The End (Sort Of) Of the Landline

It sometimes amazed people that we here at the Scalzi Compound still have a landline. We do, basically because I receive (terrible, horrible, low-speed) internet service through my phone company, and it’s basically cheaper to bundle it with a landline than to get it by itself. And also, because if the power goes down, the cell phone towers go down too, but the direct phone lines (usually) stay up. Living in rural America, that makes some bit of sense.

With that said, in the last few years it’s become abundantly clear that the only people calling us on our landline were a) robocallers/telemarketers, b) dentists/medical offices reminding us of appointments, and c) my mother in law. And of those, the robocallers/telemarketers were by far the highest volume, even with the various laws, etc against them. Even though I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t answer the phone if I don’t recognize the phone number, the phone still rings and I still check. The rate of return on even that bit of action is super low.

So I’m not doing that anymore. As of today, everything gets forwarded to my Google Voice number (which I got, like, ten years ago or something). The legitimate callers can leave a message; the rest of them I don’t have to deal with, not even a ring (my mother-in-law will now just call Krissy directly on her cell phone). Google Voice emails me a transcription when someone leaves a message, so I don’t even have to check messages like a common schmoe. Simple, easy, and the end of the landline being a pain in the ass.

And! Since we’re not actually getting rid of the landline, we can still use it to make outgoing calls if we like (which I do when I’m doing phone interviews because the audio is generally clearer). So we get the few remaining benefits of a landline without having to deal with the negatives. Which is kind of the best case scenario.

(And as for the robocallers on my cell line — well, Google actually does a reasonable job letting me know who is likely to be a spam caller there, and soon will give me the option of not having suspected spam calls show up at all, so there’s that. Beyond that, at this point cell phones give one so much more customization regarding who gets to access you that once again keeping a landline in most cases is an exercise in futility.)

So if you were hoping ever to call me on my landline, sorry. That moment has now passed. I could call you, though. There’s still a chance!

49 Comments on “The End (Sort Of) Of the Landline”

  1. We got rid of our landline a couple of years ago, because in our suburban environment, there just wasn’t a need for it anymore.

    Of course, then we moved to a neighborhood where cell reception is next to nonexistent. But the advantages of high-speed internet provide a solution, via our carrier’s “Wireless calling” over our wi-fi connection. One of the few benefits of living in a city, even out on the edges of it.

  2. I remember when we gave up our fax line, after realizing the only faxes we got were spam, and that I could send faxes by email. Then we gave up our landline for Ooma, VIOP with really terrific spam detectors and call blocking. It would be free if I didn’t need that feature, as it is, I pay $5 a month for it. Just buy the modem and hey look at that, no $45 a month for phone service! No more taxes! We have great internet speed over FIOS, and our uptime has been excellent. We registered for 911 service, so they know where we are, and of course we have cell phones for backup in case of power outages. And a wifi hotspot in case of internet outage. In ten years, I’m predicting every block will have a communal wifi connection for cell/other connectivity, and nobody will have a landline. It’ll break the fed’s hearts when they can’t charge interstate access fees any more.

  3. Not answering the phone is my landline solution as well, and I’ve noticed a marked decline in spam phone calls over the months since I started. It would actually fit well enough into today’s phone etiquette except that leaving a message is considered redundant; no one is expected to actually listen to messages when the caller is only going to have to repeat themselves. Instead, the call itself is the message. Unfortunately, my phones do not record the calling number, never mind an ID. If you don’t leave a message, I won’t know you called. Fine with me.

  4. You know what, it’s time for me to get a Google Voice number and use it for non-personal work. Thanks for the push.

  5. This is a burning issue here in this Other John Scalzi’s home! We only get crap calls on the landline. Our message says if you know us hang up and call our cells or txt because no one real ever calls this number. We still hear from the IRS and Microsoft regularly. Doing cable and internet a la carte costs more than the bundle! John is constantly requesting that we ditch the land line, especially btwn 5-9 pm each night! Interesting solution! I will give you credit!

