Friday, January 20, 2012

Thoughts on a Plan to Drop POTS: Pros/Cons


cc image attribution: “smashed phone” by Solarbotics on Flickr

Right now the Valca home has had a POTS/landline phone nearly forever. We got the copper during our engagement house-setup period. As newlyweds it was our technological lifeline to the social world.

Eventually we bought our first PC (an old Gateway skyscraper tower model), signed up for dial-up, and were rockin the Interwebs. Communication shift begins.

Later, Lavie was the early adopter of new tech with a cell phone.  We’ve stuck with the same provider, though it has been gobbled-up a few times leaving us with the current super-cellular provider. Shift again.

Then I got a cell phone as well. Not shifting, dancing now.

And then Alvis earned the responsibility of getting a cell phone.

Hello Family Plan. Now it’s like we are socially square-dancing with technology.

Cable broadband arrived so the dial-up was ditched and high-speed coax rules now. Social communication on a high-speed rail-line service. Whoopee!

All through time, good old POTS has remained present.  It seemed relevant during the Hurricane Ike event a few years ago and we had to evacuate from the house for a number of weeks. Electricity was out but since we had an answering machine connected, we could dial our POTS number to check for power.  When the answering machine eventually picked up again, we knew power had been restored.

Yet with Lavie still not working and the cost of living marching ever upward, we continue to look for ways to cut costs but the belt is pretty tight as it is.

Since we already have cable service (digital TV + Internet) I looked at adding the VOIP option, but once the introductory rate wears off in about 6 months, the price jumps and the savings diff is minimal. And when the cable service is out, everything is out. Too many eggs in one basket for my comfort in this one.

The POTS phone provider does have a super-simple plan (not that we have much at all on our current POTS plan) but the price (once you add in all the add-on charges and govt regulatory fees) isn’t that much less that what we are on now.

Now Alvis REALLY REALLY REALLY wants to upgrade her cell phone to an iPhone (which requires a data plan by our carrier). Not a problem but that’s another added cost to the budget.

Since our cellular plan covers all three of our phones, mobile-to-mobile calls are free, we have a family unlimited text plan, and we also get free nights/weekend calls, our mid-range minute package hardly gets used. It shameful to see how few minutes we actually can get to apply to our monthly minute package. Seriously.  Dropping to the next lower (lowest) family minutes package only nets us a $9.99 savings. Not enough to cover a data plan addition.

Today I had a brainstorm and am pondering the following.

If we drop our POTS line (~$65 “savings”) and port our “forever home” number over to a 4th cell phone, and add that to our Family Plan for an additional $9.99 monthly charge, even with additional monthly fees we are like saving at least $40/mo.  Any simple free phone would do, or I may be able to use an older (but still very nice and rock-solid) digital cell phone I had upgraded from with our same carrier and hung on to.


  • We keep our same home # (assuming it can be ported to a cell service).
  • Don’t have to notify family, friends, vendors, everyone we do business with.
  • $ saved each month or at least break even (see next bullet).
  • Alvis gets her iPhone + data plan (and maybe Lavie too) and we break even.
  • Minute usage may increase but most calls to family & friends tend to already be mobile-to-mobile anyway, or during the unlimited nights/weekend period.
  • Home phone comes with us in a disaster/evacuation.
  • Can donate all our POTS-based phone technology handsets to the needy (if anyone will even take them).
  • Not tied to a bundled cable service so even if cable goes out, our home # should still work.


  • Power goes out for an extended period of time, charging could be an issue if left at the house.
  • Maybe our home number couldn’t be ported…then what?
  • Transition/porting period could be a hassle.
  • Hope we don’t loose the charger.
  • Cell phone service/signal may be spotty in different parts of the house.
  • Can’t have multiple phones conveniently scattered around house to reach for easily when it rings (wall jacks appear to be a dime-a-dozen in our home).
  • Get locked deeper in with a already super-duper-mega cellular provider.
  • Would allow funding of iPhone takeover of Valca home and Apple becomes even more entrenched in our lifestyles…not necessarily a bad thing…just an observation.
  • Cost to replace phone higher if accidently dropped in loo or boiling pasta water while talking over stove cooking. Bad.

