In Defense of Landlines

This week had a rough start here in New Jersey. Something like 80% of the state lost power, and we were no exception in our household. While we don’t have a landline, we do have cell phones, and were extremely grateful to never lose signal, even as cable and then electricity dropped. Our neighbor across the street wasn’t so lucky, and she barely had enough signal to send text messages. My parents somehow managed to keep both cable and AND electricity, but they had intermittent landline and cell phone issues all day.

However, the one lesson I took from this storm was that we need a landline. Despite my parents’ intermittent issues, we could keep in touch with them all week on their regular phone line. And friends who lost power but had plain old telephones could still make calls and stay looped in to the world. Hurricane Sandy damaged quite a few cell towers, not to mention the widespread power outages. It seemed like every other status update on Facebook between Tuesday and Wednesday was “Sitting in my car charging my phone”, and while yes, it’s important to keep cell phones charged, having a landline takes away the emergency need to keep a cell phone charged or else…it’s back to being a convenience, and not the main source of communication.

While watching the local NJ news station, every time they flashed a local number you could call to get news if you lost power, I wondered who would bother wasting precious cell phone battery life on a news call. It didn’t occur to me that someone with a landline doesn’t have this problem!

I haven’t had a landline since college, but this week has taught me that maybe it’s worth a few dollars a month for the peace of mind in a disaster. After all, we pay more than that for insurance, and a landline is handy even if nothing goes wrong!

(In the interests of maintaining a happy marriage, I feel compelled to add the following disclaimer: I spent all day realizing how important a landline is, and when Sarah came home from work I told her my conclusion. Her response? “Duh. I already decided we’re getting a landline. This isn’t news.” So clearly, one of is the smart one in this relationship, and it’s not me…)


Categories: Gear Bits

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9 replies

  1. We kept the landline when we moved here because we got so used to crappy cell signal where we were in Mass. that it never even felt like an option. But this year with ever-escalating cable bills and surcharges I have been pushing the case harder and harder – and last week we got a notice of a NEW $3.95 surcharge for our cable modem (that we’ve had for 4.5 year already) and Lisa actually said ‘maybe it IS time to cut the landline’. With Hurricane Sandy all of that has changed, and we are reminded that the $10 a month for the basic phone service won’t matter when we REALLY need it!

    • Same debate in our house and I can honestly say the Elana is right and I’m wrong. (Then again, if you know us that’s no surprise.)

    • This is precisely the reason we have kept our land line…there have been too many times in the past in our stormy area where power has gone out for a while and the landline proved invaluable. Two important caveats though: landlines are only as good as the condition of the line to your home…if you have above-ground lines, a downed pole carrying your line might render it useless, and the current trend of home landline phones are wireless handsets that require batteries and/or power to operate, which is why we have a newer touch-tone phone as backup that requires no external power source to operate.

  2. Wives are like that, aren’t they? They make those decisions in the background and keep us on track when we’re lost int he world of shiny things that go “beep” or something like that. Can’t imagine what I’d do without mine! :-)

    I’ve been debating ditching my landline (it’s actually FIOS, so it’s VoiP based, is that still a landline???) but after reading this I think I’ll keep it for awhile. I’m on the West Coast, but have been on a bit of a “preparedness” kick lately trying to put emergency kits together in the event something happens out here, and I guess landline makes the cut now.

    • Another wife tip: when she strongly suggests filling both cars with gas, the answer is not “nah, I am sure in a few days it will be fine”

      • LOL – I’ve found that it’s best to use the old, “Yes Dear” and do what you’re being told (or “suggested”) on a pretty regular basis. It keeps a happy household, and she’s usually right anyway. 😉

  3. The problem in areas with FIOS is that the landline still needs power from the ONT to operate, and the backup battery only lasts a few hours. If they have migrated you to Digital Voice, the landline can be automatically forwarded to another number (ie: mobile) when you lose power, so you end up depending on the cell signal to work anyway.

    • Same is true for folks with Cable …

    • Yep…not sure that it’s necessarily going to be “useful” is there is a longer term power outage or not. But, if the power is intermittent, at least it would be useful part of the time. I do have an older rugged style (waterproof) phone that is kept in the emergency kit for 911 calls at least. I know that one is weatherproof should it ever come to that.

      But, my iPhones get such a sucky signal around my house anyway, even with the MicroCell AT&T made me purchase, that I don’t know how great they’ll be as communication devices. But with a solar charger and a hand crank charger I’m hoping they’ll still be useful as entertainment at least.