NOTE: The following article has nothing to do with genealogy. However, I know genealogists make many research-related phone calls that can add up to significant costs. The use of the telephone is also a major change in our lives from that of our ancestors. With these thoughts in mind, I decided to share some considerations with you.The American population increases every year, from 281 million in the year 2000 to 309 million today. Yet, according to a recent Federal Communications Commission report, the number of land line telephones in the United States has declined steadily each year during the same period: from about 192 million landline phones in 2000 to 163 million in 2007. That’s a 15 percent net loss. At the same time, the number of mobile wireless telephone subscribers in the United States has INCREASED from 114 million in 2001 to 238 million in 2007 — a 109 percent increase.
The reason is simple: we are seeing a big increase in the number of people getting rid of their land lines and just using cell phones. FCC statistics say almost one-fourth of American households have done that already, and the number appears to be growing.
Another handful of people are now using computer VoIP phones, something almost unheard of in 2000 but common today.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a report titled “Wireless Substitution” that found one out of four American households is now wireless-only. That jibes with a March 2009 CTIA survey showing wireless-only households at 23 percent and a report from the National Center for Health Statistics pegging cellular-only homes at 22.7 percent, up from 3.2 percent in June 2003.
If you already have a cell phone, why do you need a land line?
Having two telephones is a duplicate expense as well as an inconvenience to those who call you. They have to guess which number is best to reach you at a given moment. Why not give them a single number to call?
A secondary benefit is that most people report they receive very few telemarketing calls on their cell phones. I know that I have received only one or two telemarketing calls on my cell phone, unlike the landline phone I used to have. Of course, I refuse to do business with anyone who calls via telemarketing. I simply hang up on them. Still, my cell phone shields me from most of these aggravating calls.
Some people will continue to use a traditional landline phone because of spotty cell phone coverage. Obviously, a cell phone is useless if it is in a dead spot. Then again, a traditional landline phone is also useless if you are not at home.
I disconnected my traditional landline phone several years ago. However, I did replace it with a computer VoIP (Voice over IP) telephone, so I still have a wired telephone in my home. The VoIP phone does not attach to the computer, and there is no need to leave the computer running all the time. My VoIP phone looks like any other telephone, and it works even when the computer is powered off. Best of all, the audio quality of the VoIP phone calls is always at least as good as a landline phone and often even better.
The picture to the right is of my VoIP telephone. Please note that it looks like any other telephone. In fact, it is also used like any other telephone. I can dial 911 for emergency services, I can call Directory Assistance, and more. To call 911, I simply pick up the phone, dial 911, and am immediately connected to the emergency dispatcher in my town. In other words, it works exactly like an old-fashioned landline phone. It doesn't work during power failures, however. Then again, neither did my previous regular telephone. It was a cordless unit and the base unit must be plugged in and powered on in order to operate.I use a VoIP phone at home simply because of costs: it is much, much cheaper than the traditional telephone service provided by a local telephone company and also much cheaper than making calls during "prime time" on a cell phone. My total bill for the VoIP phone is usually less than $5 per month, and that includes a lot of what would be called "toll calls" on a traditional landline phone. It also includes free call waiting, call forwarding, voice mail, and many other features for which traditional landline telephone companies charge extra. In contrast, my old landline phone company used to send me a bill every month for $25 to $40 and occasionally even more than that for the same services and calls.
I recently found software that lets me make and receive VoIP telephone calls on the cell phone, even when traveling. The result is similar to having a "wireless extension" with me at all times: free VoIP calls on the cell phone.
Best of all, I use Google Voice to provide one telephone number that works for all phones: cell phones, traditional phones from telephone companies, VoIP phones, and my phone at the office. My friends only have to know one phone number. When they dial that number, all my phones ring at once. I simply answer whichever phone is nearest and cheapest.
The pros and cons are different for each person, and what works for me may not work for you. You need to evaluate your own needs as well as the cell phone coverage and the costs in your area before making a decision. However, it is obvious that millions of Americans have already "cut the cord."