilities fail — as millions have wondered, why don’t we turn the power grid over to the phone geeks?

  2. We hung on to our landline a few years more than most of our friends, family and neighbors mainly because cell phone signals were sketchy in our home’s immediate location and topography. When service became consistent, we smoothed the transition to dropping the landline by getting the same number on a cell.

  3. I have one because I find cell phones inside are too unreliable for business use. We have two lines in the house with one for my office, and when I am not traveling I forward my cell to the landline.

  4. There are several services or stores where they use a phone number to register you as a repeat customer (for various small but real benefits). Some of these I registered under my landline number.

    I have been thinking of this as a reason to retain the landline. Only recently did it dawn on me that they don’t actually call or otherwise actually use the number, so I could close my landline service but not bother to change my customer profile at CVS etc.

    1. We still have at least one of those that uses a landline number that was shut down more than a decade ago in a state we left 7 years ago. If they have been calling I haven’t noticed 🙂

  5. Our phone plan was independent of anything else so, when we realized we weren’t using it, we just stopped paying for it. It occasionally comes up when some service provider (doctor, bank) asks if that’s our number. What? No.

  6. Cancel the landline. you are just making a AT&T a bit richer. I only got rid of my landline 3 months ago, and I do not miss it. Wish I’d done it sooner.

  7. We keep our landline primarily as backup during emergencies, when cell towers can go down. During such power outages, cell and internet service can completely disappear. But then, we live in CA, where the next wildfire or earthquake or mudslide is just a few days away.

      1. It’s a great place if you have a few million to spare. The most ridiculous thing that I recently noted was short term rental for $250,000 per month!

        Re the subject at hand – we are older than our host, and we ditched our land line long ago.

  8. Three young kids who don’t have phones and don’t necessarily know how to use mine!

    If my 10yo is home alone, however briefly, he has no way to call for help in an emergency. Or if I or my wife have an emergency and are unconscious, and one of the younger children needs to call for help, etc. Right now, it’s pretty much “run across the street and ask for help.”

    I think we could probably get around this with a VoIP phone, but I’ve had a difficult time finding cheap, simple, just-the-dial-pad-buttons, consumer-oriented models analogous to the rudimentary ones of old.

    1. My parents use Fongo which is a voip solution and they use their regular phones with it which are cordless phones.

  9. My husband and I are geezers and we got rid of our landline years ago. Never miss it. He worked as a consultant and did not want to get rid of the landline as long as he had that business. Even that was probably not necessary, but the idea of eliminating the landline was still new back then. Maybe make a list of 8 things you can do with $540.

  10. We got rid of the landline 5 years ago when we sold the large house up north and about a year later down south. 911 works ok from the cell phone and my Apple Watch will call emergency and others if activated by me or automatically by a fall. I did put a lock box on the front doors and emergency services (and relatives & friends) has the code. I rarely have problems using a cell phone.

  11. Until a couple of months ago, we had a landline. We needed it for two reasons. First, cell phone service wasn’t great where we lived. Second, we lived in a gated community with an old gate system. The old system responded to the landline reliably, but not the cell phone. So, we couldn’t always let visitors through the gate and sometimes had to drive the 1.5 miles to the gate to let them in. It is true, in our case, that call fidelity was much better on the landline than on the cell phone. But all that has changed.

    We moved. Our cell service is great, and we longer have a remote gate to deal with (also great). So far, we don’t have a landline. Why might we need one? Two reasons. The first is that 911 service is pegged to my home on the landline. But with the landline, 911 service is *only* good when I’m at home. In contrast, the cell phone is always with me, making 911 service more practical on the cell phone—even if it’s not pegged to my location perfectly. The second reason to have a landline is that I have a really cool Ericofon from the 1970’s. You can see what they look like here: https://ericofon.com/catalog/ericofons/ncne.htm, and you can read all about them by noodling around that web site. If truth be told, being able to use my Ericofon is the best reason I still have for getting a landline. I’ve resisted the temptation so far.

  12. I keep my bundled landline in order to have a phone number to give out when I don’t want to give out a number. The pharmacy, for example, really wants to stay in touch with me. I won’t give them my real phone number.

    The ringer on the landline phone is turned off. I check and delete the messages on that line every couple of weeks…or months.