  6. The most common activity I do on my cellular phone is to add phone numbers to my spam contact.

    It must not be technically feasible to make laws that worked to stop SPAM, or politicians would have easy wins in fixing such a huge irritant.

  7. Similar situation. Even the dentist sends reminders via text these days. I haven’t had a real call on the landline for years and years. My solution was to turn off the ringer.

    I still get far too many spam calls on my cell phone – particularly in Mandarin, which I don’t speak. Apparently there’s a scam telling the local Mandarin speakers that there is a problem with their immigration. Ni hao!

  8. I’m curious as to how you are forwarding your landline to your Google Voice number. I too have had one for years and would like to do that (since I also live in rural America with sucky Internet).

  9. We have a landline because we don’t have (or want) cell phones. But we turned off the answering machine on the landline months ago, and if the number on the caller ID is not one we recognize, we don’t answer it. We haven’t missed any important calls, and it has significantly reduced irritation levels in our household.

    Even though we live in a medium-sized city, we have very few options for internet, none of them good. We currently get DSL through our land line by way of a regional telco, but it’s incredibly slow, and the company says they can’t improve it because they don’t own the copper in our area. For that matter, they are actively seeking excuses to terminate accounts like ours in areas where they don’t own the copper, which I would be willing to accommodate if the alternative wasn’t several orders of magnitude worse. I have a choice between a cable provider with some of the worst customer satisfaction ratings in the industry or a national telco with even worse customer satisfaction ratings. Plus the telco is a company that I have to deal with as part of my job, and based on my experience there, I would rather do without phone and internet entirely for the rest of my life than ever give them my business.

    I am glad you found a solution that works for you. Ultimately, my solution may turn out to be to just pull the plug on all of them, but for now, keeping the answering machine turned off is a workable strategy.

  10. I still keep my landline since the voice quality is so much better and I have auditory processing issues. If I don’t recognize a number, I let the answering machine get it – spammers don’t leave messages, medical offices and relatives do. I find the landline’s much better for conference calls, which I have regularly for work.

  11. I own that exact same phone. Great phone. I agree with most here. We only pay for an old plan called “Emergency calls” it was offered by our company we get all in coming for free and 30 minutes outgoing a month.

  12. Why don’t you cofigure your phone with “NOMOROBO” service. It is actually free for consumers. It works great, and has done a 99.99% effective factor. Just saw one go by as I read your post.

  13. Given the number of people abandoning landlines because of all the Spam/robocalls, I’m a bit surprised the various phone companies haven’t done more to end them–the cancellation of landlines has to be costing them revenue, and I don’t see how they’re making it up on the Spam/robocalls when a phone with an unlimited plan for not much money is creates tens of thousands of Spam/robocalls a month.

  14. We still have a landline for a few reasons:
    1) Things like frequent-customer cards that key on phone #, By using the landline number, we don’t have to remember who originally signed up for it; that’s the household #.
    2) A few of our wholesale customers who are finicky about using the phone and nothing else to get hold of us, and who for whatever reason cannot be convinced to use my partner’s cell # instead.
    3) What you said about in the event of natural disasters, although we no longer fully trust this to be the case; post-Ike, our cellphones never lost power but the landline was out for over 2 weeks!

    But we also have every spam-blocking service we can arrange for on it, and even with that we rarely answer calls unless they’re from someone on the whitelist. And our landline’s voice mailbox remains full; we don’t even bother listening to messages because they’re all spam.

  15. When I moved here almost 11 years ago I didn’t even think about getting a landline for a couple of years, and at that point, pretty much said “F*** it” and never did. It’s never been a problem.

    Also if you’d like to call me I can give you my number though I’d have to have yours first because I don’t answer calls I don’t recognize especially from states I haven’t lived in in decades. :D

  16. We would likely give up our landline were it not for this: after 30 years of service with one of the big telcos my wife receives free telephone service for life. We still have to pay taxes, “fees” and for extras like caller ID and call waiting, making our phone bill ~$5/mo – the equivalent of a grande latte from Starbucks. And it’s not like we’re so broke that we have to sacrifice one for the other, which essentially means free phone service (wish I could make the same claim about the lattes!). And we’ve had the same number for nearly 40 years (she put in 33 at the company and has been retired for 7) so a lot of people have our number, but unfortunately, like Scalzi, a shit ton of telemarketers have it as well.