Any Grand Stream Dream blog readers out there done the dirty and dropped your copper/POTS for a pure-cellular experience?

The POTS provider is sure to tell us the world as we know it will end and “bad me” for contributing to the demise of POTS

What were your experiences?

Got any advice or see any Pros/Cons I’m missing?


--Claus V.


FF Extension Guru said...

I may not be the best example, since I am single and live alone. I dropped landline service long time ago as I found I had no need for it. Seemed my apartment community had a racket going with the local telecom providers (we have two here in Phoenix area) that made me believe that in order to receive calls from the main gate, I needed a landline. Not true. So I dropped the landline and since I don't make many phone calls (I never home and use email a lot) I had gone with a couple 'pay-as-you-go' cell phones. I did add a contract phone when I got my Android last year. So I have 3 cellphones, the Android, the main home phone and an emergency/backup that I add $10 worth of air time (around 30 minutes) per year.

Bundles don't save money and having all your eggs in one basket is not a good thing. In my case I was paying was too much for basic (not HD) digital cable and DVR. When I looked at DiSH I discovered I could have their best HD package (with a DVR) and still save money.

As far as chargers go, for the Droid I have a car charger (don't need house power for that) since I use the phone a lot as a music player, a USB charger that I can plugin to my laptop when I am at school. That is in addition to the standard AC charger that comes with the phone.

However, you do make a valid point about replacing a phone. I suppose I could see it being dropped in a pot of boiling pasta water, but use the speaker feature. Dropping it in loo, not sure why someone would be using their phone there...

Consider this though, the replacement are quite expensive (especially an iPhone, and Droids are not cheap either) and since you have a teenager (though I am sure she takes after her father and is very careful with her phone), replacing ONE phone could offset a good chunk of your annual savings. Plus, you are stuck with that provider (I ended my contract with T-Mobile early, cost me $200+tax. Did end up reactivating within the 90-day grace period so I had a $200+tax bill credit).

Claus said...

@guru - great points, thank you very much for taking the time to share! They are valued.

Dropped by the cellular brick-n-mortar this afternoon and chatted. Turns out adding the 4th phone will kick me up $12 (incl monthly fees). Not bad. Plus my old phone is still good for their network (digital not analog kind) so since I have my own hardware/phone no charge beyond activation, no contract for that phone, and I can decide to replace/upgrade at will (and then get a contract). Sweet.

The pasta/loo comments were a joke but your point about the benefits of hands-free is a good one.

I was concerned about the transition process between killing my land line account, keeping my home #, then getting it onto a phone. Cellular co. says not a problem; bring in my land line account bill, my old phone, and they will notify the company about the account closure, transfer the number to my phone and it will work when I walk out the door. May ring on copper and cell both for a few days but that's it.

Sounds like too good a deal to pass. And even adding one or two data plans would keep me at a break-even point...but with data on two phones, unlmtd texting on four phones.

Pro's seem a lot stronger than cons at this point.


--Claus V.

FF Extension Guru said...

Sounds like a good plan. As long as y'all are careful with your phones you should be fine. I've only ever lost a cell phone once, was a Motorola StarTac back in 2001 I think it feel out the holster while I was at a carwash. It was $200 to get a replacement. Use to have issues with the antennas braking off, but since most phones now have those built in that is no longer an issue. Did have to get my Droid replaced as was having performance issues but since it was under warranty still only cost me $20.

MarkG said...

I dropped copper two years ago. I went with an Ooma VOIP box ($200-250 up front) but free after (only $3 taxes). I have had no issues with the service and I ported my old POTS number to it.

BTW, I went with Ooma after listening to a friend tell me about it after he had it for 2 years. He's at 4 years now and no complaints.

Sometimes you can get refurb Ooma boxes just make sure to call Ooma to verify it can be activated without a large fee.

With Ooma, you just plug in any old POTS telephone in the house.