  13. Older landlines supply the power to the phone if you have a basic type of phone. This is 48V DC supplied by big banks of batteries in the telephone exchange (central office) so even if your entire town has a power cut your phone still works. However, in the UK at least these are being phased out. Also, when there’s some kind of emergency like a bomb or air crash in your area then everyone uses their cellphone at the same time and this overloads the cellphone antennas in that area and nobody can make or receive calls.
    Since those scenarios are very unlikely you might consider them not worth the $45 per month.

  14. There are some services that only run (or ran) over Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). A friend’s home alarm had to run through POTS. The alarm company recently updated their service to enable alarms over internet protocol (OIP) and they shifted in the last month or two.

  15. Ditch it. Since you wouldn’t use it regularly, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t work when needed in an emergency anyway. If you use a portable phone, its battery may have died. Also, even the regular phone line has to be checked once in a while for a dial tone. We kept our landline going in the cellphone era for years and quite often found that the dial tone had gone away and had to call our provider to get it fixed. Of course, you could establish a regimen in which you check all this regularly but who has the time for that? Ditch it.

  16. I have one (it’s tied to my internet service). Initially, my thought was for safety. Cell service is spotty at best out in the forest where I live and kiddo only got a cell phone last year. Google can’t find my house so for emergency services the landline is supposedly better.

  17. We keep a landline because in our area cell reception is spotty at best. I abhor having to walk halfway across the house in order to make a phone call from my cell. Landline gives me crystal clear communication at my fingertips. it’s not perfect in every way, of course. Sometimes our landline service goes down….but not as often as our electricity goes down. We have considered ditching the landline…..it is expensive and many of our friends have gone that route….but in the end still have it. Sounds like you do not have the same issues we have, so there is prob no reason to keep yours.

  18. I have reached the advanced age at which things as small as a cellphone tend to disappear. So, I keep
    my cellphone in the car for use while I am on the run, but only rarely take the chance of carrying it around with me. At home, I have a landline with a base phone and handset extension phones in my bedroom, the living room, and one in my basement study/office. The base phone has four virtues:
    (1) it doesn’t migrate anywhere, and can thus never be misplaced; the handsets are used where they
    are, pretty much, and thus they cannot be misplaced either; (2) the base phone’s sound quality is better than that of the handsets or a cellphone; (3) it has a caller ID system both visible on a screen, and audible from a distance in a charmingly garbled voice announcements; (4) it’s memory includes my stored directory of telephone numbers of family, friends, and services I have occasion to call—and which I am too lazy now to reprogram on any new device.

    1. I agree…alll good reasons to keep a land line. As an old geezer I use my cell phone only when I go out of the house. otherwise it is turned off and in my purse or on my desk. Technology today needs to be backed up and duplicated. Too many chances for error, accidents, etc. It is like insurance. Anyone who relies solely on a cell phone is gullible and trusting, in an age where these are taken advantage of all the time. (Getting calls from people calling on cell phones is infuriating….the sound is poor,
      distant, garbled, and people speak bad English).

    2. I live alone and have kept my landline so I can call my cell phone when I have misplaced it around the house.

  19. Live in a condo with my wife and son. All of us have cellphones. Front buzzer rings a number to let people in. Can’t give one of cellphones as that person can be anywhere. So housephone. Anybody who is home can answer it. No one home … who cares?

    1. I see just the opposite reason. I live in 2 HOA communities. When someone comes to the gate, I can get either a text message and/or a cell phone call and/or an email and/or an app notification that I can respond even if 1400 miles away. Doors can be remotely locked or unlocked.

  20. I am 79 and my wife 76. We have had the same landline for 33 years. We use it all the time. i find myself making more cellphone calls lately, but my wife does not feel comfortable with her Jitterbug flip cellphone. She uses it only when she is out of the house, which is seldom.

  21. We shut our landline down many years ago – more than ten, and have not missed it – so more than $5000 at your monthly rate! Ironically we now have a number, because it was cheaper to bundle internet cable and a landline than to just have the two services we wanted. So while I now have a home landline number, I don’t know what it is (presumably that could be rectified) and there is no phone plugged into it. Can”t say we’ve ever missed it – the only real use it had was to provide an additional bill every month.
    International calls are now very cheap on cell phones, which was once an issue. I think we spat 4c/min to most European countries, and of course FaceTime or whatever is free (or at least covered in other things we already pay for).

  22. We keep a landline and we are older. Cell service was sporadic for a many days after an EF4 hit the nearby city. Unusual circumstances but cell towers have been taken out by lesser winds here for several hours. Likely more of a problem where we are than in other areas.

