Blog Post

AT&T Will Scare You Into Keeping Your Landline

[qi:086] Keep your landline or your loved ones may die, seems to be the messaging tied to AT&T’s (s T) Home Base campaign released today. It comes on the heels of a Verizon (s vz) ad aimed at getting non-Verizon landline customers to ditch their wires in exchange for wireless. The battle between wired and wireless is heating up.  The AT&T campaign, complete with a picture of an ambulance racing to the scene, highlights the reliability and certainty that comes from being able to dial 9-1-1 from a landline. Copper, it could save your life.

I can’t fault AT&T for its scare tactics, given that those fears are exactly why we chose to revert back to a landline in our own home after going completely wireless. My mother-in-law was just too concerned about watching our toddler without that copper connection, since she often has a less-than-fully-charged wireless phone. However, some of the other reasons, pulled directly from an AT&T PDF, offer pretty lame rationales (fax machines? finding a phone in the dark?), as well as a failed grasp of numbering. How many of the reasons below do y’all find legit — or merely worth the $20 per month to connect via a copper landline?


96 Responses to “AT&T Will Scare You Into Keeping Your Landline”

  1. jenifer

    Looks like ATT forgot one reason to keep your land line…if you are n house arrest or other court monitoring you need a land line to connect the monitoring box to!

  2. MarkH

    Not buying it. I once had a client who had to borrow my cell phone because all her cordless land line handsets were dead. I’m all wireless, with Voip as a backup. Network has a 2 hour UPS. Never had cellular and internet go out at the same time. And if they do, ….well that’s why I have a garage full of food and water and a generator.

    • Ron-2

      That’s the same exact reason that cell phones, in the aftermath of a hurricane, are in the same boat as the fancy 900MHZ phones most people have. You must have power to keep them charged.

      I have a very old, VERY convenient rotary dial phone… (Kids, this is an antique that is actually a plastic disk with holes in it to insert a finger, and twist the dial around). It is powered by the “copper”, and works when nothing else will. Too bad it doesn’t carry enough electricity to power any thing else.

      • DianeC

        I have one of those black rotary dial phones. I have been a loyal “Bell” customer for yrs…I think that is about to change…I pay all of those stupid maintenance fees and cannot get one person to respond to an email or a phone call..I have been without phone service for 9 days and am sincerely thinking about calling Andy Wise, consumer advocate, at the local NBC station and ask him to call the big wig at AT&T and find out who one has to call to get service. If I had to rely on this phone for a 911 call I would be up a proverbial poop creek because there is no dial tone…I have a cell phone, thank goodness. I am calling the public service commissioner today and see if he has the number of “real live person ” at AT&T to speak with or yell at or talk to or something..

  3. I have a land line, personally (or as least for me) it’s a better value.

    Personally I find it’s actually cheaper than VoIP (unless I want to consider magicjack, or other small providers). Some people pay upwards to $40 a month for VoIP service, and yet with the wife talking to her mother in Texas, a friend in Saint louis (I live in IL) and calling my parents she talked about 500 some odd minutes. Bill came to like $7 from the long distance company (unitel) and the land line by itself hits right at $27.

    So while all those VoIP people wanted to get away from paying in excess of $40 for VoIP I got mine with long distance for most times right at $34-37 (highest was $37). Some months I don’t even have a bill so I get to enjoy $27 for just the pots. Now true I could get vonage or another VoIP provider for about $20 a month. Problem is when the power goes out I would be stuck. I only have a pre-paid cell plan (by choice of me). I took the higher cell bills and cashed them in for cell service (prepaid) that doesn’t get over $25-30 a month average for me and my wife’s phones (t-mobile).

    I can fax if I wish with it, or I can pay for a $24/yr fax by e-mail service (which is ok) or I can pay $0.03/per minute and use my modem in the computer. Another revalation was it was a relief in the area-wide power outage last year I could still “dial-up” to the internet locally (had a local number) and If the fridge and freezer wasn’t needed, well power up the DSL modem! I had sync, surf, had dsl and phone service all working.

    Some people in my neighborhood found it just amazing I still had phone service and internet.

