Get rid of home phone?
July 4, 2005 12:47 AM   Subscribe

Thinking about getting rid of land line and going strictly with cell. Don't spend much time on the phone, land or cell. Anyone out there got a good reason not to switch? (internet connection is cable) Any feedback appreciated.
posted by lois1950 to Technology (52 answers total)
I've been landline-free for a couple of years now. My area code is different from where I live now. I still never had a problem with it other than people who are bewildered when I tell them that I don't have a "home" phone number.

Also, no telemarketers!
posted by kamikazegopher at 12:53 AM on July 4, 2005

The cell phone contracts!!! If you have a problem with your phone (like me) you're in for a lot of hassles and out a lot of cash in replacing the phone or changing providers.

(That being said, I regret nothing)
posted by loquax at 1:03 AM on July 4, 2005

call quality is shit at my house with a cellphone. It's uncomfortable for longer conversations. I'd love to be able to route my cellphone through a larger handset at home, but until that's possible, I'm sticking with a landline.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:37 AM on July 4, 2005

b1tr0t: Yeah, dry pairs for DSL.

I kid.

If you have a good service area, and you don't mind the contracts, cell phones can easily replace landlines.

If you don't like the contracts, there are a handful of fairly cheap pre-paid providers now.

The only thing I can think of that would *require* a landline as opposed to Voice-over-IP or cell is when your internet provider takes a flying leap into the flaming lake of woe and disconnectivity, and suddenly you're faced with 30-60 minute wait times to talk to a clueless tech. That gets pricey, fast. VOIP is cheaper than landline or cell for long calls, local or long distance. But if your internet goes out, good luck calling the support with that number. You might as well try to fly there to report it.

(I just had this happen to me. I went to a payphone, dialed the 800 number, and spent an hour waiting in 110 degree heat. But then, I just moved to the place, so I wouldn't have had landline yet anyway.)
posted by loquacious at 2:15 AM on July 4, 2005

I'd do this, except I live in an area about .25 square miles that doesn't get coverage, right in the middle of the city. It's this little valley that doesn't get broadcast TV at all well either. My carrier does not appear to care.

It's not all bad, as my cellphone is work provided. The only place it doesn't work is at home? I can live with that.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 3:53 AM on July 4, 2005

I never got a landline when I moved a few months ago and haven't missed it once. I do worry about brain tumors, what with using the cel so much, but I find that when I'm home, I talk to my friends on IM as much as the phone these days anyway. Oh Brave New World etc etc etc
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:58 AM on July 4, 2005

I've come close but haven't pulled the plug on my landline. I've cut the features on the phone down to the barebones measured service that comes to about $15/mth including the taxes, surcharges, and all of those extra fees. I added call forwarding [an addl $5] so it sends all of my home # calls to my cell so people can reach me at just one phone [and single voicemail]. The caller ID on the cell phone works on the forwarded calls.

Every month when the bill comes I think about ditching the landline. But the cell reception isn't 100% reliable in my place, I have a dialup if my cable modem blows up, and a calling card in case I need to call someone in a yet-to-happen emergency. Also, I have friends, family and business contacts that have the landline number and I don't want to have to deal with telling everyone about the new number. So every month I don't call to cancel.
posted by birdherder at 5:20 AM on July 4, 2005

The landline doesn't necessarily go out when electricity does.

Personally, I hate cellphones (too many near accidents with people who were contentedly babbling away on one while they were driving; people who won't turn it off or take it into the lobby during a movie or a performance) , but I had to get one when I bought my place and needed to be reached there before I moved in. I still have it, but I don't usually carry it with me.
posted by brujita at 6:11 AM on July 4, 2005

Aren't overseas calls ridiculously expensive on a cell? You might want to keep that in mind if you ever phone internationally.
posted by gfrobe at 6:16 AM on July 4, 2005

gfrobe: offers a workaround for overseas calls from your cell phone. You call a 212 (New York City) area code, then type in the number you want to call. Rates vary per country (Germany: 6 cents/minute) and whether you're calling a cell phone or a land line overseas.
posted by cahlers at 6:22 AM on July 4, 2005

last time I moved, there wasn't a landline at the new place, and I just never got one... I had thought about giving up the landline before, but it had seemed too big a thing to do, and I was worried about phone quality and comfort being on the cell at home. But when the default was the other way, i.e., I would have to take action to get a landline, it seemed obvious I didn't need one.

