More Are Dropping Landlines, for New, Cheaper Options

Two out of every five U.S. households have cut the cord on landline phone service and now subsist entirely on wireless phones.

That's a statistic we'd ordinarily expect to be reported by the FCC (or maybe the NSA). But it comes courtesy of the CDC -- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which began gathering this data 10 years ago to keep in contact with people it was tracking for research into health conditions.

In any case, it seems the CDC is now the agency in charge of figuring out which Americans use which kinds of phones for their communications needs. And in July, the CDC released a report showing its latest data. Here's a quick rundown of the more interesting findings:
  • 41 percent of Americans now live in households with no landline telephone and only cell phones. This includes 39 percent of U.S. adults and 47 percent of the children in the nation.
  • Among adults, 66 percent of millennials ages 25 to 29 have cut the cord on landlines and gone totally cellular.
  • Slightly older millennials, ages 30 to 34, are slightly more attached to their landlines, with only 60 percent having cut the cord.
  • Slightly younger millennials, on the other hand -- ages 18 to 24 -- are even more attached to landlines, with only 53 percent having cut the cord.
  • And the older you get, the more likely you are to still keep a landline active. Ages 35 to 44 are 48 percent wireless-only, 31 percent of those ages 45 to 64 rely solely on wireless phones, and for Americans aged 65 and up, only 14 percent have gone entirely wireless.
A Good Way to Save Some Money

Both landlines and cell phones have their uses -- costs. A landline with unlimited calling within the U.S. will run perhaps $40 a month when leased from AT&T (T) or Comcast (CMCSA) (maybe less when bundled with other services, but it's not always easy to tell). Add $100 a month to get unlimited calling on a Verizon (VZ) smartphone, and you're looking at $140 a month. Of course, with the added cost you also get the added flexibility of being able to make and take phone calls anywhere, and that can be very handy when you end up, say, stranded on the highway with a flat tire.

But still ... $140 a month?! $1,680 a year? Forget about the poverty line -- even for an average wage-earner in America, earning $50,000 a year, that's 3.4 percent of pre-tax income. It's no wonder that when consumers on a budget look at this figure, they decide to ditch the landline.

A Better Way to Save Some More Money

And yet, there are cheaper ways to cover both needs -- the need to make long phone calls from home, frequently, while also having a cellphone for emergencies.

For example, as long as you have a broadband Internet connection (and if you're reading this article online, chances are good that you do), services such as MagicJack and Vonage will offer unlimited home phone calling over the Internet for a fraction of the prices that Verizon, Comcast and AT&T charge.

And there are even better alternatives. Ooma Voice-Over-Internet protocol (VoIP) devices, for example, are rated by Consumer Reports as the top option for cord-cutters who want landline-like service for a fraction of the cost.

Ooma service costs as little as $5 a month (to cover government regulatory fees) after purchase of an Ooma console ($129.99 on Amazon). Supplemented with, say, $100 worth of annual minutes on an AT&T "Go Phone," or Verizon or T-Mobile "Pay as You Go" plan, the cost of phone service could run $15 a month. With options like these, it's never been cheaper to cut the cord.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned, either. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.

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How do these serial phone abusers get a person's unlisted telephone number?. I have someone who has been calling me and hanging up for 4 years. I finally decided to get an unlisted number. Within 3 days he had the number. How did he do it?

November 27 2014 at 1:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had a cell phone when I was working, my boss abused it

August 04 2014 at 9:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Having a landline is much more reliable than a cell phone. In times of emergencies, it's the best thing to have.

August 03 2014 at 8:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

people need to think twice before they cut their landlines. A couple in Canada dumped their landline and used that vonage internet phone service. They moved to a different province and never notified vonage. When their young daughter was choking they called 911. The ambulance was sent to their old address and their daughter died because no help camr to their home. A land line in a town or city that has 911 address identity saves many lives. This family now has a daughter who is dead and will never enjoy the rest of her life because it is over.

August 03 2014 at 7:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Where I live I have to have two phone lines, one for my phone and another for the internet. The each cost over $50 a month. The phone company keeps sending me ads with my bill about their "high speed" internet service and IF I could get it I could get rid of one phone line. Well, I have tried and tried to get their high speed internet service but every time I call, (at least once a month) I am told it is not available where I live. The service stops 1 1/2 miles from my house! Go Figure! We also can not get cable here, that stops about 3 1/2 miles from us. Satellite is hit and miss because I am surrounded by trees which like to interfer with my reception. Even our cell phone service is hit and miss. It seems that we live in a "dead zone" where cell phones only work sometimes. And now our wonderful State congressmen have agreed to allow phone companies to eliminate our land lines if the want. So if I have an emergency after that, I would need to go outside and stand very still in a certain direction and pray that my cell phone will work. Of course if I am having a heart attack or stroke, that could be sort of difficult to do. Or if it is in the middle of a vicious storm, I'm certain that I will really enjoy standing outside in it just to call for help! Guess it is time, after almost 45 years that I should move!

August 03 2014 at 10:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is getting pretty bad. More and more folks have got their heads into the cell phone no matter where they are. They live in another world. Can't put the thing away no matter where they are. It gets pretty anoying at times.

August 03 2014 at 7:20 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

What no one is mentioning is that only the old copper land lines will work in a black out. Without electricity, the cell towers will be down and internet phone will only function as long as the back up battery lasts, this includes phones connected via FIOS. There is a reason to maintain a true land line especially if you live in an area that experiences frequent black outs.

August 03 2014 at 1:45 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Funny...I haven't had a cell phone since 2008. The cell phone thing is way blown out of control. You don't even see people's faces anymore all you see is the tops of their head as they are bent at that neck mesmerized by the cell phone screen. Ridiculous!

August 02 2014 at 10:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tmerrimoxie's comment

I have never had a cell phone and never want one either.

August 03 2014 at 7:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nothing makes me more angry than people who are addicted to smart phones. Interruptions during our meetings, constantly looking at their phones in case they "miss" something. One time at Thanksgiving a dinner party, we were seated at the dining table and I thought one person was sleeping but they were looking down at their phone for half of the dinner. Can anyone disconnect and just enjoy not communicating every little mindless thing to the planet?

August 02 2014 at 6:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I had Uverse voice installed a week ago, as soon as the tech left everything went crazy, calls were disconnected, while talking on the phone you hear the phone dialing. Called tech help they can't fix it. I am now waiting on them to come and remove whatever it was they installed.
Telling other people about it, you guessed it. they had the same problem.
It's been a few years now, do you think ATT would have perfected whatever the problem is by now.

August 02 2014 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply