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Making the Call: Is it time to replace your home phone with a cell phone?

Randy Nelson

How often do you really use your home phone? It's a question many families are asking in a day and age when budgets are squeezed tighter and everyone seems to have their own mobile phone. It wasn't that long ago when the idea of getting rid of your home's land line phone in favor of going totally cellular was only entertained by college kids and single folks who were never home anyway. Today, it's become a legitimate option for a much larger number of us.

However, before you decide to cut your ties to the phone company (or in many cases, the cable company), there are a few things to take into account.

The 411 on 911
One of the most common problems faced by those hoping to bid farewell to their land lines is the question of safety — not from scammers or prank callers, but in terms of what will happen in an emergency. When you dial 911 on a traditional home phone, your call is routed to a local emergency response center, where the person on the other end of the line instantly receives your current location. They can send the police, fire department, or paramedics to help even if you aren't able to speak.

Dialing 911 on a cellular phone still connects you to a law enforcement agency in your local area. (This is usually still a 911 dispatcher, but in some locations, it might mean you end up talking to the highway patrol's dispatcher instead.) If you're experiencing an emergency and need help, the party who receives the call has to reroute your call to the appropriate first responders and will need you to tell them your location. This is obviously a serious problem if you're injured and can't speak or are in a situation where every second counts. It's for this reason that many law enforcement agencies advise you to always call 911 from a land line whenever possible.

A chilly reception
You're probably used to your cell phone's signal getting sketchy when you drive through areas where reception is weak. In some cases, you may find that your home or apartment is also prone to signal dropouts, even as you move from room to room. In others, certain building materials may limit or prevent cell reception where you live altogether. Even if you get reception by your front door, you might not have the same connectivity further inside.

Cellular coverage is improving all the time, but there may still be some instances where it's just never going to get better, for the reasons we mention here. There could be ways to help mitigate the problem, such as signal-boosting antennas, but they're an investment you need to weigh when deciding if going fully wireless is for the best.

Guilty as (not) charged
Another issue you're likely to run into are those cases when you need to make a call, only to find that your cell phone is dead, so you're left to wait until your charger (assuming it's not lost) provides your mobile phone with enough juice to dial out (check out our tips for getting more battery life out of your phone). Also, if you misplace your phone — they're getting smaller every year — you might miss an important call. This is obviously a fairly minor problem for most people, as you can always leave your phone plugged in (and in one place) while you're at home, but it's worth considering nevertheless (at least until someone comes up with a better charging option).

Jacked up
Before making the call to disconnect your land line, take a moment to make sure that none of the electronic devices in your home need to use it for any reason. Some things — most notably, Digital Video Recorders like TiVo — might use the phone line to call out daily and retrieve data such as program listings. Home security systems rely on a hardwired connection to allow communication to their monitoring centers, too. Many of these services are capable of using your broadband internet connection for these purposes, but the lack of a phone line could still be a deal-breaker if you haven't opted for a high-speed cable or fiber-optic connection.

Cut the cord
If you don't anticipate needing immediate 911 service — but really, who ever knows these things? — and you have solid cell reception at home, dropping your land line can be a great way to save money. If you're not quite ready to take the plunge or are unable to for one of the reasons we've mentioned, there are still ways to save on your phone bills, especially if you don't use your home phone much.

One of the best ways to save is to simply call your service provider and ask to be switched to the least expensive basic rate, or see if the company offers a deal if you bundle phone, cable, and internet services into a single package. In many cases, the total can be less than $20 per month — and that's a small price to pay for some piece of mind.

[Image credits: robinsonsmay, suthernsir]

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This article originally appeared on Tecca ›

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