It's much simpler having one number, and being able to go in and out of the house while on the phone; the quality is sometimes slightly lower, but it really doesn't bother me. I've no doubt landlines will be but a quaint curiosity to the next generation...
posted by mdn at 6:51 AM on July 4, 2005

The landline doesn't necessarily go out when electricity does

Just wanted to point out that your cell phone definitely won't go out when the electricity does, because it runs off battery.
Having said that, I haven't had a land line for years and I think it's great. Free nights and weekends nationwide? Awesome!
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:51 AM on July 4, 2005

If you have small children that you leave at home, you may want to reconsider. The E-911 system with cell phones doesn't work yet OR if you leave and take the cell phone with you, your kid may be able to dial 911 but couldn't explain his/her address.
posted by k8t at 7:25 AM on July 4, 2005

We went without a landline for about a year. When people really needed to reach us (or my husband and I needed to reach another at home), they only had the cell phone to call - and oftentimes we wouldn't hear the phone ringing in another room, or we'd miss the call because the cell was on silent or vibrate somewhere. There have also been a number of times when we've needed the phone but could not find it (again, often it was on silent or vibrate and had fallen between the couch cushions or something). I had visions of needing the phone in an emergency and not being able to find it; certainly this can happen with a portable phone, too -- but if you plug a regular old phone into at least one jack, you'll always have a phone there if you need it.

One other little thing - we only give our cell numbers to family/acquaintances .... When you do need to give out a number for commercial/business reasons, it's annoying to have them call your cell and rack up the minutes. We just screen all the landline calls and pick up if we want to when we hear the message being left (obv with cells you can screen the number - but can't hear the voicemail as it's being left).
posted by roundrock at 7:32 AM on July 4, 2005

I've been without a landline for about a year. No complaints -- it's nice to have one less bill to worry about.
posted by killdevil at 7:42 AM on July 4, 2005

Just wanted to point out that your cell phone definitely won't go out when the electricity does, because it runs off battery.

But your local tower won't last nearly as long on batteries/generators as your local telephone exchange.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:48 AM on July 4, 2005

I have not had a land line since 2001. No problems. For international ld I use something similar to what cahlers mentioned.
posted by fourstar at 7:48 AM on July 4, 2005

No landline here either. I use a combination of my mobile phone and, lately, Skype. I can make all the long distance calls I need to make for only 2 cents a minute. The call quality is very good using my 256K cable connection as long as I'm not uploading or downloading anything else in the background.
posted by hazyjane at 8:15 AM on July 4, 2005

I have not had a landline since 2003, and I get by just fine.
posted by riffola at 8:39 AM on July 4, 2005

I went landline-free a while back, and so far the only problem I've had is that when I applied for a new bank account, their computers couldn't verify that my phone number and home address matched because it wasn't a landline, and placed a 10-day hold on all deposits until I could fax them a copy of my cellphone bill with my address on it.

Not really a problem, but it's a minor kind of hassle you may need to anticipate.
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:16 AM on July 4, 2005

No landline here either. The last apartment that we had a landline in was in a very bad part of the grid which meant that the electricity went out once a month in the summer months and during storms. For some reason the outage also caused the phones to go out as well. So we were stuck using the cell phone. After that, and due to other problems with the local phone company we left the landline behind when we moved. We had to upgrade to a better plan when my wife started working from home, but we have had no problems (even when the electricity has gone out). I don't think we'd go back to landlines, it's a lot less of a hassle and one less bill to pay.
posted by rodz at 9:22 AM on July 4, 2005

We keep a landline only because the house's fire (and burglar) alarm system is hardwired into it.
posted by Alylex at 9:41 AM on July 4, 2005

Who_Am_I writes "Just wanted to point out that your cell phone definitely won't go out when the electricity does, because it runs off battery"

What's the back up power time of that cell tower? Land lines are regulated to provide a good long time (days) on batteries and generators. Lack of availability is a key draw back to cell service. Your land line is overall probably at least an order of magnitude more reliable. rodz your problem was probably related to a PBX that wasn't properly protected.

