Before we proceed, let's do a little math.
How much do you spend on your home phone? $50 a month? I'll bet it's closer to $100 a month.
Multiply by whatever you pay for your home landline service by 12.
Now imagine how you can spend that money on something else - a new HDTV, a weekend getaway, a new sofa, a fresh wardrobe, a new laptop - because there is absolutely no reason why you should be spending that much money on landline service.
In yesterday's Part 1 of "Time To Hang Up Your Landline Phone Service?" we explored how you can still use a familiar desktop phone even if you switch to a VoIP phone service provider or went all cellular.
Today we'll explore being able to keep the landline phone number all your friends and family know, and to assuage any fears you may have about reaching 911.
Keep your phone number
Nothing is more annoying than changing your phone number - all the people you have to contact is a nightmare. Change of address, snail or email, is child's play by comparison.
But switching to a VoIP service or moving to cell-only does not mean giving up your current, beloved, well-known landline number.
All VoIP and cellular carriers can transfer your landline number to their service - it's a law called Wireless Local Number Portability (WLNP). The FCC provides a helpful FAQ for what WLNP means, how you do it, what the limitations are, and what your rights are.
There should be no or little fee, and the transfer should take no more than 10 days for VoIP, shorter - perhaps a few hours - for transferring a landline number to your cellphone.
Here are links to WLNP information from the various VoIP and cellular carriers:
- Vonage WLNP
- magicJack WLNP (and there's more information in my magicJack review on this topic)
- AT&T Wireless WLNP
- Sprint Bring Your Number WLNP
- T-Mobile Switch WLNP
- Verizon Wireless WLNP
Be aware there are some geographic and other restrictions. Each cellular carriers linked above starts the WLNP process with a "check to see if your phone number is eligible to be transferred."
In most cases, you'll likely be able to get calls on your old landline phone until the transfer is completed, but I'd hook up your new phone just in case. Check with your new phone service provider to find out if you'll be without your phone for any lengthy period.
The 911 dilemma
For many older folks, not having the comfort, the knowledge of sure-fire access to 911 is landline-switching deal breaker, which is completely understandable.
When you dial 911 on a landline, you don't have to say a word - the emergency services folks can pinpoint you and come to your aid without you providing a name or address.
This was not originally the case with VoIP and cellular.
But the FCC is working to make sure location and phone number from a VoIP or cellular are automatically reported when you call 911 by instituting a protocol called Enhanced 911, or simply E911, that do report phone number and location to local emergency service providers.
The national cellular carriers route 911 calls through the Internet through something called Telecommunications Relay Services; there's likely a line item on your cellular bill indicating the carrier's charge for E911 service.
According to the FCC, more than 70 percent of 911 calls come via cellular phones. For instance, initial emergency services responses to the Dark Knight Rises movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, last month were initiated from cellphone 911 calls.
Here is an informative E911 page from the FCC, which includes information about how cellphones generate location information and cellular 911 tips.
Location, location, location
You've seen "CSI" and other crime TV shows where the cops find victims or perps based on cell tower triangulation and GPS. This is the technology emergency workers use to find you in an emergency.
If you're an iPhone or iPad owner, you can check the accuracy of this GPS-aided cellphone location capability by using Apple's Find My iPhone/iPad service.
Go into Settings on your iPxxx device, tap on Location Services, then scroll all the way down the list to the bottom to "Find My iPxxx." If it's Off, toggled it On.
Now go to Web on your desktop or laptop PC, go to iCloud and sign in with your AppleID (if you haven't signed up for iCloud, you should). Click on the green radar-like Find My iPhone icon on the iCloud home screen, and your iPxxx devices will be listed and their location pinpointed on a map.
This exercise will illustrate just how precisely you can be located with a cellphone in your pocket, purse or palm.
VoIP providers offer their own 911 recommendations (see Vonage's 911 information here and magicJack's here), mostly making sure they have your current home address on file so the number can be matched to a location.
Of course, if you're really concerned about someone getting to you should become incapacitated, you should check out one of those wearable emergency pendant devices such as Life "I've fallen, and I can't get up" Alert.
Next-generation wireless 911
But the powers-that-be aren't resting on the relative efficiencies of the current E911 system. Given homeland security issues, the FCC last year took the first steps to establishing a 21st century next-generation 911, or simply and officially NG9-1-1.
NG911 will enable 911 callers to not only call emergency services, but text, transmit data, send photos and even video to better enable police, fire, et al, to better assess emergency situations before responders react or arrive.
A variety of government agencies are involved in creating the NG9-1-1 network. Given the technology and bureaucracy, it'll likely be a few years before it becomes operational.
But given the work the government and cell carriers have worked to make sure emergency workers can find you when you dial 911 on a cellphone, you should have a higher degree of confidence that going cell-only will save both your life and beaucoup bucks to happily spend elsewhere.