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Your Guide to Cut the Cord
  Alternatives to the Wired Phone Line:
Using your cellular phone at home is the simplest way to cut the cord as long as you have reliable coverage. You only pay for one phone for calls both in and away from home, and normally you can make free Long Distance calls from almost anywhere. Your number stays with you, and you can also use cellular as your connection to the Internet
Several cellular carriers now offer a device specifically designed to make your wired phones work like "normal" home phones but using a cellular connection. In most cases, they provide a unit that sits on a table or wall and the calls are completed by a wireless connection to the nearest cell site. In most cases you can plug in all of your existing phones, both cordless and corded. You pay a monthly fee and, like a cellular phone, all the popular calling features are included like Unlimited Calls, both Local and Long Distance, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding and Voice Mail. This is not a new concept but these units are now being offered by the cellular carriers themselves with quite reasonable rates...some as low as $15 per month. The Steps for Switching are the same as cellular.

We have links to these specific Wireless Home Phones.

You get software and/or hardware from the provider and attach it to your broadband connection. In most cases you have a wired connection and lose the portability of Cellular. You can make free calls to people with similarly-equipped computers ("computer-to-computer") and discount calls to any normal phone number. Some allow a wireless connection to use a cordless phone around the house, otherwise, you need to plug the phone into your computer or modem. Broadband from your cable TV company provides both the ability to access a broadband supplier and a "normal" phone connection. Some online services offer a "follow me" service that allows you to program what incoming calls go to what phone at what time.
Don't overlook how versatile your old landline can be. While still keeping the wired line you can switch to an independent phone company that could provide all your desired phone features at a better price. You can drop a second line in favor of an online Fax service. Custom Ringing enables the same line to serve multiple purposes including your fax. You can add an inexpensive feature like "Call Forwarding if Busy or No Answer" for $1 or less per month, and use all the features of your cellular phone. Do the kids have their own line? You can control their phone use with wireless almost as easily. Or the reverse might help: a dedicated fax line can also be the backup for your Alternative service.
In some areas of the country, storms, disasters or the high cost of construction or replacement have made wired telephone services unavailable. Read about what happened to the wired networks after Hurricane Sandy.
  Cellular Considerations:
  • Make Sure Your Cellular Coverage is Good.
    It's preferable to be on your carrier's own network without roaming and check every room of your house for coverage, including the basement. Don't just assume your wireless phone works well at home, ask your friends if they can hear you well on all calls. If not, you should find a carrier that works better with Cellular Carrier Reviews. Barring that, you may want to consider the Broadband Option, or Add a Cell Site to Your Home.
  • Have a Backup.
    Have a second cellular phone in the house. A cheap backup is a prepaid phone. Make sure you have an extra battery and charger, both can be notoriously unreliable.
  • Check Your Speed.
    If you plan to use a cellular phone as your 'broadband' connection. make sure the network offers high enough bandwidth for your usage.
  • Do The Math.
    Make sure your changes make economic sense. Consider increased wireless costs and the loss of any 'bundled' discounts. Don't be fooled by short-term promotions. Project your costs out a year or two to make sure the promotional price makes the regular price you pay later, acceptable.
  • Consider an Unlimited Cellular Plan.
    Unless your usage is fairly predictable, you never know when you'll face a situation that requires you to spend a lot more time on the phone than you expected. Unlimited plans can start as low as $30 per month. Some prepaid plans offer Unlimited calls after 7pm.
  • Pay Your Bill.
    All your precautions go down the drain if the carrier cuts you off for nonpayment, and they can do it faster than a wireline company can. Better, set up automatic payment from a credit card or checking account. Make sure to keep your credit card information current so you don't lose service should your credit card expire, or watch your checking account for enough balance to pay the next bill.
  • Get Faxes Online.
    Use an alternative fax service like MyFax.com.
  • Do You Have a Family?
    Without a shared landline or broadband phone, each family member may need their own cell phone, reducing your savings.
  • Still Want a 'Shared' Family Line?
    In some households, the family actually enjoys and uses their common landline that allows interaction among family members or any friends who may want to call 'the house'. MetroPCS offers a service that rings all wireless phones of members of a Family plan, called GroupLINE. This removes the need for a land line to be the common communications thread through the family.
  • Don't Leave Your Home Phone-Less:
    If you leave the house in the hands of the baby sitter and take your cell phone(s) with you, make sure the sitter has a reliable and convenient way to contact you, the fire department or the poison control center. Check the sitter's phone before you leave or show where your 'backup' phone is.
  • Register Your Wireless Phone for 911 Service!
    Most cellular carriers have a method of associating your wireless number with a particular address. This is helpful if they get a call from your wireless number but cannot determine your location. Some people consider this a privacy issue, but the benefits outweigh those issues, especially if someone else, like a child, makes a call for you.
  • Consider Bundles:
    You local telephone company may offer a discount on either your wireline or your cellular phone if you bundle them through the one company. In some cases you can switch from dealing with the cellular carrier direct and assign your same account to the phone company for the discount.
  • Rural Customers:
    Ask your local cellular carrier if they offer a special service for your home. In some areas beyond landlines, some carriers offer a special deal for wireless phone customers, including "Telular" service. In some locations they provide a "Lifeline"-type of cellular service for a subsidized fee...some as little as $1 per month.
  • Seniors:
    Get help finding wireless service that caters to seniors, including how to get wireless service for as little as $1 per month, at Cellular for Seniors.
  • "Wireless" vs. "Cordless"
    A "Wireless" phone uses a cellular network (or alternatively a wi-fi connection) and does not need to be connected to anything in the home to function. A "Cordless" phone has a portable handset that only works with a base station which is connected to a phone line and power outlet somewhere within the home.
Bad cellular coverage at home is more common than the carriers will admit, but there are several technical solutions:
  • Hybrid landline/cellular phone:
    is a "cordless" phone that lets you drop your cellular phone into a base station that connects to a wireless handset by Bluetooth. The unit tells you which phone the call is coming from and allows you to choose which one to be used for outgoing calls. You can leave the cellular phone in the coverage "hot spot" and use the cordless handset elsewhere in the house. This alternative does not let you completely 'cut the cord', but it could allow you to switch your landline to a more basic (cheaper) plan.
  • Docking options:
    give you a base to plug in your cellular phone that enables you to make calls through your cell phone using various types of other phones elsewhere in your home, letting you leave the cellular phone in a signal 'hot spot.' These are offered by both cellular carriers and independent suppliers and go by names like "Dock N' Talk" and "Fast Forward."
  • Get your own mini cell site.
    Some cellular carriers now offer a box called a "femtocell" than you can install right in your home. Femtocells are the next size smaller than "picocells" which provide coverage in stores and hotels. The Femtocell is actually a cellular "repeater" that amplifies the signal of your cell phone both into and out of your house, giving you excellent cellular coverage everywhere in the home. It has the advantage of providing seamless service inside and outside your phone. This eliminates the need for the "base", as in the above two options, but requires you to keep your cellular phone with you throughout the house. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint offer their own versions of "Network Extender." Also, several wireless retailers offer extenders with no monthly fees.