Another draw back is you are broadcasting your conversations in a several kilometre radius, just because it is illegal to listen doesn't mean people can't. At least with a land line they need to make physical contact with your twisted pair; something that is likely to be noticed in the middle to long term.
posted by Mitheral at 9:49 AM on July 4, 2005

I recommend that everyone keep a landline. Some of the reasons are already outlined in this thread, but all I think they all bear repeating. Additionally, by "landline" I am referring to a phone with an actual cord; corless phones have drawbacks and I think every home should have a standard home with a cord.

1) Emergencies. Your standard land phone with cord will never get lost, never run out of power (unless the electricity has been continually out for days and days), and never have a weak signal. The difference between calling the fire department or police on a standard phone versus cell could literally be one of life or death.

2) Privacy. A cell phone or regular cordless phone can be eavesdropped on very, very easily. Any schmuck with a $200 scanner can listen to your private conversations or take down your credit card information or when you'll be on vacation and the home will be nice and empty. A landline can be tapped, but it requires more technical skill (but not much) and that the 'bad guy' target you specifically.

3) Clarity. I think you all can tell the difference between a cell with one of two bars of signal strength and a hardwired line.

I love my old-school phone, and I hope that I never have to give it up completely.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:59 AM on July 4, 2005

Um, s/corless/cordless and s/"standard home"/"standard phone." Those were serious typos. :(
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:02 AM on July 4, 2005

Optimus Chyme: The cheapest scanner I can find that lets you listen to digital mobile conversations is hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tapping a landline is far, far, easier. I think your information is outdated.
posted by grouse at 10:13 AM on July 4, 2005

A friend of mine lived without a landline for awhile, and he encountered a serious problem when trying to apply for a new car loan - they wouldn't accept his cell phone number as his "home" number. They then told him that he had to have a home number to apply for the loan, and when he told them that he used his cell as his home number, they went around in circles.

He ended up having to get a landline and waiting 6 months (they wouldn't accept a line with no "history" either). It was really bizarre.

Of course, this was in 2000 when not having a landline was pretty much unheard of. I doubt you'd have the same problems he did, but if you're thinking about taking out a loan at any point, it something worth double-checking just to make sure.
posted by socialdrinker at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2005

Mitheral: most cell towers have some sort of alternative power system, often batteries and a fail-over generator. The phone people know that cell phones are necessary in any emergency system, and go to some effort to keep them up. We used cells to coordinate relief during the '98 icestorm and the '03 powerfailure in Ottawa without any real problems.

The real problem with cells in an emergency is one of capacity---often the networks are flooded with calls as people try to explain why they'll be late, ask to be picked up etc....
posted by bonehead at 10:40 AM on July 4, 2005

For what it's worth, I've been without a landline since mid-1999. That arrangement worked well for me as I rarely spent much time at home and found myself lugging quarters around in order to check messages and make evening plans. Lately, though, I've found myself increasingly frustrated by my cell service (both reception and customer) and I tire of sitting on my front porch in order to be certain that the person I'm talking to can consistently hear me. My work phone works just fine, my cell is used mostly at home anyway... and maybe when I'm out and about I don't need to be quite so "reachable". What a novel thought. :)
posted by swillis at 10:48 AM on July 4, 2005

Don't spend much time on the phone, land or cell.

Same goes for me. I tried cell-only for a while, but quickly grew annoyed at always having a phone on me. I know some folks love the little things, but I found it wasn't worth the hassle. I also hate the expectation folks have that I should be available all the time. I'm land-line-only now. Don't miss the cell.
posted by mediareport at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2005

I've had cell pretty much only for years (the exception being a brief time when Internet with DSL was cheaper than cable.) Having said that. Now that I'm back on a cable connection (and some areas offer naked DSL) I've found it cheaper to keep a minimal cell plan combined with a minimal VOIP plan and forward calls accordingly. When I say cheaper, I mean cheaper than an "attractive" cell plan...
posted by juiceCake at 10:59 AM on July 4, 2005

I did this 6 years ago when the number of telemarketing calls on my landline started to exceed the number of legitimate callers.