  4. That 911 reason is (mostly) bogus – ATT wireless has systems that can pinpoint a wireless call within ~50 meters 95% of the time (as required by the FCC). It’s not quite foolproof, but the odds of you not being automatically located when calling 911 on an ATT wireless phone AND not being to describe to the operator where you are (which is, presumably, in your own home after all!) are vanishingly small.

    • Sure,”within 50 meters” translates to 150 feet. How many apartments are within that 10-50 feet give or take 3-4 stories if you also have the altitude factor for multi-story residences?

      Even in single family residential areas translating a GPS X/Y cordinate to a real, valid address to send emergency personnel takes valuable minutes. As an emergency service dispatcher, I would NEVER give up the landline exact address security that comes with a land line phone. Even though I am FULLY aware of the limitations of cell service, it is not a risk I want to take for myself or my family.

      Every day, lives are saved and response times are cut by having the exact address of an emergency due to a land line phone. Cell phones when prople are having medical emergencies and can’t speak clearly, Domestic violence or burglaries of occupied homes where the caller is afraid to speak on the phone happen far too often.

      Nothing is more frustrating than hearing someone in a panic situation begging for help and unable, unaware or unwilling to give a valid location to get help.

  5. Paula

    Reason #5: You’ll never get disconnected WITH grandma.

    Who proofed their advertising. DISconnected “WITH”??? Not disconnecte “from”?

    I transferred to cell phone the number I had with AT&T for 20 years. It took a month for them to get it through their thick heads that the reason I wasn’t paying the bill was because I was no longer a customer. They kept sending me bills. I kept calling to say I no longer had their service. One rep says, “Yes, but the bill is for next month’s service, not the previous month.” I told her to quit reading me the script, and THINK for a minute. Why would I pay for next months’ service with AT&T after I cancelled it last month? After about 15 minutes, she closed the conversation with “Thank you for choosing AT&T.” I said “What?!” She asked if something was wrong. I told her that the only thing wrong was that she just demonstrated why I don’t want AT&T. They pay no attention to the conversation — they just read scripts and try to sell stuff.

    I’ve been land-line free for over a year now, and it has been super. My cell phone company, USCellular, gives the best customer service of ANY company I’ve ever dealt with. One day I stopped in the store for a minor equipment problem (which was solved by turning the phone off and on). While the rep had my account online, she said “I see you have EasyEdge service for $5 a month. But you’ve only used it two times in the last year, to send pictures. That woukld have cost fifty cents. Shall I remove it?” (Yes! Thank you). “And,” she says, “you don’t use as many minutes as the next lowest national plan. If I change it, that will save $10 per month.” I discussed this; on the lower plan the nigh/weekend minutes started later. So she analyzed my bill — showed that I didn’t use the nights/weekend feature very much anyway. So I walked out of the store with a bill that was $15+taxes/fees lower–and no change in length of contract.

    I sent a couple of notes complimenting whoever does their training. No matter what time of day I stop in the store, they are usually busy, but I know that when it’s my turn I will have undivided attention to my specific issue — not something that they read from a script. I’ve been with them for nine years, and their services have only gotten better and better. (No, I don’t work for them, and never have worked in that industry).

  6. Oldtaku

    Your mother-in-law comment is exactly why this works. Women are inordinately susceptible to fearmongering, especially where children are involved. Analyzing the reasons for probability or accuracy or whatever is pointless. All you have to do is replace every other word with CHILDREN and FEAR.

    Now if you wanted to sell it to men, we’re inordinately susceptible to arrhhhhh power tech specs moar power but they can’t really do that here.

    • “Women are inordinately susceptible to fearmongering”

      Or knowing that radio waves (and thus transceivers, which *is*, after all, what cellphones are…) leave dead spots, no matter how many antennae you have.

      (It’s also why microwave ovens have little revolving tables: so that part of the food doesn’t sit in a dead zone, and other parts don’t sit in a hot zone.)

      • oldtaku

        Okay, obviously if you know you can’t get reliable cellphone reception in your own house then don’t give up the land line /in the first place/. I’ve got full bars everywhere in the house, and it’ll even survive the microwave being on.

        This is just about making you picture some scenario where your child has just been molested by masked house invaders as s/he suffers a sudden attack of vaccine induced autism and suddenly a giant global warming flare wipes out your cell service so you can’t call for help. It’s pure fear mongering.