  Wireless Broadband Considerations:
  • Connection to the Internet:
    Unless you have a cellular-equipped laptop, you'll need a wireless modem that either plugs into a USB port or a PCMCIA connector. You might be able to access a stray wi-fi connection somewhere in your neighborhood.
  • Have a Backup.
    Have a web-capable cellular phone or a second wireless modem that would access a different network. It can be an inactivated cellular modem that will allow you to sign up when needed. Consider a dongle for you cell phone.
  • Do The Math.
    Make sure your changes make economic sense. Consider any 'bundled' discounts. Don't be fooled by short-term promotions. Project your costs out a year or two to make sure the promotional price makes the regular price you pay later acceptable.
  • Broadband Phones:
    Setting up a wireless broadband connection also gives you access to a phone line that can be connected through a house, as long as you keep your computer turned on.
  • Rural Customers:
    You may need to ask around as to what providers are available. Often there is wireless broadband service your neighbors don't know about or DSL the phone company doesn't promote. There are also satellite broadband options. Your alternative broadband phone will work through those connections as well.

  • Drop Your Service to the Most Basic Level:
    The phone company is required to provide a basic service at a regulated price but can charge big fees for all their extra features. Drop to the lowest tier of service and either choose a Long Distance carrier that does not charge a monthly fee, or drop access to Long Distance on that phone altogether if your telephone company will do it without an extra charge. Use your cellular phone for "free" Long Distance calls and the features that you want, like voice mail. The cheapest wireline tiers use a "measured" number of calls, or are "incoming only" which may only available if you ask. You might also qualify for a subsidized "Lifeline" service.
  • Switch to Cheaper Features:
    We only Call Forward to one number, our cell phone, so we use a much cheaper form of Forwarding, like "Call Forward If No Answer", which is less than $1 per month. Incoming calls are forwarded to a number programmed at the phone company if you don't answer. This allows us to use the features of the cellular phone, including Voice Mail. Also, callers won't know your cell phone number.
  • Get a Cheaper Long Distance Service:
    Some people have had their Long Distance (LD) charges increase without notice. Since it costs to block access to LD, we just stopped using our "1+" LD service and started using a Prepaid Long Distance card. But it's a pain to enter all those digits, so get a "PIN-less" prepaid phone card that recognizes your number with Caller ID and makes the call with no extra digits. Enter their "800" access number in a memory location in your phone and you can access LD with a minimum of button presses. Avoid paying any more than .05 a minute for US Long Distance. Some cards specialize in discounts to certain foreign countries. You could use different providers, based on the location you're calling, on the same phone line. These cards can also be used with cellular phones that don't have free Long Distance. There are other "PIN-less" Long Distance options on our Unwired Discount Page.
  • Subscribe to a Wireline Re-seller:
    There are many companies that will supply your wired service with all the features you want: Unlimited Local and Long Distance Calls, Voice Mail, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding and more, all included in one price. They still connect to your house through the phone company's lines, so they can only save you so much. But it may be enough to get the features you want at a reduced price. You can keep your current number and you get full 911 service.
  • Reversing Roles:
    Consider your wireline as your "backup" instead of using it as your main phone. It can be dedicated to the alarm or a fax machine, if you really need one.