  23. You can give your landline number for legitimate calls you have no need to answer (“Your RX is ready”, “The repair guy you’re expecting will be there in 20 minutes”, “Remember your appointment is tomorrow at 3 p.m.”) while screening scam FBI/IRS calls, political polls, offers of roof repair, requests for donations to real and/or fake causes etc. If an important call comes to that line for some reason, the caller will leave a message and you will call back.

  24. I have a landline because I live in the boonies and my cell phone has terrible connectivity. It’s a digital line, bundled with my xfinity internet and it’s “free”…meaning I don’t pay any extra above the monthly cost of my internet service. If the internet goes out, so does the landline, but that’s a rare occurrence.

    If I was in your situation, I’d probably ditch the landline.

  25. On 9/11, my son lived and worked in DC. Next to the Pentagon. His sisters and I could not reach his cell: cell phones were the first thing to stop working after the attacks. Since then, I’ve always advocated for keeping landlines. My Andrew gave up on that long ago, though. Now I’m in northern Vermont and cell phone service is spotty. We lose power all the time so I would have no phone because without power, there is no wifi and cell service only occurs in certain places outside of the house. My router has a phone input and I have an old rotary phone for power outages. I don’t need a landline account. I’ve never used it, though, preferring to sit in the cold and dark instead of using the phone. And if the weather or a national emergency got really serious, the town has a list of all those who are old (me) and disabled (me) and they send folks out to check on us. Since you have lots of neighbors close by, I think you’ll be fine without a landline.

    1. Yes when you live somewhere rural a landline makes perfect sense. Even in the UK mobile phone coverage can be poor in the countryside.

  26. It’s interesting to hear various closely-held opinions on this important issue. I’m like Jerry and not entirely sure why I keep paying for a land line. Mostly, it’s so that I can occasionally use the vintage ATT colored (yellow, turquoise) phones mounted on the walls of my house built in the 1950’s. Very retro.

  27. our business is tied to the landline number for 40 years; cannot get the same number on a cell phone. but thinking about getting rid of the land line too. damned expensive.

  28. Chuck it and don’t look back. Especially as someone who frets over the price of toothpaste, you are wasting your money.

  29. My landline is bundled with my ISP so I don’t pay any more for it, and on the whole my ISP remains competitive (I also get various sports and other channels cheap). Plus some of my old buddies haven’t got round to writing down my mobile number. Apart from that, I might as well get rid of the physical handset. Most of the calls we get are from spammers anyway.

  30. Dropped my land line years ago although I lose cell phone service when the t-mobile signal tower goes out, and I lose wifi when the internet provider’s tower goes down, and during a power outage I can lose all communication. But it’s a small town and when that happens we all sit our on our porches and wave at the neighbors driving around to see what’s wrong.

  31. I keep my landline. Mainly because I am not married to my mobile. The land line I hear wherever I am in the house (three receiver sets). I can go days without checking my cell. I never got into the cell phone addiction.

    Though I use Whatsapp to call friends and family in Europe.
    Plus cell coverage in Canada is relatively expensive.

  32. I have a landline because I can have an extension in every part of my house and can also have a phone for my patio. Eliminates a lot of running and searching.

  33. I’m a bit mystified: if you can’t locate your cellphone you use Skype to find it. How do you use Skype? Via your landline or your cellphone (which isn’t located)? Am I missing something?

      1. But how does the computer make a Skype call? Using a land-line? Or what? A portable router?
        I kept my landline for my uncapped access (although due to bad weather it appears non-functional), and have a small portable router with 50 gigs/month.

        1. Skype, and countless other services, allow you to call any phone number from a device on the Internet. Somewhere, out there in the universe, they have bridges that take care of the translation between various types of telephone calls. Someone probably understands how it works. The rest of us just rely on the fact that it does. Like how jet planes don’t fall to the ground.

  34. We use MagicJack for a shared phone line, much cheaper than ATT. I’m not a fan of phones and prefer everything to go to an answering machine

  35. My wife is a nurse, and wants us to keep the landline for 911 reasons. Also, it has a separate power supply. If the power goes out over a wide area, your cell phone or computer phone may not work. Basically, for us, it is a backup just in case.

  36. Ooma. You can port your number and slash your costs. For us, the landline number is/was in use everywhere and cell coverage is mediocre at our home (from all carriers).

        1. Ditched my Bell landline for Ooma. Phone bill is $5.20/month (CAN) and that includes unlimited long distance across Canada and call display. When the power goes out, I use my mobile. I paid a one-time fee ($25 I believe) to keep my old phone number, and I still use my regular phone. Ooma is much cheaper, as my bill with Bell was $45/month and included nothing, just the line.

