Need phone advice for upcoming perfect storm of tech changes
February 7, 2017 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Due to various circumstances, we think it's time to ditch our landline and change our Internet provider. We live in the Seattle area (Federal Way/south King County), and currently use Centurylink for both home phone and Internet. We would really, really like to keep our home phone number (which we've had for over thirty years) without porting it to a single cell phone. We will probably be moving (locally) in six months or less.

The overriding concern is that we need to save money. We had Centurylink's five year price guarantee on our DSL service, which expired last year and included a nice landline bundle (without long distance, for which we use cell phones). We do not have and do not want cable TV.

I think the only real Internet alternative in this area is Comcast. I don't mind moving to a VoIP solution such as Comcast, Vonage, or Google Voice and an OBi box to keep the landline equipment, but I'm not really sure what the choices are (and I have no particular prejudice toward anything). I realize Comcast may be force us to accept basic cable to get a good price on a bundle, but I'm not above tossing the cable box in a closet and ignoring it if the bundle price is decent.

All four of us (the parents and the two adult children living at home) have cell phones, but we don't want the survey and charity (and political) calls coming in to our cell phones. Cell reception in our apartment right now is marginal.

We will probably be moving this summer, but staying in the same area.

I'm sure someone here has weaned themselves off the landline with Google Voice, OBi, Vonage or something else. What are the alternatives you've used, and how are they working out? What should I watch for and be aware of? Is there a good online guide you're aware of? I'm a tech-savvy guy, but I've never gone in this direction before.
posted by lhauser to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Google Voice is the cheapest way to keep your landline number since it is only a one time porting fee and no monthly charge, but to receive wanted calls you still need something to forward it to.

For a VoIP phone, the best option is Callcentric for a full service provider, for something more in between, or callwithus for something very cheap but with minimal to no support. In any case, I strongly recommend getting an actual SIP phone (VoIP Supply has a wide selection and reasonable prices) rather than an adapter. Panasonic and Aastra are my favorite midrange brands (truly high end kit is stupid expensive), but Grandstream phones are the inexpensive option that works fine these days now that they have the firmware issues they used to have worked out.
posted by wierdo at 12:30 PM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, I missed the part about marginal cell reception, so a bit more advice: If you have an account directly with at&t, Verizon, or T-Mobile rather than using an MVNO, you can get a femtocell (sometimes they are called microcells) from your provider that will plug into your network and act like a cell tower and fix your reception issues.

Sometimes they will give them away for free if you call and complain about the bad reception at home. If not, they're usually about $50 IIRC. Alternatively, some T-Mobile phones support WiFi calling, but it is less seamless and requires a supported phone, while the femtocells work with any of that carrier's phones.
posted by wierdo at 12:36 PM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rule One of VoIP Club is that you never buy value-added services from your ISP. The ISP is there to get the packets in and out.

Mail hosting? Elsewhere. Web hosting? Elsewhere. Usenet feed? Hire somebody else. Burglar alarm? Not my ISP's job.

DNS? You bet your *ass* you find another source for this, especially and particularly if Comcast has ever been mentioned in the same space-time continuum as your network.

VoIP is more of the same.

Mostly this is because ISPs (in the US, and in general) suck. If they suck at these random extra services but do okay at getting packets in and out, you can avoid the suckage. If they suck at getting packets in and out, not depending on them for a bunch of other things makes it easier to fire them, hire somebody who's better at getting the packets where they need to be, and avoid the suckage.

If your ISP momentarily fails to suck, regard this as the temporary result of some strange planetary alignment. They'll be back at sucking presently.

I happen to use NetTalk for voice at the moment, but that's mostly inertia and modest needs and them not having done anything lately to make me angry enough to switch. I like the cut of wierdo's jib in the first answer upstream.

Caveat: If you make a lot of international calls, shop around. Rates vary wildly depending on who you hire and where you're calling.
posted by sourcequench at 12:58 PM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

FWIW, we had to get a land line installed for a burglar alarm our landlord insisted we use. We don't use the alarm, but we're basically paying Comcast $18/month for the line. AT&T was over $20 per month for a landline.

Once you get Comcast, be prepared to call them every year and threaten to switch to another provider. They've given me a discount (well, not a rate hike) on my service for something like six years in a row by calling.

If you're not already doing it, consider MVNOs like Cricket, Ting or PagePlus to save money on cell phone bills. Four lines on Cricket is $100 per month, or $25 per line, with 3GB of data each.

Hope that helps!
posted by cnc at 1:00 PM on February 7, 2017

I was just researching cutting cable this morning and came across this site,which recommends this service for phone service, whilst cutting cable. I have no actual experience with it, but am considering it.
posted by sarajane at 1:39 PM on February 7, 2017

I ported a number to vonage about 13 years ago and never looked back. Someone above said get a "sip phone" my advice is you dont want this. Too complicated. Get a nice vonage adapter. Plug it into whatever internet box you have from whomever, switch internet providers ad nauseum. Take the vonage to work, on vacation wherever. Just plugs into internet and then we replace the standard cordless home phones as they break/die/battery fails etc.

There are other companies but we love vonage. Pay around $10 a month and wouldnt ever cancel.
posted by chasles at 1:46 PM on February 7, 2017

Thanks for all the answers so far. We're with a mix of Virgin Mobile and Cricket for cell service, so a microcell is probably out of the question. Who knows what the new home will be like...
posted by lhauser at 3:32 PM on February 7, 2017

I would call your current provider and ask for a discount. Tell them it's too expensive and you're considering switching to somebody else. You might be able to avoid switching until the move.
posted by impishoptimist at 6:59 PM on February 7, 2017

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