By Steve Alexander Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Q: I would like to get rid of the telephone line coming into my house. What options do we have, considering that we receive TV over-the-air, use a wireless router and an Apple TV device for Internet video, and have DSL Internet service on our phone line?
A: Many people are tempted to buy telephone, TV and Internet services from one provider to get bundled discounts. But because you rely on over-the-air TV broadcasts, you can base your telephone and Internet choices on the merits of those two services.
Wired telephones, while extremely reliable, are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. They lack mobility, and in most cases they charge you for long-distance calls. Cellphones are now reliable enough to be a good alternative, and you don’t have to pay for long-distance.
Internet service brings another set of considerations. If you want to continue using DSL Internet service, you’ll have to keep your telephone land line for data-only service. If you want to get rid of the phone line, you can get a cable modem (from Comcast in your case) or use a cellular data service. For any Internet service, you’ll want to get a download speed of at least 5 megabits (5 million bits) a second, the minimum required for watching streaming Internet video.
For wireless service, you’ll also need a way to convert the cellular signal into a Wi-Fi signal that your Apple TV or computer can receive. You can either buy a dedicated device such as the MiFi or a smartphone that can act as a Wi-Fi hot spot.
But because of its pricing, cellular data service is not for everyone. Unlike the telephone and cable companies, which offer flat-rate monthly prices for unlimited Internet service, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile offer metered data plans. Sprint still offers unlimited data as long as you use only its network — which is a real issue with a mobile smartphone.
If you go over your monthly data allotment, there are financial penalties, so it’s important to determine how much data you’re likely to use in a month and buy the appropriate data plan. (I used up my entry-level 2-gigabyte Verizon Wireless data plan by watching four hours of Netflix streaming video.)