  37. Yes, I keep mine. I have a semi- smart phone, but I use it a lot less frequently than many others do; I prefer my computer for research, writing and work. Also an expensive smart phone can be lost or stolen, and then you have to buy another expensive smart phone. So I will keep my landline.

  38. My wife and I both have Tracfones [works out to about $7/month each.] Additional minutes are expensive, but we don’t use them much [mostly when traveling] as the land-line is our primary. [I have over 700 unused minutes now – they never expire.] The Tracfones are mostly just carried in case of emergency. We give out the numbers only to a few close friends or when a business needs to text us. [see BobT at 29 above.] We only turn them on when expecting a call or text. The land-line has free Nomorobo, plus easy to use call-blocking, and of course caller ID. Unless we recognize the caller, the call goes to the answering machine. [Can always pick-up if the call turns out to be wanted.] We are retired, in our 70’s, so this might not work for most people. And neither of us feels the need to be connected to the whole world all the time.

  39. I ditched my landline. Mostly I was getting scam calls. I was paying more than $45/ month for it. Seemed like a waste of money. Like you, I have an AT&T cellphone. Good enough for my needs. My cell is connected to my WiFi, so my reception is good. I’m also older like you. I don’t know any younger person, including my kids, who have a landline.

  40. I recall you have an Apple phone. This should give you access to “find my phone”.

    Per remote, it can emit sounds, and it also sends its location, where you would see if you left it somewhere else (or lost it). You may need a secondary Apple device, but I think you also have a mac. Otherwise, get an Apple tablet for the money you save from canceling the landline, and you finally have a way to read well, without needing to print out everything.

    1. Jerry hates reading on devices but good advice about FindMy which is on all Macs and Apple mobile devices. I use it all the time especially because I’ve stuck AirTags in everything, even my dog’s collar.

      1. Yes to keeping a landline, because…

        3) I frequently misplace my iPhone, and use landline to find it quickly.
        2) every company’s website practically demands I give them a phone number; I give them the landline.
        1) if you need to call 911, a landline response can be 5-7 MINUTES QUICKER than with a cell phone.

        1. I don’t think that 5-7 minute thing is true, at least not in a city like Chicago. I know my city (Milwaukee) upgraded the 911 system years ago to work with cell phones which, for this purpose, are better than land lines because they work when you are not at home… say walking in the park. Heck… my watch and iPhone will call 911 for me if I fall while walking.

  41. I had to call Windstream to cancel my landline. The guy made it feel like I was killing him! He offered to cut my monthly bill in half to $18. However, in going through his checklist he hit my Achilles Heel: security system.

    However, a week later ADT came out and installed a wireless connection, at no additional cost to me, and I was able to cut the landline in the end.

    The landline still lives! A few stores, like PetSmart, use my old landline phone number as my member ID, and I just haven’t gotten around to updating it. The number that never dies!

    OT: my phone number when I was a kid in the previous century was 1-0849.

      1. Yes, we had a ring down until 1983. It was hard for friends in NYC to explain to an operator that they needed help calling a phone number like Vya 3

        1. I’m so old our 921 was a party line with 3 longs and a short as our ring. The local operators knew everything that was going on in our town of 900. 😃

    1. During the sixties we lived in a town in Belgium where the Germans had dismounted the telephone system during WWII. You just gave the name of the person you wanted to reach or the phone number. I also remember my father swiveling a handle on a small black box to make contact.

  42. I guess you’d call it a land line – but we use a Voip vendor. It is very cheap, and we keep it partly because cell service used to be dreadful. The main advantage is that the Voip phone has a filter that sends all calls from unknown numbers to voice mail and deletes all calls from known scammers. I use my cell phone to make calls as little as possible, in hope of avoiding spam there. The only problem with Voip is that if the juice goes out you can’t call 911 or receive reverse 911, but for those I still have my cell phone. Luckily I can usually find my cell phone, because it is plugged into a speaker to access public radio.

  43. I don’t have a landline, ditched it years ago. Get rid of your landline Jerry, mate you don’t need it and don’t use it. You will save money and have more to spend on duck food.

  44. For this ex-southern California boy, a landline was the ONLY one that will work after that 7.0 earthquake rumbled through. Now in southern Oregon. We had a nasty wildfire two years ago and all cell service went offline. So, what’s the likelihood of a natural (or other) disaster where you are?