    Re telmarketers: we seem to get an inordinate number of solicitations from various “law enforcement” related entities – many of which are doubtless scammers – and I have adopted a new way of saying no to these groups. I tell them I am a Trump supporter (absolutely NOT true and painful to even claim falsely) and that if they were soliciting for Russia I’d be happy to donate, but not for law enforcement. “American law enforcement=bad; Russia=good in Trumpworld.” This really pisses many of the real law enforcement guys off as, sadly, a lot of American law enforcement members are big Trump supporters.

  17. We have a land-line strictly for safety purposes. We have never given the phone number to anyone… We don’t even know the number… But we still get a dozen calls a day.

  18. We also have that Panasonic model, which I got partly because it lets us scatter its four satellite handsets all around the house. It works well, and we have the same number that we got when we moved in forty years ago. (Though the area code has changed.) We have fewer relatives who call, now that our parents are gone, but the good old land-line number remains the way to find us quickly.

    I have no desire to keep a cell phone about my person as I move around the house, and I’m rarely more than about ten steps away from an extension. (When I’m traveling or just out of the house, a TracFone is more than adequate.) Then, in our market, there’s the matter of giving more business to the Other Provider, which is Charter (ptui, ptui). And Ma Bell’s descendant, [insert whatever The Phone Company is calling itself at the moment], has been pretty reasonable about service, and I had a couple of nice coversations with the guys who came to look after our drop and install an new NIC. Try that with a cell phone company. (Had an informative chat with the Roto-Rooter guy, too, but one hopes the need for that won’t recur.)

  19. Hmmm I still have a lineland when the power goes I have service so I will stick to it I’m elderly lady

  20. Many, many years ago my wife reached the limit on telephone spam, and got tired of checking the phone to see if she wanted to answer. We had reasons to keep the landline, so we just turned off the ringer on the phone. Family and friends all know to leave a message.

    – Tom –

  21. I canceled my landline some years ago when I realized that no one I wanted to talk to ever called me on it–it was all telemarketers & scammers. Friends & family call my cell phone.

  22. We still have ours, even though everyone in the house has a cell phone, so it’s often easier to send a text to get hold of someone instead of calling. I do have fun with the telemarketers from time to time when the mood strikes me, but mostly I pick up the phone and give them sounds of silence. Still, the phone does get used quite a bit since we got free long distance (so to speak) with it via our cable carrier.

  23. Got rid of our landline years ago – anyone who knows us that we want to talk to uses the cells – but found it was cheaper to bundle it with internet and cable. Plus, my wife prefers the “real” handset when talking on the phone, especially if she has to hold on for a while for customer service (sic). We keep the ringer off, period, unless she is having Amazon or the like call her back. With Fios we never have to worry about the problem of bad connections. Yes, we get spam calls on the cell, but if you don’t know the number, don’t answer. They can leave a message or text if they are real. Doctors use the cell number – all she gives them – as well.

  24. I’ve been keeping my landline for two reasons, which I’d call 1) “Hurricane Sandy” and 2) “Say again please?” The long-term Hurricane Sandy power outages in lower NYC meant no way to recharge cell phones, and I was able to chat happily with relatives and friends on my circa 1986 handset. 2) trying to hold a meaningful conversation over a cellphone inevitably p*sses me off because of the horrendous sound quality. I don’t know how people deal with the sh*tty sound quality on cell phone lines (learn to live with it I guess, like bad mp3 sound)? A day of reckoning is coming, however; my telco announced it no longer supports copper wireline, meaning the next time my landline goes out I’m f*ked. for the moment I’m in a relatively happy bubble of luddite-ism (and, perhaps, denial).