        You’ll notice they don’t mention in here that 911 still works even on a disconnected landline in many states (see ). When I plug my old phone back into my out of service land line I still get a dial tone, though forgive me if I don’t test calling 911.

  7. Reason #11: Stupid CPUC tariff that requires me to pay for a landline if I want ADSL2 service from Speakeasy.

    That’s the only reason I still have a landline. It’s not hooked up to anything and I have no idea what the number is.

  8. Kelly

    Well they do have a point but to advertise it in such a shameless way using one main reason to give multiple other once they could have simply said “If you need to call 911 or there is some form of disaster that causes a power outage”

  9. I’m coming from the cell-only camp – AT&T quoted 3 weeks to get service back up and running on my office line… I raised the minutes on my cell phone and am now tethering my computer for internet access. Everyone ho want to keep a land line go right ahead if you have good reason to, but if you are thinking about it – go ahead and get rid of it! Worst case scenario? You can install your phone line back and keep paying twice for the same thing!

  10. I am looking into a company called to monitor my home alarm with my broadband connection. I am sick to death of being charged $47 a month for the basic landline by Qwest. Services like vonage are working on improving the 911 situation, too.

    • Allia

      If you are paying $47 a month, then you don’t have “basic phone service”. Unless you live in remote areas of Wyoming or Minnesota where you have to pay a zone distance charge. Learn to read your bill and find out what “basic service” means.

  11. Alyshia

    Im 20 and i moved out when i was 17. I have never once had a land line in these last three years. I live in an area where we get heavy snow every yea, thunderstorms all summer and huge wind storms all year long… land lines dont work so well in my town, and thats why my cell is always with me.AT&T Can try to scare me, but it wont work. My cell has GPS on it, and the few times ive had to cal 911, they knew where i was. no point to get a land line in my house

  12. John Q

    So most of these comments for pro-landline seem to have been left by A) The Survivalist “The Tri-Lateral Commission is coming to take my daughter and might be communicating with my dog to poison me” types or B) I live someplace where nature has decided that modern civilization and its buildings should not flourish.

    For the rest of us. Storms come, and power may go out. It comes back. Rather quickly in most cases, and for a couple of bucks you can buy an emergency charger for your cellphone that runs of AAs. If you live someplace where service is iffy, your phone may be a bit dated, or you may need to investigate changing service providers. I work with people stuck in the middle of nowhere Idaho every day and most of them get high speed via area wide wifi. Why pay for two phones when you only need one? Ditch the copper and tell At&T to get with the times.

  13. Susan

    Reason 34 – I guess they haven’t watched teens use their cellphones as flashlights. Can’t do that with a landline.

    We live in a fire prone area. Cells work and landlines burn up. Last fire I was quoted a 4 week restore time for landline and data. So I got another cell and a 3G card for my computer as a backup. Dropped the landline last year.

  14. I’ll never give up my landline. I did that once and then a hurricane hit. The cell tower out by us was out for a week and I was out in the cold. Neighbors who had landline phones had phone service during and after the storm. Never again will I rely on my cell phone alone….its worth the $20 a month for the peace of mind. Also, my landline always works when the power goes off — and those times I forget to charge my cell phone…

  15. I live and work part-time in a rural area with a lot of trees. it’s also 90 miles outside NYC. And I was in Manhattan on 9/11. And I was at my house during the great blackout of 2002 (or thereabouts).

    I am willing to pay $25 for absolutely basic landline service for the indefinite future, for two reasons:

    (1) It’s self-powered, meaning that even if the power goes off (which it does routinely in the mountains, in any season with heavy winds, for 5 minutes to 24 hours). I always have phone servcie.

    (2) In the event of a massive grid outage, I can use dialup service over the phone line with my laptop for a while–whereas cell towers require power, and their backups failed massively during that blackout.

    Maybe I’m overly cautious. (I also have two weeks’ worth of canned food in the cupboard.) But it’s worth $300/yr to me to have redundant and far more fail-safe communications.

    My two cents

  16. ispinsider

    I see, so in addition to my wireless service and my internet service I should hold on to that landline just in case. Right. We know who wins in that deal. Nothing more than scare tactics!

