Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Our Solution to the Phone Problem


For background on this issue, check out this post. We canceled our phone line with AT&T...mostly. According to CNET.com, AT&T has been forced by the FCC to offer "unbundled naked DSL Internet service to customers around the country." This means you can just order DSL from AT&T for $25/mo and not have to worry about paying for a land line. We considered doing away with a land line completely, but we're not on our own cell-phone plans yet, and thus don't have complete freedom with the use of our minutes.

We found that Vonage has a very appealing service plan ($15/mo.) allowing for 500 minutes of outbound (including long distance) calls and unlimited inbound calls (unlimited outbound calls are only $10 more per month). They have a nice online web interface that allows you to see your call log, check your voice mail, and add new features and tweak settings (voice mail, have your number ring your cell phone too, set a number to route calls to in case your internet service is down, etc.). One thing that is also a plus is that you can set up any voice mail messages you received to be sent to your email address! As far as I can tell, the sound quality seems even better than what we had with AT&T. You do have to make sure they have 911 calling in your area, apparently some areas don't, but they have some possible workarounds for those who don't.

The one drawback to this service is that your phone is completely dependent on your internet connection being up. We haven't had hardly any problems that couldn't be solved by simply unplugging and plugging the DSL modem back in, but there are those few occasions that no internet can be very annoying, especially when it includes your phone service. What we did to eliminate this issue (including power outages where your phone adapter and modems don't work anyway) was to keep a stripped down phone line from AT&T for $5 a month. We can then plug our phone into any jack with a DSL filter on it to make any emergency phone calls we need to make.

On top of all of this we're experimenting with GrandCentral, and really liking it. We're able to give that number out no matter what phone lines we keep or get rid of, and we don't have to tell everyone about a new number. You can choose customized voice mail greetings for specific callers, you can post call buttons on your webpage, and use Google's state of the art spam filtering against telemarketers.

Though all this does seem rather complex and convoluted, it's working for us and saved us $40/mo. The next thing on my to do list is to set up a PBX speaker system in the house :)

1 comment:

Officer Leeroy said...

A friend of mine just pointed me to magicjack.com and I was amazed that you could get unlimited local and long distance for $20/yr!!! I'm not sure how it works, the web site is not very informative. I'm not sure if you can keep your current phone number, or if you have to choose from one of theirs (of course this isn't a problem if you already use grandcentral or the likes).