I am being asked to buy a landline
August 1, 2020 7:36 PM   Subscribe

... for this work-at-home job I am going to be offered probably next week. Which will be nice since both of my other jobs went away in March due to Covid-19.

I've gone through many company assessments and we are moving forward.
(One friend thought "it sounded sketchy that they make you buy your own phone." I have no doubts about the company itself; I see the name in buildings in my area as well as perusing the website.)
I wish I'd kept my land line, but alas, let go of it in the mid-2000s.

I know this place is rife with experts, and I am hoping you all will save me a lot of time. I need

A traditional land line telephone connection (aka Plain Old Telephone Service or POTS), that has a traditional desk phone with a corded handset along with a mute button and the capability to plug in a headset to either the side or the back. OR an address locked VOIP line from your Internet Service provider. We do not support dial pad devices.

I don't want a cheap POS but I don't need the most expensive phone there is for a 15 hour a week job.

Bonus question: Agent must have a wired internet connection inside their home (wireless connection is NOT supported). Please, be kind. I am a Luddite who has never had a wireless computer before. My internet is supposed to be wireless but then why does my laptop have a cord going to the router/modem? How can it be wireless if it has a plug in?

Thank you for any help you can offer. (And what about this VOIP?)
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
VOIP is "voice over internet protocol." Many internet service providers (ISP) can add a "landline" telephone service that uses your internet connection to make & receive phone calls.

You will probably have to pay extra for this, although as a bundle with your internet service it may actually cost less than a regular telephone line. You may have to get a special modem.

Your bonus question is a bit confusing - the company says "wireless connection is NOT supported", and since you are physically plugging your laptop into your router/modem, which is itself physically connected by a wire to the appropriate jack in the wall that carries your internet connection, you are fine. I don't see where you need to worry about wireless at all.

(I believe when the company says you must have a wired internet connection what they mean is that your house has to have that physical router/modem that connects to a wire that runs into your house. Some people get internet at home by using their cell phones or borrowing a neighbor's WiFi or other things that are less robust than a wired modem.)

When you say "my internet is supposed to be wireless" I suspect that your router/modem is capable of broadcasting wireless internet (WiFi), and pretty much any laptop made within the last 20 years is capable of receiving WiFi if you want it to. But if you don't have that set up you certainly don't need to worry about it for this job, you can still have your laptop connected to your modem with a wire. Your laptop can be wireless but it doesn't have to be.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:18 PM on August 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Agreed - VOIP phone service should be good enough for this job and not cost that much.
an address locked VOIP line from your Internet Service provider.
This means you need fixed VOIP, which most of the consumer options are. Just make sure you tell your ISP that it has to be fixed.
posted by soelo at 8:48 PM on August 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

They're saying they don't want WiFi security issues. Your internet Modem will usually have a couple of hardwire network ports (RJ45) Use one for your personal WiFi and one for a ethernet switch to plug the company provided computer into. I also think they expect you to have POTS rather than VOIP. It's a security issue more than anything else.
posted by ptm at 8:54 PM on August 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

It could also be a quality issue. WiFi is one more thing that might interrupt your calls if it was overloaded or not working properly, as might mobile service, neither of which is good if you're making business calls.

If you search VOIP you will find a ton of providers, but they seem to be quite specific about it being provided by your ISP. You might want to ask why the specifics. Again, this could be about quality of service. (My home line runs over the internet and is not provided by my ISP and works flawlessly, but this may not be their experience. If it gave bad audio there would be a lot of finger pointing between organisations with no-one taking responsibility, because it could be a problem in a number of places.)

I'm guessing you need a provider that allows both outbound and inbound calls, and you should check who precisely you're expected to give your number to. It makes a difference because a number you might want to dispose of when you change jobs is probably not one you ever want to use personally.

I wouldn't necessarily consider providing your own phone or internet a red flag for a WFH position. It seems to be par for the course. The wired-only requirement is more unusual.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 9:45 PM on August 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's very common for you to be expected to provide your own internet and telephone service. You can write off those expenses as part of your at-home office. VOIP is voice over internet phone, where one uses a phone service that runs over their internet, and does not have a separate phone line. It's generally not as reliable, and many companies require you to have real landline service.