  45. I keep mine because in an emergency cell phones can go down. This happened with the Eastern Seaboard power outage years ago. I know it’s slight but it can happen.

    1. But who would you call? All the emergency services would be under such pressure, you would never get through. ☹️

      1. My elderly parents or other friends or family to make sure they were ok and to plan help if they needed it.

      2. Also 911 where I live has not gone down in an emergency and outages here could occur over a long period of time with bad weather likes snow or ice storms. I would call 911 if I needed to in those situations.

        1. And frankly, most of the time my iPhone doesn’t work with certain friends due to connection issues. Sometimes the landline works better than the iPhone, especially (it seems) when talking to another landline phone.

  46. There are some emergencies for which landlines will be working but mobile phones will not.

    In the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, for example, mobile network traffic may be so congested that you won’t be able to make a call.

    It’s a matter of weighing the likelihood of such an emergency against the usefulness of being able to make a phone call during that time.

    Another example: some apocalyptic scenario in which Chicago loses power for a week or more. Because landlines are independent of power lines, you may be able to make a landline call during that time, whereas mobile phone batteries will eventually die.

    1. I have the opposite experience, when my landline doesn’t work, due to bad weather or ‘loadshedding’*, I use my portable router. (which I’m actually using now).

      * a South African particularity, due to lack of planning. If anybody is interested I can expand.

  47. At present in the UK, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) allows landlines to still function in a power cut (unless the lines themselves come down) because the exchange has back-up power which feeds to the phone through the line itself.

    BT Openreach, which manages the UK’s phone and internet network, has begun moving people over to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) connections, which work through broadband. From 2025, the PTSN system was scheduled to be shut down entirely.

    However, in recent storms prolonged power outages have left people with landlines using VOIP unable to contact the outside world. Mobile phones either were inoperative or ran out of charge – and there was no electricity supply to recharge them. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-59564480

    Other services, such as telephone line-enabled devices designed to activate an alert if an elderly person has a fall at home, have also failed due to problems with the VOIP network during power cuts. (They are, of course, much more likely to have an accident in the dark when the lights suddenly go out!) As a result, the 2025 switchoff of PTSN is being paused.

    This is mostly a problem for elderly people in relatively remote rural areas, but, for them at least, access to a traditional PTSN landline is important.

    We still have a landline – the very vast majority of the calls we make and receive are to/from my elderly parents (85 & 91) who have basic mobile phones for emergencies, but struggle to use them.

  48. In a major emergency all the cell net will get switched off or restricted to emergency services. But then who would you be calling? In a power outage phones usually still work as they have their own power supply, but then who would you call? Those also keeping landlines? You could write a letter. Save the money & spend it on beer & cheese. In an emergency you can soften the blow of the disaster by eating the cheese & drinking the beer.

    I never like phone conversations. I ditched the landline before I moved last year. I usually text or email.

  49. 73, and working (very part time) from home. Landline is now costing as much as Internet (both from AT&T, phone is VOIP).
    Pluses for landline: handset is easier to hold and listen on than cell phone; phone rings loudly enough to be noticeable and there are handsets in several rooms (cell phone is usually on vibrate, and I miss more than the occasional call/text); NoMoRobo is free and works fairly well; and lots of people we want to talk to know our number – it’s been the same for 30+ years. Also, 911 knows where we are; but, because we’re VOIP and not POTS, landline will go out if power goes out.
    Minuses: cost – but I don’t know what AT&T would do to our Internet rate if we dropped the phone service, though I bet it would go up.

  50. I keep the landline because if ever an electromagnetic pulse or a solar storm disrupt mobile networks and internet connectivity I feel better having a backup

    1. The 1859 solar storm (the Carrington Event) fried the copper=wire telegraph networks. A similar event today would fry the copper-wire POTS networks. The civilian fibre-optic networks would not be fried, but the rest of the civilian Internet and telecoms hardware would be affected to a greater or lesser extent.

      And as for EMP, a nuke EMP event would represent much larger difficulties than just lack of telecoms….

      So, if you want any usable backup comms in CME or EMP scenarios you would at minimum need a battery-powered 2-way radio stored in a metal box. Or smoke signals.

