May 3, 2005

Money TOD: Ditch the Land-Line Phone?

Filed under: Money Tip of the Day,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 1:35 pm

Pajamapundit unloads the land-line phone without remorse:

From three to zero in 10 years

Ten years ago, there were three phone lines coming into this house – one for the family to talk on, one for the internet, and one for fax, which got taken over by a teenager.

Now there are none.

The teenagers have grown up and left, my husband and I have cell phones, and the internet is accessed through cable. We were spending almost $30/month for… nothing.

I can remember in about 1996 when one couple I learned of had 7 lines installed in their new home (residential, his business, her business, his fax, her fax, his Internet, her Internet). Those days are long gone.

This Wired article from nearly two years ago indicates that the number of wireless-only Americans was 7.5 million at the time; surely the figure is higher now.

The only downsides I see are:

    - Not being careful about your wireless plan — If you cut the cord, your wireless plan will need to accommodate the additional minutes you will spend on wireless phones.
    - Not ensuring that outbound 911 and emergency calls will be handled properly — You need to know how your local emergency services respond to wireless calls, and whether having a Global Positioning System (GPS) will make a difference in whether, or how quickly, they will respond. In the pre-GPS days, wireless callers at car accident sites occasionally had a tough time convincing 911 operators to take their calls seriously.

If modifying your wireless plan proves to be too expensive, even after shopping around for wireless service, another alternative is to go with a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service (as PJpundit indicated). The best-known of these is Vonage. In my limited dabbling with VOIP (last try was 3 months ago), I have found it not ready for prime time; perhaps the quality might be acceptable for personal communication (I don’t think so), but for business, forget it.

Also, as noted in a previous blogpost (go to the third item), VOIP emergency service arrangements need to be nailed down before you sign on. Vonage, for one, is not as consumer-friendly in this area as it should be.

UPDATE: Whoa. Just heard on Jim Cramer’s radio show tonight at about 6:15 ET that Qwest had a lousy financial quarter, and in the process reported that they lost over 700,000 local phone lines during the quarter. Here’s confirmation (sixth para): “Yet local phone lines in service dropped 4.4% to 15.3 million.” Ouch.

Illegals Across America (for 050305)

(The first in an irregular series of items worth noting that I’ve come across [usually three in each post] about those in America illegally)

ITEM 1: Fortune Small Business, in an article entitled “Notes from the Underground Economy,” reports that the off-the-books economy is so pervasive that it is jeopardizing businesses that try to play by the rules:

Made up of day laborers, illegal immigrants, even a business owner’s relatives, this stealth workforce is closing in on the $1-trillion-a-year mark in the US. Unburdened by pesky taxes and government rules, the underground economy is growing faster than the one populated by legitimate business owners and workers.

…The IRS estimates that off-the-books business practices cost some $400 billion in unpaid taxes.

On this warped playing field, entrepreneurs….find it ever harder to compete.

ITEM 2: The same article contains another gem about the true population of illegals in the US, which a recent Bear Stearns report pegs at nearly 20 million (link is to HTML version of report where graphs cannot be read–Google “Bear Stearns report on illegal immigration” to download a full-content PDF):

Bear Stearns ignored data from the census and instead examined indicators such as the explosion in housing starts and demand for public services in high-immigration states such as Arizona, California and Texas. One eye-opening statistic: Mexican nationals working in the US sent home $13 billion last year, the second-biggest source of funds for Mexico after petroleum exports.

ITEM 3: Finally, although the link is old news In Internet time (4 months), the problem is not getting the coverage it deserves:

“Ninety-five percent of the identity theft cases in Northampton were committed by illegal aliens,” Morganelli said. “I really believe this is the No. 1 crime and security issue facing our country. But when we call immigration officials, they could not care less.”

Northampton is in California, Arizona, or Texas, right? Wrong: Pennsylvania. Identity theft by illegals is a significant problem in virtually every state.