    This is classic Telco think at its best. Verizon and ATT both should toss the save your land line campaigns and create a competitive VOIP product and or focus on data products.

    Think outside the box and let the land lines go to smaller start up telco’s. Thats whats happening anyway. eg. Frontier and Fairpoint deals made by Verizon.

    A landline is a good backup at best for when my internet connection is down. Its not required for faxing or any of the other items on the list if a customer has a working internet connection. Not to mention cell service which isn’t guaranteed but very reliable in most cases.

  17. Cell phones are far from foolproof. I have been in two natural disasters — one hurricane, one ice storm — where the power was knocked out for more than a week. Both times, my cell service was down for more than two days. However, the landline phone service worked like a champ the whole time.

    During 9/11, the cell network was hammered in NYC — but landline calls got through just fine. Are you a VIP with an emergency trunk line card that gets you through the landline network in a national emergency? Good luck making that work on a cell phone. Landlines are far more reliable than cells in a serious emergency. A friend of mine is a police officer and he is required to have a landline phone “just in case”.

    That said, you may feel the trade off isn’t worth it — that’s your prerogative, but it is the #1 reason to keep a landline phone around.

    • Mary S

      I must just disagree with you 9/11 comment – both cell and landlines were hammered – I tried for hours, both on cell and landlines, before I was able to get a call thru.

    • i agree with you. A landline is by far the most reliable. Batteries die, power goes out, no signal available, etc. I do think that landlines should be less expensive, the copper is already there and apparently being used a lot less.

    • The problem with this is that even if your landline is still working, the person your trying to call probably has a cell phone. So either way your shit out of luck.

  18. Daniel Golding

    I use my landline to find my cell phone all the time. :)

    I’m not terribly sympathetic to CWA, Linda, or IBEW. Too many cut optical fibers by union guys looking to “protect a brother’s job”

  19. Anyone who is actually scared by this ad, should lose voting privileges in the US. Not that it will dramatically help in the selection of a politicians based on purely intellectual reasoning, but it’s a start at eliminating the ones that vote without a clue!

  20. Linda

    Are any of you aware that Communication Workers of America have been working for ATT WITHOUT a contract since April? Are you aware that ATT made over 3 bil in profits for the first quarter of this year? Must be nice eh? ATT left the bargaining table because of disagreements with CWA. ATT wants CWA workers, you know, the people that MADE the company what it is, to pay 3x more for healthcare then the previous contract. This will also include retirees, my husband being one. He gave 37+ years to ATT/SBC/PacBell and last year they bought him out and asked him to take early retirement. We are 2 years away from SS age. Greedy Bastards!! It is greed like this that has caused the problems in Americas economy.

    • ispinsider


      You call that early retirement after 37 years?

      With all do respect, your husband should have left on his own. People with that kinda of time in telco often don’t want to change with the company.

      Doesn’t make sense to pay his wage after that length of service.

      • MrMaBelle

        Umm, it is called a contract,something AT&T never honors.
        There was nothing “respectful” about that shot. It makes perfect sense to honor an agreement. They get forced out and forced to accept a small percentage of what they were promised.

    • Shall I call the whambulence on my Verizon landline or T-Mobile cell? Get over yourself, and learn something about the history of American labor relations. I’ll leave you with Samuel Gompers, 19th labor leader who remarked that the objective of every business is to turn a profit, because a company that goes out of business employs no one.

      By the way, are those same CWA workers also responsible for the decline in service? Because if they made the company the way it is they are.

    • Laurel

      Must be nice to have had 37 years. My group was laid off in May, I had only 5 years and I was a management employee and worked on UVerse. I covered for the strike in 2004, so I’m a little bitter about the union people asking for more and more. How sad that healthcare premiums are going up… because they are everywhere in every job in the country that even offers healthcare. I’d pay 3x for coverage, if only I still had a job.

    • Benji

      I knew it was only a matter of time before someone brought the CWA issue into this. Seems every chance they get, they’re quick to jump in to say how AT&T’s being unfair.

      The people that MADE the company? Yes, CWA had a part in it, but you were not the only ones. Management made decisions where to build, what to deploy, and how to deploy it as part of that network that every order you take gets routed over.

