Daily Archives August 13, 2016

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Cutting the Cord (Part 1)

By M Davies   /     Aug 13, 2016  /     Technology Hates Me  /     3 Comments

To quickly catch you up with what’s been going on in my life:  I have a child entering High School, I have another one entering 5th grade, I have a husband now working out of the house (he had been working from home since 2008) and I’m barely ever here.

 

That being the premise, I no longer have the need for a physical landline phone.  We held onto our Frontier phone service since moving from Lee Park (CLEC territory), although, we did not port our 570-270 number when we moved and opted for a new number entirely.  I’ve had the 570-477 number (ILEC territory) since 2008 and I don’t want to part with it.  Utility companies have it, the school has it, and many family members have it.  I would have started looking into VOIP solutions to port the number sooner, but we still needed the physical phone line for my husband to test dial-up modem shelves at his last job.  Yes, believe it or not, people in 2016 still have dial-up 56k v92 modem service.  Let’s all take a moment of silence to acknowledge their pain.

 

We good?  Ok.

 

Here’s a snapshot of my last phone bill (undoctored except to remove my personal information):

 

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54 dollars.  You read that right.  54 dollars for a phone that carries no features or long distance besides call forwarding to my cell phone and the unpublished number fee.  If you’ll notice, half of the cost of the actual service charges is paid to taxes and other miscellaneous service charges.  This line is connected to a telephone in the basement, that no one uses.  Once in a while, we move the RJ-11 cable to fax stuff.  That’s about the extent of our usage.

 

Every month, I may as well burn 54 dollars in my driveway.  I’m paying for something that I’m not using.  It’s actually the stupidest bill that I have.

 

I decided I would take a whack at Frontier’s customer service “churn buster” line to see if there was any promotions or credits I could earn for being a loyal customer.  I was told the only way to reduce the cost of this bill would be:  A) Bundle it with another service.  B) Drop the service level down to a “Lifeline.”  C) Sign a contract for 2 years.  Let’s explore these options…shall we?

 

A)  The bundling they are talking about would be including Internet or TV of some sort into my already outrageously sky-high telephone bill.  We already have Internet service through Blue Ridge Communications and are (for the most part) quite happy with it.  At the time when we moved in, it was the fastest and cheapest option available to us.  We tried the Frontier DSL, or I’m sorry, “HSI” for the allotted 30 days.  The speeds were appalling and similar to that of ISDN BRI.  It was unusable, so we had no choice, but to drop it.  The “TV” portion of the service that Frontier offered at the time was DISH network.  I previously had Directv.  I know it isn’t the same, but it kind of is….they always lock you in to a 2 year contract and its super expensive to get out of it should you choose to cut the cable.  We looked into Blue Ridge at that point and with the cable and fast Internet service bundled together, it was a no brainer.  Blue Ridge did offer us phone service, but after Irene happened and learning that their remote/head end did not have a DC battery back-up, it was not a feasible option for our needs.

B)  “Lifeline” is a telephone assistance program provided through the “Universal Service Fund” you pay in your monthly bill.  Families in need can receive a $10 stipend each month which is applied to their landline or cell phone bill.  There are income requirements, and you need proof of income to qualify for this program.  I am well without of the qualifications for this program.

C)  There is no way in hell I’m signing a contract for 2 years for a service I barely use now.  Period.  End of story.

 

The phone call ended with a courtesy credit of one month applied to my bill with a “thank you for not cancelling” line of bullshit.  I received my next bill with only a half month credit applied.  I don’t have the energy to wait on hold to argue with these people again, so I’ll just eat the other half of the credit, I guess.

 

I took to Facebook and talked with my network.  Most of my friends fell into one of these buckets:  ported the number to another service, got rid of the land line entirely, or bundled with another service.  I seriously considered trying to port the number to my already established Google Voice account, but it would require more work than I was willing to do.  Here’s the gist of it…Google Voice (which used to be called GrandCentral) won’t port landlines. Basically you would have to port the number to a burner phone and then once that is complete, port the phone number on the burner phone to Google Voice.  A lot of friends recommended magicJack.  I saw the commercials…I looks kinda chintzy.  Not that I’m opposed to cheap, but it seems like it needs a dedicated machine to always be plugged into to work…I am always carrying my laptop back and forth with me to places, so it’s just not a viable option.  There is Vonage, which we did try a long while ago while living in Lee Park, but it got expensive over the years.  They are now nickel and diming you to death like any other phone company would.

 

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After talking with a co-worker and reading for several hours, I discovered Ooma.  Ooma is another VOIP service similar to Vonage, but way cheaper.  My phone bill would end up being $4.99 (roughly) a month based on their savings calculator.  Basically you’re only paying the taxes on the number after some initial fees to purchase the equipment and port the number to the service.  Based on a cost analysis that I preformed on Frontier bill vs. Ooma, it would take 3 months for the service to “pay for itself.”  It was another no-brainer.

 

The equipment I ordered came with in 3-5 days of my phone order:

 

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Admittedly, I kinda dropped the ball getting everything installed at first because I was super busy with NEPA BlogCon stuff, but when I had a few minutes to actually sit and think, I was able to get it going with little to no effort.  The network device they had sent to us required a bit of IP address reconfiguring and NAPT to get it going.  It’s up and running as I write this blog post.  My request to move my 570-477 to this service is still pending, but should be complete shortly.  Once that happens, I can cancel Frontier completely out of my life for good.

 

So far, I’m happy with the service.  There’s nothing to complain about because as I said, I really don’t use my landline.  I rely on my cell phone for everything, but its a nice thing to have as peace of mind for my kids who may need to use it in an emergency situation.  That’s another thing to mention:  everyone freaks out about VOIP and 911 service and keeping your address on file up-to-date.  Ooma takes care of that for you.  If per chance, you move and forget to update your address, they forward your call to a centralized 911 center and then they can forward your call to the appropriate call center.  I’ll be honest with you though, there were a few times that I witnessed bad accidents and called our local 911 only to get a busy signal.  You’re only as strong as your weakest link in an emergency situation….this isn’t a dig, it just is what it is.  I understand 911 operators are overtaxed with overly asinine phone calls and make next to no money, so spare me the lecture.

 

Here’s a review of the service from CNET.

 

I think I’ll circle back around to this post in a few months to revisit whether or not I really think it is still worth it, but for now, it’s a great service and I’d recommend it as an option for anyone looking to cut the cord.  I could have really went more deeply with this post about the features that the service offers in the cost, but I have been up since about 2am, and I am exhausted.  That will have to wait for another time.

 

One final thought that came to my mind while writing this post and discussing cord cutting with friends:  It’s ironic that my husband had to go back and work for the company for me to realize we no longer need it’s services.  It just goes to show you how much the industry has changed in a measly 9 years.

 

The times.  They are a’changin’.

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