What to do with a NEW (phone) landline?
December 10, 2016 2:48 PM   Subscribe

My ISP was bought out and the new, shiny ISP offered me a deal to get a package of data, cable, and a land line for 2/3 the price I was paying for data only.

So, after many years of not having a landline (and the last time I had one, it was exclusively for a fax machine), a couple of years without cable and ONLY having high speed cable internet, I now have all three.

So, anybody have any fun/cool/useful/productive ideas of what I can use a this landline for nowadays (2016/2017)?

posted by sandra_s to Technology (10 answers total)
Is it a real landline, or is it something like the U-Verse VOIP phone service?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:56 PM on December 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by sandra_s at 2:57 PM on December 10, 2016

Maybe thrift an answering machine and do your own personal version of dial-a-song where you record Facebook worthy status updates daily and friends and family can call if they want to hear them?

Warning, may be twee, hipster, and horribly depressing when you notice no one calls.
posted by meinvt at 3:07 PM on December 10, 2016

I hand my landline number out for utilitarian voice mail purposes. Any reminders from the various appointment services I use (hair, etc.), companies that bill me (utilities), really anybody that I won't ever need to talk to with my voice.
posted by rhizome at 3:18 PM on December 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

You can set a voip up to email you wav files for all voicemails, so pretty handy to hand out for appointments
posted by Valancy Rachel at 4:01 PM on December 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I also have a useless "landline", and I always desperately wish that I could put a dial-in modem on it for remote access in the event of internet failure, but alas, it is VoIP.

(It would probably stay up even in an internet/power disruption, but generally modems just don't work over VoIP.)

You might could make a cool voice dial-in service with Asterisk or FreeSwitch, though. Although... there's definitely no reason to not use cheaper/easier VoIP for that too... so I got nothin'
posted by teatime at 5:36 PM on December 10, 2016

It's not really a "landline," because it won't work when cable is out and not when the power is out (without a battery backup or generator), unlike a real landline. Just be aware it won't provide you that backup system.
posted by Miko at 8:16 PM on December 10, 2016

I use Google Voice, along with a very cheap cell phone plan. My number forwards to both cell and landline, so I can pick up calls and make calls using the landline, which uses no cell minutes and has better reception.
posted by alexei at 8:49 PM on December 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just a caution/warning. These VOIP lines cost service providers next to nothing to provide. They're using existing equipment (your CPE) and existing copper (your cable/DSL).

Historically, a true landline ran around $20-$25, which included the cost of maintaining a dedicated copper pair to your residence that would be backed up with battery power at the central office. Millennials have grown up in an environment where they're used to paying around $60-$100 for a cell phone. Both of these are relatively useful in an emergency because they're designed to keep working in power loss scenarios.

The cable TV network in particular, and the DSL network in some cases, are dependent on gear located throughout the service area, which may or may not function during shorter power outages, due to the tendency of service providers to neglect battery maintenance, and for longer outages require that portable generators be taken and placed around the impacted service area to power their gear. The actual reliability of service providers doing these things in practice is not as good as you'd expect. In many cases, their attitude is still that they're just providing cable TV service and that you can tolerate an outage.

Further, these triple-play deals are often promotional in nature, intended to lure you into switching your phone service to them, with a price that expires at some point in the future, at which point they are very much hoping they can jack your rates up, but not far enough for you to actually switch elsewhere. At that point, they've won, because they're now charging you $30-$40/month for a telephone service that is very much inferior.

My point is this: it's probably not a great idea to do anything with this line that is particularly important. You might be okay with handing it out as an answering machine number, for people you don't particularly care to talk to, or some other clever but trite use.
posted by jgreco at 3:45 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

In re-reading what I wrote, I failed to emphasize that one of the factors is that because people are used to paying $20-$100 for a phone line, service providers know that customers are "used" to paying that, but that users are not aware of the significant difference in reliability/quality of the delivered service. The service providers want you to pay $30-$40/month for a service that costs them almost nothing.
posted by jgreco at 4:40 AM on December 12, 2016

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