      $3B in profits? Ever stop to think about where that money is going? It’s so hard for companies to float paper these days that a lot of that has gone right back into the network that you guys are selling products on. Yet you guys keep pointing out the profit number. If they give in to all your demands, then did you ever stop to think what happens to the network? No money to repair a switch when it goes down, meaning all your customers are out of service. No money to deploy U-Verse, which you guys actively push. Stop and think about that for a second.

      Greedy bastards? It is a company’s job to turn a profit. I’m not saying they are being fair, but they are not being nearly as evil as the CWA makes them out to be.

    • Your AT&T union worker has paid next to nothing for benefits while the non-union employees costs have climbed every year. Non-union employees pay around 40% of the cost of their benefits, CWA members pay less than 10%. AT&T is trying to bring the union percentage closer to the non-union percentage.

      Was your husband crowing the past few years about how cheap his benfits were? Didn’t think so….

  21. I have been “working” from home for 7 years and just showed AT&T the door today. When they can explain to me why my phone bill cost more than my cellphone, cable and PG&E bill combined then I’ll stay. They are a joke.

  22. 34: What? Will my cell phone’s battery suddenly drain if the power goes out? What about the phones you keep selling me that promise days and days of idle time?

    32: 1989 called; it wants its fax machine back (throw in that landline if there’s room)

    5: “We realize our wireless service blows. Matter of fact, you might live in one of the biggest cities on earth and STILL not get great service. You can fix that problem by giving us more money”

    27: Not true. The security system in my mom’s house uses wireless to alert the company if the alarm is tripped — tested monthly, never fails.

    21: “You don’t need friends; you need a land line”

    972: Why aren’t these in numerical order?

    • 34: The Cold War had a huge effect on the design of the telephone system – especially the Central Office (CO) in each community. Most of them use backup generators and fuel cells to keep operating even when supply from the electrical mains is out. Some still have the HUGE lead-acid batteries to power the system. The CO is usually built like a bunker, with resistance to floods, earthquakes, storms, and in most cases, bomb strikes. I know of several COs and remote switch facilities that have multiple underground vault levels, all with weeks of backup power. Not many cell sites have that level of disaster resistance. Most can’t operate too long after the electric grid goes out – I think 48 hours is an oft-quoted unattended duration.

      Just think of the the land line like a spare tire. You don’t use your spare tire every day, but when you need it, you better believe you’re happy it’s there!

  23. For $9.99/month + a $100 device to integrate a cell phone into my already wired home, I use a cell phone on a family plan to allow one number to ring all over the house. This has worked well for the last 7 months. I ‘broke even’ on the plan about 2 months ago. You can get a cell plan and still use your home phone people!

  24. Richard

    AT&T is not wrong. Landlines are good. I maintain a land line for the following reasons:

    >I’m not convinced that use off cell phones is healthy–may cause brain cancer. Studies, mostly paid for by the cell phone industry, says they are safe. Independent studies are inconclusive. Stands to reason that the radiation cell
    phones emit next to you skull could be harmful over time. Increased use of cell phones resulting from eliminating ones landline isn’t too smart. There was a time when the cigarette industry advertised that cigarettes were healthy and had physicians attest to the fact in advertisements. Look what happened!!

    >In Florida where I live we are exposed to natural disasters including hurricanes. In past storms land lines stood up better than cell phone towers–no interruption of service. I like a landline for use in any emergency as an alternative backup.

    >I find a landline more comfortable to use.

    >Landlines are relatively inexpensive for unlimited local and long distance use.

    • TJ from A-town

      In response to Richard:
      >I’m not convinced that use off cell phones is healthy–may cause brain cancer. Studies, mostly paid for by the cell phone industry, says they are safe. Independent studies are inconclusive. Stands to reason that the radiation cell phones emit next to you skull could be harmful over time. Increased use of cell phones resulting from eliminating ones landline isn’t too smart. There was a time when the cigarette industry advertised that cigarettes were healthy and had physicians attest to the fact in advertisements. Look what happened!!In Florida where I live we are exposed to natural disasters including hurricanes. In past storms land lines stood up better than cell phone towers–no interruption of service. I like a landline for use in any emergency as an alternative backup.I find a landline more comfortable to use.Landlines are relatively inexpensive for unlimited local and long distance use.<
      You don't have the right cell plan if you truly believe this.

