Topics: bills, personal, technology
Why, in this era of supercomputers and flying cars, do I still have a landline phone installed in my home? Is it because I feel more secure knowing I have a phone that connects to a wall that connects to all the other phones in the world with wires? Do I have some sort of illicit passion for phone jacks and RJ-11 hinged locking tabs? Or are landlines such a great bargain that I’d be stupid not to fork over the cash each month to have one?
I can assure you that the correct answer is none of the above. Instead, the absolute only reason there is still a telephone plugged into our home’s wall is because of Comcast. You see, my wife and I aren’t big television watchers. In a given week, we’ll spend a combined total of maybe six hours viewing regular television programming. Our TV gets far more use in conjunction with its attached peripherals–the Gamecube, the PlayStation 2, and the DVD player. As such, we don’t have cable or satellite or any other paid service that would give us access to additional programming channels. And since we don’t have cable, we also don’t have access to the high-speed internet services provided by our local cable company, Comcast. In order to purchase Comcast’s internet services without also buying into its cable service, I would need to give them one of my kidneys wrapped in an enormous ball of cash.
While we can live without 430 channels of HBO, my plot to take over the world work and hobbies (like this one!) require some sort of non-dial-up connection to the internet. Verizon to the rescue! We’re signed up for their $15/month 768/128kbps DSL service. For the less technically inclined people out there, those numbers mean that I can download the entire internet in approximately seven seconds. Of course, with cable internet, that time would drop to three seconds, but I’m not in that big of a hurry.
So what does all this have to do with my having a landline phone? Well, it’s because Verizon has this one little caveat to its $15 DSL service–I need to have some sort of landline phone service with them, and not even my cash-wrapped kidney can change that. So instead of paying $40 + $40 + taxes each month for cable and cable internet, we pay $35 + $15 + taxes for a landline telephone with unlimited local and regional calling and DSL internet. Having the landline phone service also allows me to keep my cell phone rate very low since I typically only use it for long-distance calls.
In a few areas, Verizon is starting to roll out its sexy “naked” DSL service. For just an extra $5 a month, this plan would allow you to get Verizon’s DSL internet without any sort of landline service… in theory. In reality, you still need a landline; it just doesn’t need to be with Verizon. Still, if true naked DSL ever appeared in my neck of the woods, we’d just drop the landline and beef up our cell phone service.
So as the situation stands, Verizon takes our $35 each month and gives us all the calls we want in this general area along with common extras like Caller ID, Call Waiting, and unlimited calls to Mars (though that last one has yet to be useful). But with our latest bill came a tiny flyer that I almost threw away without reading. It advertised Verizon’s Freedom package (unlimited calls to anywhere in the U.S.) for just $35 a month. “Why am I paying the same price for a plan with no long distance service?” I thought. So I decided to switch my service to this new plan at my earliest convenience.
Fortunately for me, my earliest convenience was after I had a chance to discuss the plan with some wonderful folks on the internet. They kindly pointed out that the $35 version of Verizon’s Freedom plan included absolutely no extra features. No Caller ID. No Call Waiting. And zero minutes for me to talk to my future Martian friends! I priced all those options individually and found out that the ones I use the most would add an extra $10-15 to my monthly bill. For that price, I may as well have gotten the full-featured Freedom package. And even with the unlimited long distance, I’d still have to hang on to my cell phone at its current rate for the occasional use I make of it away from home.
Nice try, Verizon, but you’re not getting a penny extra from me. And as soon as I finish wiring my massive can-and-string network across Maryland, I’m ditching you altogether!