One of the sure ways to save money on your monthly home phone bill, as previously mentioned, is to discontinue service and rely on your cell phone or switch to Internet phone service (Voice over Internet Protocol). I did the latter myself maybe five years ago, cut my monthly bill by 70 percent, and have never, ever looked back.
Ahh, said some readers, but what about calling 9-1-1 when the power or cell phones are down? After all, Internet telephone service relies on Internet service, which in turn relies on electricity.
Well, 911 still works, in most cases. In California, telephone companies are required to keep the line “warm” even if service is voluntarily or involuntarily discontinued. This access to 911 service is often referred to as ‘warm line access’ or ‘quick dial tone,’ so named because a minimal amount of electricity continues to run through the line. You may not get a dial tone, but plug a phone into a socket with no phone service and the phone will light up. I verified this again with the California Public Utilities Commission.
Christopher Chow, a PUC public information officer, said that yes, not only is this true and part of the California Public Utilities Code, Section 2883, but the Commission renewed the requirements in October 2007 to ensure that telephone companies continue to offer 911 service to people who voluntarily or involuntarily discontinue service.
The code essentially says all local telephone providers must provide existing and newly installed residential telephone service with 911 access “regardless of whether an account has been established.” Read the code HERE (search for “2883″).
However, this isn’t an absolute, Chow added.
“Please note however, that it is very important that customers should rely on the service provider that they use for phone service, to provide access to 911, and they should not assume that a discontinued line or line not in use provides that access to 911,” Chow said.
Telephone companies are only required to offer 911 access if technology allows. As the code says, “… to the extent permitted by existing technology or facilities.” If the resident cuts all electricity to the ‘warm lines,’ then AT&T and Verizon can’t offer emergency service (one reason why a person would cut the warm line is to use the house’s copper wires for VoIP service — most VoIP customers don’t bother doing this, though).
Also, Chow points out, “the Commission has not specified a time limit governing how long the carrier is required to maintain the facilities to a customer who has discontinued service, and these requirements will vary by carrier.”
Both AT&T and Verizon provide these “warm lines” to customers.
Hopefully this helps readers figure out if saving money by going VoIP or cell-phone is worth it.