Goodbye Telephone

It has been exactly one month since my wife and I decided to join the 1 in 7 Canadians (or two million homes) without a landline. The funny thing is, I completely forgot I ditched it until I was reminded by stumbling across a recent article on the topic. Apparently by the end of 2014, according to a survey by the Convergence Consulting Group, 26 per cent of Canadian homes will have only mobile phone service.

Our own reasons were as follows:

  • We were paying $40 a month to listen to telemarketers, the only people who didn’t know our cell #’s.
  • The concept of “calling” someone long-distance can be done on any device connected to the internet, at zero cost (or nearly zero cost if calling a landline).
  • There are plenty of large , physical handsets that can be purchased if ”shoulder-hold” nostalgia kicks in.
Another thing i have come to realize is that we are running into a semantic dilemma. The word “telephone” or “phone” used to represent a device that was used for only one function, calling. When the “cell phone” and “mobile phone” terms were born, they represent devices with which you could call on the go. That still made sense. However the modern term “smart phone” is becoming misleading since the “phone” feature of these devices represents a small fraction of their use. These are essentially little computers. You don’t call a computer a “smart word processor” or a “smart gaming device” do you?
So what do you think we should call these little buggers?
BTW, we will eventually run into the same problem with the word “television” as more and more of these become 2-way interactive, web enabled devices with multiple purposes that you put on your wall.

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Allison Primack

Mike, I thought this was very interesting. I agree, it doesn’t seem worth it to have a landline anymore! Over the summer I got a MagicJack, which is great because you can make both long distance and international calls for extremely cheap. And Skype takes it even further – if you want to talk to someone who is far away, video chat can be even better!

Andrew Krzmarzick

Right on, Mike.

We canceled cable television earlier this year (use Digital TV with antennae and purchased Roku box).

We canceled our ground line phone service last week (might still use Obi, but Google Voice, Hangout and Skype all work fine and free).

Now we need to fight the legislation that will allow telemarketers to invade our handheld devices:

Dawn Lautwein

I definitely agree that the percentage of households with landlines is diminishing. My daughters only have cell phones in their households, but I’m still hanging onto my landline, despite my husband trying to talk me out of it. I like having multiple phones on the one line so that I can hear the phone from anywhere in the house and pickup the call from several locations. I realize I could carry my cell phone or cordless phone around the house with me, but I don’t want to have to. I save the price of the landline by having a limit on my cell phone minutes, and I only give my cell phone # to family and friends. A big portion of my incoming landline calls are telemarketers or surveys, but that way I never risk having to get those types of calls on the cell phone (due to having given the number out to businesses), and I can just ignore the call until I hear it on the answering machine, if I want to do screening. I’m guessing that if I didn’t already have the landline, phones, and answering machine, and I had grown up with cell phones, I might not have a landline, but I expect to hang in there for awhile.

Barb Chamberlain

Great timing on this post–yesterday I dropped my cell phone (which is now no longer quite as smart as it was) into a toilet and I am now without a communications device at home because we dropped our landline service 5 years ago.

If I’m home with my husband or daughter I can borrow their phones but they can’t reach me if they’re running late or if something happens. They would need to call the neighbor and I’m not sure either of them has that number programmed into their phones, so this is a little wake-up call for having back-up plans. I texted my husband this morning from my computer using free software so that’s one option.

Despite this I’m a believer in cell-only; the landline was a waste of money the last year that we had it. Now to find that phone number for my replacement insurance service….

I call it my “cell” so I’m referring only to how the signal gets to me, not the capabilities of the device.

At work our phone signal is now provided via VoIP. We run the risk of losing all phone service if we lose IT connectivity. But in the old days the phone system had its own vulnerabilities–someone digging could cut a hard line. No system is going to be 100% foolproof, and I’m apparently just the fool to prove it.