  51. I’m a Luddite but ditched the landline about 12 years and do not miss it. The only calls we’d get on it were advertisers.
    For those worried about call 911, a handy cell phone app that emergency services are starting to use is called “what3words”. This app divides the world into 3×3 meter squares and assigns a unique set of 3 words to that square. In an emergency, those three simple words are easier and more accurate than giving a physical address or, if out in the boondocks, giving GPS coordinates. https://what3words.com/products/what3words-app

  52. No cell service anywhere near the house. We have recently been able to install really good fiber internet, and we are experimenting with VoIP. We will eventually get rid of the land line, assuming the fiber proves reliable.

  53. My landline, like a lot of other people’s. is part of my internet service (strictly speaking, it is VOIP, not a true landline). I am also on full disablility, so I am home a lot of the time, making a cellphone far less of a necessity than for most people. My sole income is from SS disability, and I get a little extra for working elections two or four times a year, and, despite my friends considering me foolish for not ditching for a cell, the monthly fees were still too steep for me.

    A few months ago, though, there was a young woman at the supermarket where I do most of my grocery shopping, and she was signing people up for free cell service via the Lifelink program. I didn’t have the financial documentation with me, but when I went back with all the proper paper, she signed me up. My income allowance was on the thin edge of disqualifying me for eligibility. She asked me a few questions, and maybe she fudged the figures, but I walked out of there with a smartphone running on the T-Mobile network. All I have to do to keep it is make one outgoing call or text message a week.

    So now I have two phones and two numbers, and there should be little reason to keep the landline, but here’s a list:

    My landline costs me next to nothing because it is part of my internet package.

    My landline phone is a fairly fancy one, and it includes a set of electronic tags that help me track down my misplaced keys and wallet.

    Power loss is not much of an issue for me, since I have a number of power backups to power lights, computers and phones if there is an outage.

    My landline is conected to a device that can block up to 2,400 incoming phone numbers, which is enough to keep hordes of telemarketers, collection agencies and unwanted family from getting through. My cell phone cannot block anywhere near that many numbers.

    I’ve had my landline for twenty-two years, and that is the number most people have for me (it is also an easy number to remember).

    I am not yet habituated to having a cellphone. I sometimes leave home without it, and I once left it behind at a meeting and it took me four days to track down where I’d left it. Without the landline, I would have had to borrow someone else’s phone to do that tracking. Once I forwarded my landline calls to the cell and forgot to cancel the forwarding. Nobody could call me for six days (I don’t pay attention to my cell when I’m home), and they were ready to call the police for a wellness check to make sure I wasn’t dead.

    I am not comfortable with the phone’s operating system nor with touchscreens. I once sent my phone into limbo for two days because I brushed a raindrop off the screen and inadvertently activated some kind of hibernate function. I had to let the power drain and recharge it to get it running again. That took two days. When I get an incoming call and if I don’t hit the “accept” or “decline” buttons precisely, I lose the call.

    Since I got the phone, I have received 127 calls. 113 of them were spam calls. The same goes for messages. I kept getting notices from Uber in Santa Barbara that my ride was waiting and I would be charged if I was a no-show. I live in Milwaukee. I received another message notifying me of my access code for the Turkish version of Doordash, which only operates in Ankara and Istanbul. Thanks to my degree in linguistics, I could recognize the language and translate the message.

    My learning curve on the cellphone is slow. All the public library books on using Android are four or five versions behind what my phone is equipped with. I keep saying that I’ll have to go to a high school and ask to hire some kid to teach me how to use it.

    So my cell phone costs me nothing, and my landline cots me next to nothing. Eventually, I will probably use the new one more and more, but I don’t want to become like people I see on the bus who can’t put down their phones – I prefer reading from a book or a full-sized monitor. In fact, since I can’t drive, the one thing I use my cell for the most is the app that lets me enter a stop location and returns the wait time for the next bus.

    1. All my landline phone that list the callers names are from friends who will not program in the newer iPohne number. But the majority of the landline calls are spam. Which are identified as such. And sometimes I just pick up to see if there are any new scam. Nope, it’s still “Your Microsoft computer has a problem.” (Yeah, the “problem” is I have an iMac.) Also “This is The Federal Government, calling to give you a refund.” Always the oldies, no new scams.

      1. A good number of the calls that I receive on my landline show a caller ID of “UNAVAILABLE” or “TOLL FREE CALL”. I ignore them for the most part. Sometimes I answer the calls but say nothing, and 99% of the time the caller hangs up. My friends are all programmed into my phone with distinctive ringtones, so when I ignore them it’s because I just don’t feel like having a long conversation. That’s a lot easier to do with a landline, because you can always say that you weren’t home, or in the basement doing laundry. A cell doesn’t allow you those excuses. I also like this:

        “Suppose twenty years ago Congress had proposed a law saying every citizen had to wear a radio transponder around his neck, all day and all night, so the government could track him wherever he went. Can you imagine the outrage? But instead the citizens went right ahead and did it to themselves. In their pockets and purses, not around their necks, but the outcome is the same.”