It's never occurred to me to hook the landline back up.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:08 AM on July 4, 2005

Me, wife, two kids = five cellphones in all; we did away with the landline back in December, and have suffered no ill effects. The basic, bare-bones landline (with caller-ID, call-waiting) was about $40/month; adding the fifth cellphone (to be used in our living room as the "home phone") was only $20/ savings: $20/month. Go for it.
posted by davidmsc at 11:34 AM on July 4, 2005

grouse writes "Tapping a landline is far, far, easier."

But subject to detection. It is basically impossible to tell if someone is listening to your cell conversations, at least with a land line there is some possibility of detection. And with a scanner you get to listen to your entire extended neighbourhood's calls not just the people you've physically tapped.

Cell outages, bugging, 911 problems and susceptibility to jamming. Most modern cell phones are also computers so they are susceptible to malware. All risks that are in addition to the risks affecting landlines. About the only risk you avoid is the local miscreant beige boxing you. Plus there is the risk that companies could tell the location you are phoning from.

bonehead writes "often the networks are flooded with calls as people try to explain why they'll be late"

True. And the rare landline outages also bring down cell networks (especially TDMA and analog networks; CDMA degrades better) as people try to use cell networks as a shunt.
posted by Mitheral at 11:49 AM on July 4, 2005

You can't listen to a GSM phone conversation with a regular scanner.

While it is theoretically possible, in 2005 it is very unlikely that some random bozo who means to do you harm will have a GSM-decrypting scanner. And if the government wants you, they can tap your phone in a way you can't detect either. There are more realistic things to worry about.
posted by grouse at 12:28 PM on July 4, 2005

I did this 6 years ago when the number of telemarketing calls on my landline started to exceed the number of legitimate callers.

The Do Not Call registry didn't exist back then. It probably would solve your problem if you still had a landline today.
posted by gluechunk at 12:45 PM on July 4, 2005

If you disconnect your landline service, keep a phone jacked in, as you'll still be able to use it to call 911.
posted by Ruki at 12:55 PM on July 4, 2005

Just keep phone cards handy for those long-distance calls. Sure, a minor inconvenience, but cheap cheap cheap.

One thing, though: don't forget your cell at work or you'll suddenly find yourself without a home phone for a night. A strangely vulnerability-appreciating experience.
posted by dreamsign at 1:41 PM on July 4, 2005

grouse writes "in 2005 it is very unlikely that some random bozo who means to do you harm will have a GSM-decrypting scanner."

The risk isn't so much from someone with specific intent. It's from the bored guy down the street. Good writeup on the attacks. Anyways, it is a potential risk and one of the reasons I keep my land line hanging around.

Ruki writes "still be able to use it to call 911"

I'm not aware of any regulated local phone company where this is the case. Cells yes, land lines no. You may get an operator on a dead phone line but that is at the phone companies whim as the phone company is not required to have your pair hooked to anything at the switch end.
posted by Mitheral at 2:14 PM on July 4, 2005

I don't think it's possible yet to decrypt CDMA phone calls yet, mostly due to the spread spectrum technology, so maybe go with that instead of GSM if you're worried about being bugged.
posted by gyc at 3:14 PM on July 4, 2005

The Do Not Call registry didn't exist back then. It probably would solve your problem if you still had a landline today.

Hmm. Let's think this one over. Give my number directly to a telemarketer, explicitly indicating that this is a number where a live human being can be reached.

Yeah. Right. Hey, gotta go - email indicates someone just broke into my bank account and they need my password and SSN to put it right.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:08 PM on July 4, 2005

After never needing it before, I found myself receiving a lot of faxes for my mortgage and such. Hooking the landline up made receiving the faxes possible.

Also, when those intial 500 minutes are up, it's nice to be able to have someone call me for free (on my part). For some reason, my friends seem to have better plans than me or something. I now know the meaning of "ugly overages".