D. Rizzo

This is a great topic. We all have cell/mobile phones in our family for the obvious reasons of improved communication almost anywhere & almost anytime. I agree that the mobile devices are more so small communication devices in that they allow us to communicate directly or indirectly, using voice/text or via the internet. However, and this is a critical one that our daughters & many other people haven’t considered, what if your phone is not charged up because of all the games, songs, texting, web surfing & talking you’ve done w/ it & you find yourself in a power failure situation due to a blizzard or something? That is one reason we still have a landline at home. Another huge problem that I see looming on the horizon is that either a terrorist attack on our infrastructure using a virus or using physical destruction could interfere with communication or an Electro Magnetic Pulse event from a man-made device or from the sun could knock out our electronics all over. If you think being without your mobile phone, without the internet or without cable TV is bad, think about the EMP scenario adversely affecting affecting everything that is “energized” and ask your Gov’t. or private industry personnel what is being done to prevent that catastrophic EMP event from happening or if it does what will mitigate the damage, especially to transportation, emergency services & the military. I’m sorry if I am the bearer of bad news, but, the EMP event is a threat that I think is very real & that I haven’t discovered anyone is really trying to resolve. I think most people are completely unaware of it & due to busy lives with many other issues, it has not been made a priority because so many people are focused on all the feel good stuff. We can’t have everything for free & we can’t expect Gov’t. to pay for everything that everyone wants. We have to prioritize things & pay Gov’t. w/ our taxes to focus on a few important areas such as national defense/public safety & encourage private citizens/industry to focus on all the other problems & solutions in a competitive environment that is cost effective. O.K., how did I get on that soapbox? Anyway, I think the EMP event is a very real & very serious scenario. I don’t know if our Gov’t. & private industry leaders & brains are working on this issue a lot or at all. They may be & it is just very classified or they may be clueless & they’re not doing anything. So, I just thought I’d throw that out there. I see the same stuff on TV as you folks about the Myan calendar ending in 2012 & the doomsday scenarios etc. I think most of it is pure speculation on the unknown, but, I tend to analyze things & try to connect the dots. I know that we have great public safety, outstanding military & very capable intelligence personnel, so I tend to think that we probably will not have a global man-made WW III scenario, but, I do think that it is very possible that we could experience a natural sun burst EMP event or regional man-made EMP event due to nuclear terrorism. So, I still don’t know anymore than before & maybe some of you can enlighten me or the Gov’t. regarding this issue. Then I’ll have a better idea of whether I should spend my money on a new mobile phone, new laptop & new tablet etc. or maybe I’ll learn how to protect my devices & cars from the EMP problem.

James E. Evans, MISM, CSM

Believe it or not, I still have a landline. But, only for my security system. It still needs to dial into the security center, police, etc. I hearing that new emerging security system companies are now cyber-connected. I just haven’t look into it yet.

Patty Zevallos

It is very very foolish to become dependent on cell phones. The electromagnetic radiation you are exposed to might give you brain cancer. It can’t possibly be good for you. You are missing out on real life, walking around, seeing what is around you. You are wasting money. Our family lives on about $26K per year, our lives are so much simpler, and that is partly from not being dependent on cell phones (see, click on “Green Living” for more info). Cell phone companies are notorious for ripping off consumers. The phones are also a big brother device unparalleled. Someone can track everything you do, everywhere you go, can even listen to what you say when the phone is not on. Dependence on cell phones is destroying our children. They cannot concentrate or listen in school with such easy access to mobile devices. Their private lives are open books and they are very vulnerable. Cell phones are bad for the environment, since they use valuable resources, those for manufacturing and the highly polluting electricity. The cell phone towers are an eyesore. I can see having one in some situations out of the house for emergencies. But I cannot understand why people are using something that is destructive to their mind and peace of mind, their budget, the planet, the children, and privacy.

Meredith McQuoid-Greason

In reply to Ms. Zevallos,

The latest research in the news (as of today, 10/21/11) is that there is no corelation between use of cellular/mobile devices and incidence of brain cancer. It is up to the user to self-regulate the amount of mobile device usage–to turn it off, head out of doors for exercise and fresh air. In today’s day and age, it could be considered foolish to not have the use of a mobile communication device for emergencies. It is pretty darn hard to find working pay phones any more.

Mike Kujawski

Hey Patty, thanks for playing the devil’s advocate on this. You raise some valuable points, which I have addressed in my own personal life by learning to manage technology and not let technology manage me. I think you would very much enjoy reading a book by William Powers called “Hamlet’s Blackberry”.