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Reasons to say hello or goodbye to a land line

·Marlene Skaff
AT&T says it`s getting out of the land-line business as early as 2020, and for good reason: more and more folks are dropping their traditional phone lines in lieu of their cell phones.

In this increasingly mobile world, there’s one grounded device that Toronto retiree Susan Charness just won’t strip from her budget: her land line.

Whether calling her family in Halifax, her best friend in Toronto or business contacts from her days as a talent agent, Charness would rather stick with her home phone and fixed cable service at a cost of just under $600 a year. She doesn’t even own a mobile phone – meaning she’s swimming against the cellphone-driven communication currents.

“The $48 I pay every month for my land line is worth it – the reception is great and I just like talking a regular handset as opposed to on a cellphone that starts to hurt my ear after awhile,” says Charness, who is in her mid-60s.

Compare that $48 per month to the average cost of a mobile phone. Depending on the level of service -- voice or voice and data -- the average wireless price runs from $31 to $94 per month in Canada, according to the most recent figures from Wall Communications, which were commissioned by the CRTC and Industry Canada.

Even with a substantial price gap, Charness’s love of her land line is becoming an anomaly.

By the end of 2013, 22 per cent of Canadian households will be wireless-only, an increase from 18 per cent at the end of 2012, according to the latest study by Toronto-based market research company The Convergence Group Consulting.

As well, Convergence Group founder Brahm Eiley says in an email, “We estimate year end 2013, 80 per cent of the Canadian population will have a wireless phone/device, up from 78 per cent year end 2012.”

Telecommunications consultant Robert Pachal, who has nearly three decades of experience in the Canada and the U.S., says the trend toward losing the land line is driven by social media-driven young people, and the overwhelming use of texting and iMessaging, and Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

“Texting is taking over,” Pachal, of Pacomm Consulting Inc., says from his office in Whitby, Ont. “Just look around at families – they’re giving cellphones to their kids at public-school age,” he says, adding that even his father, who’s in his 90s, prefers texting him over talking.

Still, Pachal, for one, can’t ever see giving up his home phone – a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service that costs him about $5 month – because:

  • For business purposes such as conducting conference calls and webinars, a land line is more convenient to use than a cellphone.

  • He’s uncomfortable with the fact cellphones tend to heat up when talking on them for an extended time, raising safety issues.

  • Land lines meant you’re not at the mercy of cellphone tower outages, low batteries and other factors that can interrupt phone service. (Although even land lines can experience a disruption in service).

  • You don’t have to worry about your mobile plan suiting the amount of talk time you have, which means no worries about extra costs for going over your minutes if you don’t have an unlimited plan.

Consider these other questions before deciding whether to get a land line, or chuck it:

Do you feel secure with just a cellphone?:
In mid-October, a major Rogers wireless network outage highlighted the important role land lines play in getting emergency services. While more people are using their cellphones for 911 calls, anyone calling for help on a land line can more reliably be located, and can avoid cellphone lines getting jammed. Also, home security system companies tend to require a land line, or recommend one even if the system relies on wireless communication).

How many phone users are there?
If you have a family of five and each person has a cellphone, is it really saving you money? A land line with multiple phone locations in the home may be less costly.

Do you have good cellphone reception?
Dropped mobile phone calls are a common problem, with signal strength often hinging on proximity to a tower, and obstructions such as buildings or trees. If you still insist on not having a land line, check out one of the cellphone signal booster devices on the market.

Do you have home Internet problems?
If you do, reconsider if you want a VoIP home phone service, because a wireless outage means both your internet and home line will go down too.