  25. Got rid of my landline a little over a year ago. The only thing I miss is being able to call my cellphone from the landline when I’ve misplaced the cell. ;-)

  26. check out nomorobo, actually kind of enjoy getting those one ring calls. land lines are free.

  27. Well poo on google. No google voice numbers are available for where I live. Sounds like an awesome idea, just wish they were available.

  28. We live in rural Central NY (think just south of the Eastmost end of Lake Ontario). Unlike you, our landline service is pretty good. I just upgraded our internet service from 6Mbps to 10 Mbps for “free” (likely because Windstream is trying to move everyone up to a new lowest-speed Tier).
    Like you, robocalls dominate incoming calls and we seldom answer callers that we don’t recognize.
    However, we are loath to give up on it entirely. Primarily because we are old farts and have fond memories of the old black dial-up phones, however remote that link to the past may be.

  29. I currently nominally have a land line because my marginally adequate internet is via DSL. My town is currently installing a municipal fiber network. This is oddly communistic, given that this is a solidly Republican town, but they are mostly Main Street Republicans. Main Street Republicans are reliably wrong on all national and most regional issues, but often are just fine on local issues. In other words, they understand that the snow needs to be plowed and potholes filled, and they aren’t so stupid as to wait for a free market solution. The fiber network was sold as being good for attracting businesses, which likely is true. And even Republicans want good internet.

    So the upshot is that in about six months to a year, I will go from garden hose to fire hose internet, and will cancel all contact with Verizon.

  30. Jeez is this a throwback or what. We technically have a landline because, like in your case, it’s cheaper to get the bundle, even though we don’t use the landline _or_ the TV package. But we don’t even have a phone to connect to the phone socket on the modem. It’s just useless.

  31. Out of curiosity, is there any chance of your internet service getting better anytime in the foreseeable future? From your various comments over the years it seems that this is your one quibble about living where you do.

  32. I have a landline, because I refuse to own a mobile. Here in Holland we have good laws concerning spam/marketing calls. If you let it be known you don’t want to receive them (through a simple internet form) you won’t.
    I still refuse to answer calls from unknown numbers and have disconnected voice mail.

    I’m not fond of phones.

  33. We stopped having a landline when our phone company stopped carrying traditional phone packages. The only product anyone where we live get is a prioritized VOIP, which isn’t that much better than any other VOIP and usually costs two to three times as much as getting it from another carrier. It turns out that between fiber optic cable and coax there isn’t room for running traditional phone lines. There are also vanishing amounts of techs who can install it.

  34. Here in earthquake country we’ve only kept the landline in case of the worst (with the density of cell phones around here we expect cell systems to crash and stay crashed for a while). But I really only need to be able to reach my mom’s landline across the bay or family outside the area — are you saying that you can still call out even AFTER you cancel the landline account?

  35. Even in San Francisco, the allure of having a land line just in case Something Happens* and the cell towers cease to cooperate is not lost on us. I cannot remember the last time we answered the landline. Our cable/internet/phone provider gives us a transcription of any messages, and the name of the caller pops up on the screen if we’re watching TV. So: yeah. Keeping the line because backup, but other than that, haven’t used it in years. Maybe we should turn off the ringers.

    *earthquake country is earthquake country

  36. Kelly Sedinger:

    It’s unlikely. I can pay for satellite, which is faster but has data caps, which is not something I could work with.

  37. What really ticks me off about the landline is that it still costs just as much and services we now think of as normal on cell phones (like being able to see the number of the caller before picking up) still cost extra. We pay the minimum possible every month and it still costs us over a hundred dollars a year just to get harassed. Yeah, we’re in earthquake country, yeah, it’s better sound quality, BUT COME ON NOW. However, I have not yet convinced my husband to cancel.

  38. Just wanted to point out, on my Pixel XL I stopped getting spam calls weeks ago. They’re automatically marked as spam and don’t even ring in before getting blocked. If you’re using the Google phone app, you should already be able to set it to do the same, no need to wait for weeks.

