Is it time to cut the cord? According to a new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, upward of 20 percent of the population...
Is it time to cut the cord? According to a new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, upward of 20 percent of the population no longer has landlines and relies exclusively on cellphones.
Phone companies, most recently Verizon, have begun creating money-saving packages that let you get your Internet service without a landline, something cable/Internet firms have offered for years.
Savings are variable, depending on what kind of bundles you buy, so be prepared for a lot of fine print.
Still, it’s encouraging when the phone company recognizes the demand for its main product is falling: For an additional $30 per month, Verizon Wireless’ “Flex Double Play” lets you skip the landline and add DSL/Internet to many wireless plans (not coincidentally, perhaps, roughly what Cablevision has as an introductory rate for its basic, somewhat faster, Internet service).
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Until recently, unless you had a landline, you would have had to pay additional hefty fees for a “dry loop” over which DSL could run.
Old fogy Lou is sentimental about POTS (plain old telephone service) in a way that the younger crowd may not understand — yet. Back in 1985, when cellphones were a novelty, Hurricane Gloria knocked out power to parts of Long Island for 11 days, affecting 600,000-plus households.
POTS is off the grid, and ignores power outages. Post-Gloria, I returned to my apartment with no power and 3 feet of sand that waves had washed into the living room. The phone, however, had a dial tone and functioned perfectly.
Cellular telephony, on the other hand, fades quickly in an outage because many cell sites depend on batteries for short-term backup. Internet telephony, meanwhile, presumes a functioning router and modem in your home, both of which need real electricity.
Disasters aside, the case for moving exclusively to a cellphone-Internet combo, whether with cable, DSL or the new Verizon FiOS service, is compelling.
I made the move about five years ago, but I cheated: I kept my old landline and opted for the cheapest no-frills service, then loaded up on cellphone minutes.
The first plus was convenience: After years of various two-line cordless systems and missing messages on answering machines, I set the main landline call-forward to my cellphone.
As for the second line, that was a money saver. I dumped it altogether and signed up for eFax, a free or fee service that gives you a phone number to which faxes can be sent, which in turn are forwarded to your e-mail account.
In a pinch I can use my scanner to send a fax via the same service, though I’ve used it rarely in the past couple of years. I use the landline phone about once a month, usually to make the cellphone ring when I’ve misplaced it.
More recently, I got rid of phone service at my office and switched to Internet-only. Alas, that set up a situation where it is possible to be phoneless: The cellphone dies, I forget it at home or I leave it in the sport-utility vehicle.
The fix for that one was Skype, since I always have a computer with me. Skype lets you download free software to make free or cheap phone calls via the Internet and your computer. All you need is a headset with microphone.
There are different pricing plans; you can call computer-to-computer free to other Skype users, or you can get an “Internet phone” with a regular number that works like a landline, or — and this was the bonanza for me — you can dial out of their network to a regular landline for a mere 2 cents a minute. No monthly fees, just prepay for 10 bucks of airtime.
So when I lose my cellphone, I can ring it with my computer and figure out where I mislaid it. Talk about progress.