Ask Natalie: Do I Deserve To Be Ridiculed For Still Having A Land Line?

"Should I get rid of my land line? The only people who ever call me on it are telemarketers and my parents."
Publish date:
May 16, 2011
land line, ask natalie, phone

Dear Natalie,

Should I get rid of my land line? The only people who ever call me on it are telemarketers and my parents. The thing is that, as a writer, I often do phone interviews and there is still no good way to record conversations on a cell phone. Apparently there are some FCC privacy regulations that don't allow the creation of apps for mobile call recording. So at this point, I'm still using an old Radio Shack cord that connects my land line to a mini digital recorder, which I know sounds like I'm living in the Dark Ages.

Just last week, during a meeting with Jane and some of the tech guys who are helping to build this site, Jane mentioned wanting to be able to record her iPhone conversations. When I told her she had to use a land line, the tech guys totally laughed at me. "A LAND LINE!" they jeered, "Who still uses a LAND LINE?" They were so mean and know-it-all-y. They just didn't believe me that there's no way to record on a cell.

So what do you think: Are there any benefits to having a land line? I do have Skype, but I haven't tried recording calls from it. Is that a better option? Oh and if you could also confirm my claim so that I can ever-so-gently shove it in the tech guys' faces, that would be great. Thanks!


Amy, girrrrrrrrrrrl, you can have a landline if you want it, but, I don't think you need one. You're talking to an officially Off-the-Grid lady, which, in our modern world means that I don't have Cable TV or a landline, but that's a topic for another day. In short, no, you don't need a landline, and whenever you're recording a convo, you should ask for somebody's permission.

You've got three mainstream options for audio conversations: landline, cell phone and voice-over-ip (VOIP). I think most people are clear on the first two but maybe not the third.

VOIP calls work through the internet, so, in order to use it you hafta have a fast, reliable connection. And you have probably used VOIP without even knowing it. Everyone has heard of Vonage, the phone service that came on the scene with hilarz commercials and an absurdly low price. It's actually a VOIP service that connects to ordinary land-line phones using a special adapter (read how it works here). I've even worked in an office with phones that looked like landline phones but were actually VOIP phones, and they looked like this:

Cisco makes VOIP phones. AWW YEAH.

In all cases, I recommend using VOIP because it mostly uses the same infrastructure (pipes, wires, switches) as the Internet, it's hella cheap, and, in my personal experience, the calls sound more clear and THEY DONT DROP ALL THE TIME. Mobile phones use provider-specific switchtowers to connect one phone number to another, and, without boring y'all too much about how that works, I'm gonna go out on a plank here and say that this infrastructure ain't gonna last forever. The chances of landlines or mobile phones supporting video calls is zero, so, you know, in our future of flying cars and all that, landlines aren't there.

As for your question about recording convos, it looks like the FCC has clear guidelines for "wireline telephone conversations" (omg) that say that companies need to obtain consent from individuals before they start recording, but no such rules for recording "telephone conversations" apply directly to individuals. SUPER CONFUSING, because I don't know what qualifies as a wireline conversation vs. a telephone conversation, but to be safe, let's assume that it's all types (mobile, landlines, and VOIP). And you're not alone in wanting to do this -- here's a list of apps for recording voip conversations. And I'll bet you a milkhake that the recording you get from one of those apps sounds better and works better for your workflow because (GET READY) you could even use software to transcribe those recordings into text for you. ... I WIN!

PS - Amy World, stop calling them "the tech guys," even if they are all men. We're subconsciously reinforcing the stereotype that people who fix or make things are guys and I reject that wholesale, homeslice. And I am totally confident that at least one of those dudes personally has a landline. Calling it.