Blog Post

Do You Need a Landline?

2697847277_7ff7f9d36fMy cell phone number is on my business card. It’s the only number I ever give out. It makes sense, because I’m routinely not in my home office when someone calls me; if I want a client to be able to reach me, my cell phone is the best bet.

Many web workers rely on their cell phones for work these days and some have even moved to handling their phone calls entirely through their computers, with services like Skype. There are plenty of ways to do without a landline at this point, which leads us to the question of whether it’s even necessary to pay for a telephone line anymore.

The Backup Landline

The best argument for keeping a landline for most freelancers or telecommuters is the fact that it can offer a backup way to get in touch with a client or an employer. If, for some reason, you don’t get cell phone reception in your home or your power goes out, you can still make a phone call. But for many web workers, picking up and moving your laptop to somewhere with reception or power is a valid option. If you aren’t tied to your home office for any other reason, a landline may not be a necessary emergency measure.

Furthermore, if you’ve got both VoIP on your computer and a cell phone, you already have a backup system in place: if you’ve got both a belt and suspenders, do you really need more?

Phone-Based Systems

Right now, I still technically have a phone line coming into my office. It isn’t hooked up to a handset, though — it’s plugged into my fax machine. Many companies still depend on fax machines in order to do business, although that number continues to drop each year. There are online options that can replace a fax machine and, personally, I’ll probably make the switch in the next month or two.

There are a few other systems that still require a phone line in order to work, such as certain security systems or health alert systems, however. If you rely on such a system, doing without a landline probably isn’t an option.

The Emergency Issue

The biggest drawback to doing without a landline is that in the event of an emergency, it can be harder to call 911 (or whatever your local emergency number is). The emergency response system depends on landlines to determine where to route calls: dialing 911 from a VoIP phone can end with you being routed to an emergency responder in another city. Some VoIP providers now have Enhanced 911 systems in place, which will correctly route your call, but not all providers have made the change over.

Emergency calls from cell phones can also be directed to regional emergency response centers, rather than local centers. The FCC recommends that anyone placing an emergency call from either a cell phone or through VoIP software should make a point of immediately telling the responder the location of the emergency.

Do You Need a Landline?

In the end, a landline may not be necessary for many web workers. There are exceptions, of course, and many people just feel more comfortable with having a landline in place. It isn’t necessary, however, and if you’re looking to cut back on your telephone service, the land line may be the best place to start. I know that my last landline — my fax line — is on its way out the door.

Do you still have a landline?

Image by Flickr user Esparta

16 Responses to “Do You Need a Landline?”

  1. I haven’t had a landline in 5 years. My parents don’t even have a landline anymore. It is interesting to read some of the reasons why people keep their landlines around, although some of those are problematic and/or non-issues:

    – Landlines do use electricity, but the current is carried over the phone line, not the electrical line–if the telephone line is knocked out in a storm, the landline is useless

    – Companies like eFax have offered fax services for years without requiring a telephone line

    – As mentioned in other comments, VoIP services like Skype offer in-bound phone numbers. Google Voice offers in-bound numbers as well

    – Some phone companies are now offering DSL without an accompanying line (the wiring is still there, obviously, you’re just not paying for phone service)

  2. I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous.

    No, of course you don’t need “copper” per se.

    But to assume that you can get by on just your cell phone and run a business (whoops! Battery Died! Whoops! Lost It! Whoop! Dropped it in a puddle!”) is flat-out naive and says “this is not someone you want to do business WITH”!

    Geez . . . Get a MagicJack if you’re incredibly cheap, or inexpensive service from a VoIP provider. But having your cell phone be “it”? Wow.

    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Care, Business Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

    • Well, for us “location independent professionals” a cell phone may be the best we have available. I am a Virtual Assistant currently living (and traveling) full-time in my RV. I use a USB Sprint card for internet access, which is beautiful. And, in truth, it’s as fast or faster than my last cable connection was in SoCal when I moved out of the house. But it does not do well with VOIP — the sound reproduction quality can sometimes be wacky or a bit intermittent. So the cell phone it is. My clients know I am traveling and that I check email often. Frankly, I prefer emails to phone anyway, as it gives me a paper trail for use in my work.

      I got rid of my land line at the house 12 years ago. At the time I was still working in a law office with an hour’s commute on each end. The only calls I got at home were telemarketers and I didn’t want to pay for them to bug me!

  3. We have not had a land line in several years since we moved. We rationalized that one phone we carried with us at most times, the other was chained to a wall and we had to go there to use it.

    Would have one again if our local ISP would sell us a line “naked” (without phone service), or at least with a plan that is free each month with expensive usage fees. We would have DSL without hooking up an actual phone, but wont since it is $60 a month ($30 phone line minimum, $30 DSL).

  4. Like others I would prefer to drop the landline except for the ‘buts’.
    But #1 – I use DSL. I live in one of those neighborhoods where cable internet connectivity drops to near zero when all of the kids come home from school.

    But #2 – Because of my work, the home office has high end directional mikes and speakers so I can work hands free and the quality of cell phone connection is not up to the task. See But #1 for Voip.

    As for faxes, I use an internet fax service,(eFax) which works very well and is not tied to a specific fax machine.

  5. I work with a lot of local clients in the UK and have been told on a couple of occasions that they (client) prefer to deal with suppliers with a geographically local telephone number, as opposed to a mobile or non-geographic (0845) number.

    For me I’m guessing it gives some clients reassurance that I’m a real person, doing the job for a living and not as a sideline in my lunch break.

  6. I would love to ditch the landline… but my home security system uses the landline. I wish I could have it utilize my internet connection for emergencies, but after going through a recent house fire I realized that with the power going out the routers were knocked out.

  7. We had talked about dropping the land line for a long time since everyone in the house had a cell phone. The only real reason to keep it around was the security system. Then we made a move, changed carriers to get the best service in our new house… and dropped the land line.

    I live on my cell phone (Google voice now actually) and I love it. Works really well for us.

    I try very hard not to deal with faxes. “Is a scanned copy via email ok?” usually works just fine.


  8. I can’t remember when I last had a landline, and when I did have one it was used exclusively for faxing. I rarely have need a need to fax anymore so my cell has been my one and only number for many years. I can’t imagine having to pay for two phone services. Just doesn’t make sense for me.

  9. I have to say that, living in Miami, landlines are a must. Cell service is non-existent when Mother Nature sends a hurricane, so an old fashioned land connected phone that doesn’t need any electricity is pivotal to getting information.

    So basically, this should be a non-issue for anyone living in a place with consistent natural disasters.

    • I agree with Camilo Payan – we were hit by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the only way to communicate with the world since we had no power was through the landline. It’s not enough to just have a landline – you also need a corded phone when the power goes out. Actually, in Illinois the same issue presents a problem during ice storms, etc.