Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why I Still Have a Landline Telephone.

Two of my three siblings no longer have landline telephone service. Neither of them is a college student or otherwise-rootless twenty-something. Their ages are 46 and 55. Both have fulltime jobs and permanent addresses, but not a landline telephone.

My third sibling has a landline but no cell phone. I’m the only one who has both.

Here’s why.

I work at home and do most of my phone-using there. That may seem like a reason but it’s not. I could do that equally well with a cell phone. My landline also supports a fax machine, but that’s not a reason either as it’s easy enough to send and receive faxes via the internet. Since I have a computer, scanner and printer; the fax machine is redundant.

So, therefore, is my landline. It’s redundant. And that’s why I’m keeping it.

I am not so much loyal to the telephone as I am to the line; those thin, copper wires that connect your telephone to the outside world.

So far as I can tell, the wired telephone network is still more reliable than either the cable or cellular networks. By “reliable,” I mean “available;” as in it’s there when I need it.

Moreover, the wired telephone network is independent. In a power outage the telephone still works, assuming you have at least one on your line that doesn’t need supplementary juice. (Hint: If all your handsets are cordless, you don’t.)

Cable doesn’t have that. Even if the signal is still available, it can’t power any devices on its own. In a power failure, cable is useless.

Maybe I’m just a braces-and-belt kind of guy. I have a telephone landline, a cable broadband internet connection, and a cell phone. Because I have a landline, I can maintain a dial-up ISP account in case the cable goes out. I suppose the cable likewise backs-up the phone line, but I don’t think of it that way. I’m not complaining about my cable service. It’s very reliable. So, for that matter, is my cellular service.

But this way I have two forms of voice communication and two forms of data communication. I don’t have back-up power, but as already noted the landline phone has its own power supply, and while a cell phone battery is finite, it’s better than nothing.

None of this amounts to a disaster survival strategy. It’s about convenience. If the cable goes out for an hour, as it did earlier today, I can check my email via dial-up with nothing more than a few extra key strokes. If the power goes out, I can at least call ComEd.

Since all of the different networks are generally two-way and have plenty of bandwidth, they’re all trying to sell us service bundles. It’s hard to go 100 percent wireless, but there are lots of ways to go from two wires down to one. This is what my siblings have done. Both have cable for TV and internet, and cellular for phone.

The problem for me is that the wire they cut is the more reliable one.

I know there is a higher level to this that I don’t fully understand, such as the extent to which the telephone network remains independent of the internet. Are there truly multiple systems or is there really just one system with multiple fail safes, including multiple redundancy?

At the personal level redundancy isn’t hard to achieve, but doing it affordably is challenging. I’m trying now to align my service packages with my actual usage patterns. It’s easy to pay more than you should by buying more than you want or need, and because the companies all want more of your business, they don’t make affordable redundancy easy to achieve.

I’m working on it.


Unknown said...
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BlueTone said...

OK, so maybe the younger generations will seriously think of giving up landlines. Maybe 30 years from now landlines will be just a memory. Yet, there still are plenty of people out there who rely on landlines, who use landlines and wouldn't dream of giving up theirs. This here is quite an interesting argument in favor of the traditional landline telephones.