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Commentary: Bye-bye landline and premium cable TV

When there's national and global upheaval around us, it's human nature to start looking for something in our life we can control. While checking our bank account online, I noticed our monthly bill for landline telephone, internet, cable television and security cameras had gone through. It's our third highest monthly bill — and one I have the control to lower.

But could I really cut back? Have you? Isn't it disturbing how much time and thought we can invest in a first-world problem?

My husband and I have had a landline telephone our entire lives. I can recite every landline phone number I've ever had. Silly but true. We might be the youngest people to have had a landline our entire lives. Most of our friends and family only have cell phones now.

I've had a cell phone for 20 years. Technology and service has evolved during that time, and as my cell phone coverage increased my landline usage decreased.

I've kept our home landline for our younger kids to use, for some local phone calls and to use when our power goes out and cell phone towers are down, which happens on the prairie during summer and winter storms.

If we're going to spend money with our telephone cooperative, it would be wiser to put it toward fast internet service since I work from home, and security cameras as we have a business building ready-to-move homes on our property.

Despite living in a county without a stoplight, our rural area of North Dakota has lightning-fast internet service through BEK Communications, based in Steele, N.D. I love BEK as they broadcast sports events across our state, and they're extremely reliable for telephone, internet, cable and security services. And they're local. Plus, a landline phone is no longer required for internet service.

I'm not getting a kickback to promote BEK. I simply could not live in rural North Dakota for the past 11 years without their services.

Did I really want to cut the landline from our monthly budget? I hesitated. My loyalty to BEK tugged at me a bit. I went to my "trusty source," Facebook. You can't read the sarcasm in my voice, but lately Facebook isn't known for being trustworthy. However, it's a place to ask friends for input and their thoughts on the need for a landline.

Overwhelmingly, my friends use cell phones and don't have a landline unless their phone company requires it for internet service, they have limited rural cell phone coverage or, for the same reasons we've kept ours, for safety, for our kids and because we've always had one.

I made the leap. I told the customer service rep at BEK to disconnect our landline and cut our cable television to the basic package.

You know what happened next? My 2-year-old cell phone screen cracked when I dropped it on the kitchen counter, of all places — not even the floor or driveway. The money I will save this summer by not having a landline phone will eventually go toward a new cell phone. For now, I'm living with a cracked screen. The next day I made two calls to landlines and the cell phone service wouldn't connect to them. I felt like the landlines of North Dakota were taunting me! Or maybe it was AT&T.

When I told our girls we were making these changes, you could see the panic on their faces. No phone at home? I reassured them we would add an old cell phone to our family plan for $20 a month. No data. No internet. Just a mobile phone for them to call family members or in case of emergency. Then one daughter said, "No Disney Channel!" I replied, "Correct. You'll have to figure out life without Disney on television at home." The other daughter chimed in, "Oh we can try Hulu, Netflix, YouTube or AppleTV."

First-world problems always have a solution.

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