  39. Dear John,

    It’s possible you already have the spam blocking function and either need to be using the right phone app or need to initialize it in the app Settings. In the Google Play store: the app’s simply called “Phone” and it’s from Google LLC. Go to Settings and go down to Caller ID & Spam. Switch on “Filter spam calls.” There you are!

    This doesn’t seem to be available on all phones, yet. On my Nexus LG (which came from Google) it was available as soon as the Android/app update went out. But two weeks later, my Other Significant Other didn’t have it — her Samsung/Android phone didn’t have the Google Phone app listed in its store.

    Oh yeah, and just so you know, you never call and you never write, and I’m just sitting here by myself in the dark, but don’t you worry yourself about that. I’m fine, really I am…


    Dear Howardb,

    You can thank the phone companies for that. They make money off of phone spammers. When it was just land lines, they only made it off of the spammers leasing the lines. With cell phones they make it off of the spammers and you. They fought tooth and nail against laws that would crack down on phone spam. That would hurt Big Business’s bottom line. We can’t have that!

    They are only SLOWLY coming around.

    It’s not possible to 100% eliminate phone spam, any more than you can email spam, but it’s been technologically and organizationally feasible to reduce it by 99% for many years.


    Dear Colonel,

    If your phone service includes a service called “ring forwarding,” you can filter for most — not all — phone spammers. Sign up with NoMoRobo. Unknown calls get forwarded to NoMoRobo at the same time at that your phone rings. If your phone only rings once, it means it was a robo call that NoMoRobo blocked. If it rings a second (and more) times, it means a human being dialed the phone.

    That doesn’t prevent all phone spam annoyance — some of the boiler room operators have started paying for poverty-wage minions to manually navigate things like NoMoRobo and then hit the roboplay button. but it’ll cut way back on it. You’ll have to train yourself not to jump up every time the phone rings once, but that’s not hard.

    NoMoRobo *WILL*block all political robocalls, too. Unlike the federal Do Not Call registry, which allows them (and is largely ignored, anyway)** Our landline probably gets a dozen single-ring calls a day near an election.

    NoMoRobo DOES NOT block calls from doctors offices, pharmacies, and the like. We haven’t gotten a single false positive since we’ve signed up to the surface. Which, not so by the way, is free!

    **(FYI, California law does **not** allow political robocalls, but no one seems to be enforcing it. If someone wanted to file a for-real/serious lawsuit, I’d happily donate four figures to the cause)

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. 
    — Digital Restorations. 

  40. At one point I had a landline but only because made TV/internet cheaper – I think they finally gave up trying to bundle all three, so I cancelled it. Not sure if it worked, never had a phone plugged into it.

    It’s all digital now, anyway, so is unlikely to be more resilient than cell phones.

  41. We turned the ringer off of our landline since:

    1- Nobody we know actually knows the number. We got bundled service, and the landline’s just thrown in.

    2- Our main use-case for the landline is if one of my kids (4 and 7) needs to call 911 in an emergency, the landline is easier for them to handle.

  42. I moved into my new(ish) house just about two years ago, and adding phone service to my internet plan was literally like $5 a month, so I said what the hell. At the time, I hadn’t had a landline in over 10 years, but I figured sure, the possibility that I might need it and my cell phone is dead, blah, blah, blah (despite the fact that I have about 6 devices capable of charging my cell phone…).

    Anyway, a couple days after moving in I got my one (and only) call on the landline…Donald Trump’s voice in my ear. Nope, don’t want that anymore (sadly, at the time, I figured I wouldn’t have to hear him much after a couple of months…). Unplugged it and tossed the phone in the garbage (note, the previous owner left the phone with the house, which gives you an idea of just how valued these items are these days).

  43. We totally stole this. Its been lovely and quiet so far. The Monday spam call fest was not missed :)

  44. I kept my landline for those occasions when I need to navigate a Menu system and could be held for some time (“You are in a queue, you are number 7”). Here in the UK we have the Telephone Preference system which blocks spam calls.