      • Think Duh

        The tinfoil hat line is as cliche as some stupid Jesus line, the people who use it are generally ignorant and easily programmed.. There are plenty of things people are swindled into for $, including the stimulus package which puts America into debt to the Federal Reserve Ghouls.. Just like they did South America, and Europe with the Marshall Act (A Jew Banker Funded Hitlers Takeover of the Reichtag) and you knew thats why we were in Iraq, right? Nah, go watch Fox instead, who cares they are never consistent with their B.S.. Go Watch Zeitgeist II on youtube if you still do not understand..

    • Michael

      Richard, let’s say for the argument’s sake that cell phones do emit harmful radiation. Do you know that most places now-a-days have wireless internet (WiFi)? That also emits signals which go through your body at a similar power levels as the cellphones and virtually the same frequency spectrum! So use it or don’t… there is stuff flying through the air everywhere in most semi-urban environments.

      *Just to be clear I’m not saying that you’re wrong, but by not using cell phone you forgo a ton of convenience for a negligible reduction in exposure.

      P.S. And I guarantee that within a 5-10 years most of your computer hookups as well as TV will be wireless. So unless you become Amish there is no chance for you.

      P.S.S. Besides the radiation depends on the strength of emitting device and radios and TV stations have been broadcasting things over the air for decades at a much higher powerlevels, in fact you should be relieved that the TV’s aren’t going to broadcast anymore starting (January 2009, July… whenever that actually takes effect).

    • Even cordless landline phones emit radiation, so you are getting the same negative effect if you use anything other than a corded phone.

      I’m sure there are some negative health side effects to the radiation from cell phones. But I’d be willing to bet you are far more exposed by going to the dentist (X-rays), visiting a coffee shop that has WiFi, watching TV, sitting in front of a computer, using a microwave oven, living within four miles of high voltage power lines, or myriad other events. The only true way to protect yourself is to stop living.

      So, in comparison, the danger from cell phones seems negligible — unless you’re on it constantly.

    • Salles

      Would you like to know why it takes forever to remove wire maintenance? Because at a call center if the rep removes a product they take a financial hit on their monthly goals. So I am willing to believe that you had called several times and no one removed it. I can tell you horror stories that endangered customers lives with this rule by AT&T. The level of unethical sales techniques has arisen by the thousands with AT&T’s implementation of how customer service reps take a negative hit on their sales numbers.

      • mstradman

        at&t is now negotiating to base the service rep pay on sales. you thought it was bad before, just wait til they’re paid on commission.

      • Fred G

        This is not true. I worked for AT&T in the call center and this was NEVER the case. The service techs are horrible and this is why stuff takes forever. Mind you this…I would NEVER stick up for AT&T but this fact is not true.

      • James

        This is TOTALLY TRUE! Not only does the rep taking the cancelation order take the hit so does their supervisor/team leader. I work in an AT&T call center and it is VERY common to see call logs indicating the customer called in but no notes were entered by the rep. It’s because the customer wanted to cancel and the rep said ok it is all done you will get a prorated bill in the mail.ETC. Happens everyday. Call in and place the order then call in at least TWICE again in the next 48 hours to verify it has been done. Even then there is no guarentee because when you ask about it the rep on the line thinks if they say no they will have to do it. We have had fist fights over stuff like this. AT&T is very shady in this department. Hell if you have DSL from them test your speed. most people never see 70% of the speed they pay for. You can also get discounts by saying you want to cancel and going to the cancelation dept. They will offer you discounts they rep can not.

      • Landluber

        sounds like AT&T uses the same call center techniques that En terprise car rental uses. Threaten your employees until they are so scared they will screw the customer or quit. Im sure they have the revolving door employee policy as well with a steady stream of new hires replaces hundreds of employees who walk or get fired every month.

  25. BrionS

    Reason #27 – security system need to be hooked up to something — this is bogus. Most security systems have a cell option these days which seems much safer than a land line because it can’t be cut and because the box can be put up out of reach of malicious intent.