        — Lee Child, from A Wanted Man

        I may not have much privacy left, but I like to maintain the illusion. When I got my cell, the first thing I did was disable all the location functions.

  54. We live in a remote area in the hills.
    On a good day if I stand on the front porch with one leg raised I can get one bar on my cell. The power goes out here frequently, usually twice or more a month. which means no wifi and the land line phone goes out too because to the answering machine. We need wifi for the cell phones. I keep an old dialing phone in a drawer which I can plug in to the land line when power goes out and an operator comes on and asks “Number Please”.
    So our land line is critical.

  55. I too had held onto my land line for decades. A recent move and retirement had me choose to abandon the land line, and use my cell only, and it is quite liberating. Let me put it to you this way Jerry, if you used only a cell phone, and I (a phone company) came to you and offered you a land line for $540.00 per year, would you take it?

  56. We have a landline because it is only $10 a year and gives us free LD calling into the USA (we’re Canadians). We currently turn off our cellphones while they charge overnight, so the landline is the primary number our contacts have. My mother before she died in 2007 still had a rental rotary dial phone for which she paid the phone company $15 a month or so. She wanted to support the phone company with its unionized workers. She never did get a cell phone.

  57. I live in a rural area that does not have reliable cell phone reception. I keep hearing that gov”t will fix this, but I’m not holding my breath.

  58. I still have my landline. It’s bundled with cable and internet, which lowers the price a bit. But it’s largely for emergencies and when I make callouts. Reception for cell phones has improved in my area, but I still have pockets (with a new phone the search continues) where if I sneeze, the call drops or the text takes ages to send. I’ve had job interview calls get dropped or lost when trying to get to my phone (just switched providers, so maybe with a new phone it’ll never happen again). And because I’m usually at home, I give my landline number out. Even if I’m not home, I still have an answering machine, so no matter what, there’s a record of the call.

    I also have a battery backup for the landline in case of power outage, because I seem to be the only person on the block that’s memorized the outage number in 20 years (or rather, the only one who calls it instead of assuming others will call or the power company already knows what’s going on). In an emergency, I don’t wanna rely on just my cellphone, especially since it’s just me and my pets don’t have opposable thumbs or the ability to bark in English. I need multiple outlets to make contact (and am brushing up on other online ways now, so that’ll be an option, too).

  59. I bought a cell phone after 9/11. I was in DC and scheduled to leave on Wed 9/13. The flight was cancelled. On Friday when the airports reopened a friend managed to get a ticket while we were waiting in line in BWI. He lent me his phone and I was able to get a ticket as well. By the time we got to the front of the line the ticket counter was turning away people but our tickets were waiting for us. When I got home to southern Utah I bought a cell phone but kept my land line. Starting in 2005 I spent as much time away from home as at home from May to October. I bought a cellular wifi device that provided better service than the land line phone company provided. Eventually I decided it served no purpose to keep both. I dropped the land line and have had no regrets. I bought a smart phone when the cell phone carrier could serve iPhones. I am a hopeless dependent on Apple and have been since 1995. My smartphone does a great deal to keep me organized. The phone, my address book, my calendar, messages, and email are all linked. At first I had almost no spam calls on my cell phone but starting about three years ago that changed and at least 2/3 of calls are spam. I keep the ringer turned off. If someone calls the phone will vibrate. If the caller is in my address book their name will appear on the screen and I will answer it. If not I just let the phone send the caller to voicemail. I rarely read on my cell phone but sometimes that feature is handy. Having the camera is great. Having music, ebooks and podcasts available is good for traveling. Getting travel directions is handy. Major cities have transit apps that make it possible to use public transit effectively. My land line couldn’t do any of that. I do live in a rural area but we have fairly good cell phone coverage. However the cellular company is not an improvement over the old land line provider.

  60. I used to have one so that I could make calls if the power went off (rare, but if it happens then I might need a phone, if only to tell the power company). That makes sense, though, only for an analog land line, since ISDN requires power to work. I gave it up when two things happened at about the same time: cell-phone service became so cheap that even if I used the cell phone exclusively for a few days it would be cheaper than maintaining the land line, and the “land line” is now a voice-over-IP connection which works only when the internet is working (and hence when there is power). The situation depends on where one lives.