One thing I noticed when talking on the landline is how infinitely more comfortable it is to hold a bigger phone.
posted by ontic at 4:25 PM on July 4, 2005

I was skeptical about the Do Not Call registry as well, but I used to get flooded with telemarkers and now I'm only hassled by my own banks and credit cards. [shrug]

I've kept my landline, though I have also gone down to the "budget" limited plan. (FYI, the phone company will not offer generally have to ask.) Still not tempted to give it up, for the reasons pretty much everyone mentioned -- comfort of talking, better connection, international calling, 911 service, and a number to give out when buying tickets, etc, so that the Symphony is not calling my cell to ask if I want a yearly subscription.
posted by desuetude at 4:42 PM on July 4, 2005

GSM phones have encryption, it is only usually turned off when you are calling 911 for obvious reasons. If the encryption is turned off midcall or anything, the phone lets you know about it.
posted by riffola at 5:47 PM on July 4, 2005

No landline here for some months. I have found in a few cases - getting tenant insurance, buying a washing machine - people seemed to think no land line meant I was fly-by-night. But, as I paid my bills, they clammed up pretty fast.

However, I recall that with a landline, unless unlisted, someone could call up and get your number. With a cell, i don't think they can. Could be good or bad.
posted by zadcat at 7:16 PM on July 4, 2005

I've gotta go with the Skype + prepaid cell phone combination for someone who rarely uses voice services. BTW, landlines never* go out when the power does; they have their own power source built right into the phone wire.

My understanding, coupled with personal experience with blackouts in southern Illinois and NYC.
posted by sachinag at 9:20 PM on July 4, 2005

Like some of the others, I would recommend no landline number and Skype for long distance*. I have yet to run into a problem, and it's been disconnected over a year.

I do keep a landline phone plugged in still, as Verizon in my area offers a pared-down, $5/month service for maintaining 100% the ability to call 911.

*You can't beat Skype-out's cheap calls, and if you often talk to people overseas, having a Skype-in number is great too. I currently have numbers registered in Germany and Sweden, allowing my relatives to call me in the US while being charged local rates.
posted by gemmy at 10:13 PM on July 4, 2005

The only trouble I've had is that my phone number is long distance to those in this city that I moved into. Other than that, I've had zero problems. Everything else is paranoia.
posted by angry modem at 11:02 PM on July 4, 2005

SocialScienceFilter: Without a landline, you will be excluded from the pool of potential public opinion survey respondents.

Most people in the 'industry' downplay this, but, if the set of individuals without landlines differs systematically from those with landlines, then folks who opt out of landlines may contribute to a decrease in the usefulness of telephone polling as a tool to (relatively) accurately gauge public opinion.

That said, I'm going landlineless in a month myself.
posted by onshi at 2:31 AM on July 5, 2005

About the 911 from a landline -

Most phone companies offer something called lifeline service - I'm not sure if they only offer it to the poor/financially disadvantaged - but it allows you to call 911/emergency numbers and it's either free or very, very cheap.

Sachinag - you are correct that the landlines are still powered in an outage - my mother worked for GTE for over 31 years (retired before Verizon bought them out) and I personally saw roomfuls of giant batteries to power the phone lines in an outage.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:39 AM on July 5, 2005

riffola writes "GSM phones have encryption, "
The GSM encryption packages A5/1 /2 /3 and authentication package A8 are fundementally flawed and were broken five years ago. With modern tech it is possible to either decrypt in real time (by doing a one time butt load of preproccessing) or after a delay of a minute or two without any preproccessing. The scanner needed to keep up with the frequency hopping is a bit on the expensive side but still less than the value of many HAM's equipment.
posted by Mitheral at 7:02 AM on July 5, 2005

I went landline-free about 3 years ago. The only problem I've had is a cell phone company that insisted they absolutely needed my landline number to complete a contract. I made one up, and they were happy.

Occasionally someone notices that my area code doesn't match my address. Explaining that it is a cell phone always does the trick.
posted by QIbHom at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2005

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