    So I still have the land-line number, but it is VOIP under the hood. Also stopped paying 20 per month for cable television and now get that over IP as well for 5. It does mean that there is a single point of failure, but the service has proved reliable. Yesterday I was informed that glass fiber is coming to my street. (The current DSL is over copper cable, 250 Mb/s download, 40 Mb/s upload. I started out with 1 Mb/s download and much less upload. I need more now than I needed 20 years ago, but each time I upgraded (about 6 times), at the time I didn’t really need more, but switched because the new service (with the same company) was the same price or even cheaper, often with a much better router thrown in for free.)

  61. We still have a land line and we use it as our “primary” phone number for schools, doctors, services, general contact info, etc. Because we carry our cell phones with us (unless stupid me forgets it and leaves it at home), anyone can call us at any time, which can be intrusive at times. (And yes, I know we can turn the sound off, but who remembers to turn the sound on and off all the time?) Consequently, we only give out our cell phone numbers to people we would WANT to intrude as necessary, like family and very close friends – and even then, about half our cell phone calls are junk calls! Because of the prevalence of caller ID, that sometimes backfires as a recipient assumes that our cell phone numbers are our “real” phone numbers, but that’s still uncommon (so far!). Even our employers do not have our cell phone numbers. If they want to be able to contact us that way, *they* can pay for a cell phone for us; otherwise, they can use the land line. We know it’s a losing battle, but we feel that a cell phone is for OUR convenience, not anyone else’s.

  62. Question setup (suggested by a few comments in this Byzantine topic ):

    Once one owns a smartphone – such as from a certain tech company in Cupertino – it can be used independent of cellular service – i.e. as a computer, which is truly what smart/cellphones are, of course. That is, on WiFi which can be free-as-in-beer.

    Is there a way to get a “phone number” on a landline to forward to an email (for instance) such that you can have a pocket computer get “phone calls” through the WiFi without paying extra for it?

    Or is that VoIP? Which costs money?

    See why I used the word “Byzantine”?

  63. I have the same conundrum and am considering losing the landline but: I’ve had my landline/VOIP number for 31 years – I’m attached to it and people remember it. Then again, only one friend actually calls that number and a few doctors, but telemarketing and political calls come in daily.
    I have 5 handsets around my house, so it is more convenient than the cell which I often leave in one room or another.

  64. Took me awhile, but about the only calls I was getting were robocalls. Why pay for that??? And the fact that I’d hand the phone number for over 30 years. I ditched the landline and pray that in my old age I will still be able to work a cellphone.

  65. The main reason for me to not use a cellphone is that I find them very difficult to operatre. They are touch based and either my touch is not recognized or I touch in the wrong place without knowing it. I live in a retirement home that has a landline bundled so Cost is not a factor. The landline is bundled into my monthly rental. There are areas where a cellphone would be helpful, such as when I am not at home, but the difficulty of use overrides.

  66. Ditch it. I ditched mine years ago as a cost cutting measure, and have never missed it.

  67. I just remembered a rage-inducing problem on cell phones :

    The lack of control of imposed text messages on recipients – so a cellphone user sends a text message and the recipient pays for it. The sender might be blocked, but significant numbers of users are genuine contacts.

    iPhone has iMessage, which is great. It’s all covered. But not everyone has an iPhone. So large swaths of users send lengthy text messages.

    What’s that have to do with a landline? Well, those users would have to call instead – that’d be preferable.

    What a complicated mess!


    1. “Well, those users would have to call instead – that’d be preferable.”

      Not to me. I’d much rather get a text message. And don’t most cell phone services have unlimited texting? Isn’t that kind of charge a thing of the past? (My service has been unlimited for many years.)

      1. ” I’d much rather get a text message. ”

        So would I.

        “And don’t most cell phone services have unlimited texting?”

        I figure as much, but there’s a fee.

        IOW the entry level offers up to so many texts. Then they charge per text over the limit. So the user adds the unlimited for a charge.

        IOW users sending messages can force a service upgrade.

        It is Byzantine – did I say that already? Dear me, I am getting ill from this – we have better things to do today – apologies!

  68. Was it stated – which piece/design of equipment/hardware will be used to take/send calls?

    e.g. are we going full retro rotary phone, or is there a SpaceX Age technology to be found?

    This came to mind because I just made a call which told me to “use your touch tone keypad”.

Leave a Reply