As for "wired connection", that means you may NOT use wi-fi to connect to your router. You need to use an ethernet cable on PC, or whatever Apple calls the same thing. This, to, is also extremely normal. (Connecting from your computer through a phone hotspot or the like isn't even an option, it's not what they're referring to as wireless.)

These requirements are all because they're trying to reduce the chances of dropped or choppy connections, which come across as really unprofessional. (I'd also be totally unsurprised if you said, since this sounds like it's an on-the-phone position, that you're required to have a noise-cancelling USB headset, and very quiet circumstances with little or no background noise.

You might well be able to connect to your router wirelessly (with wi-fi) at home, and instead have chosen (or didn't realize) and are using ethernet to connect instead.

One more thought - double-check that you're allowed to use a laptop, even (some don't), and that you have sufficient screen size to do the tasks you'll need to. A second monitor is often really helpful to obtain the necessary efficiency.
posted by stormyteal at 12:13 AM on August 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Your current internet provider may well already include phone service, or they may be able to add it for a small extra charge. Then all you need is a basic phone and a spare socket to plug it in.
posted by Lanark at 2:37 AM on August 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Possibly worth noting that if your laptop doesn't have an Ethernet port (they're getting rarer and rarer!), you'll need a USB ethernet adapter for a wired connection. Here's one for USB-A (old-style) ports, and here's one for USB-C ports.

If you're feeling fancy, these adapters also come with other ports on them.
posted by humbug at 7:00 AM on August 2, 2020

Your landline connection is probably still patiently there, possibly with dialtone. There are low-income options if you ask.
Phone, more(landline only, not Internet/Voip), more.

Voip uses the Internet for your calls, is quite standard, and on a wired system, quality is good as long as you have reliable Internet. A Voip phone will generally require an ethernet cable to connect the phone to your Internet cablemodem. The cable will likely come with the phone, if it's not long enough, getting a longer one is easy, and they can support long cable.
Phone, more.

You should be able to visit Best Buy, Walmart, Staples, etc., to buy a landline or IP phone off the shelf. If you get Voip phone service from your Internet provider, they may provide a phone.
posted by theora55 at 8:20 AM on August 2, 2020

It's very common for you to be expected to provide your own internet and telephone service. You can write off those expenses as part of your at-home office.

You can only deduct these expenses if you are self-employed, for example a Form 1099 contractor. You cannot deduct these expenses if you are a W-2 employee.

It is not clear whether the OP is a contractor or employee.
posted by JackFlash at 10:07 AM on August 2, 2020

Yup, just to soothe any worries you may have from your friend's comment, this is an extremely common requirement for WFH support or admin positions. it's both a quality thing and a security thing. (Source: many years of managing customer service teams distributed across in-office and remote, and in-house and contracted-through-third-party.)

My advice is just to make this is simple on yourself as possible by setting up something reliable that you won't have to faff with later. If your performance is going to be judged on things like call handle time and email/chat throughput, you do not want to have to deal with spotty connections preventing you from meeting your goals. There are only so many times that excuse (as valid as it is!) will work, and depending on how strict your manager/employer/agency is, that number of times may be 0 or 1. If you're working through an agency, they're more likely to be sticklers about it, because they're contracted to meet goals specified by the company they're contracted to, and may have to pay penalties or receive a lower fee for failing to meet those goals.

All of which is to say: you can easily get a corded handset (do make sure it has the mute button and headset hookup! your employer/agency may even have recommendations) and hook up the landline service, that's going to be the most reliable. It's extremely unlikely you'll have to give your direct phone number to anyone other than your employer/agency--they'll likely have a routing program that will route calls to you, and disguise your number if you have to make outgoing calls. If you have to make outgoing calls and they haven't told you how to disguise your number, ask them about it.

A fixed-number VOIP through your ISP is also going to be reasonably reliable, to be clear. But there's still a slightly higher chance that a network outage could kill your ability to work for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Might never happen! But it might.

Your ISP should be able to answer questions about your home connection status, POTS or VOIP services, and failure rates for VOIP.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:21 PM on August 2, 2020

If you don't have to call out of area you can get plain old phone service that runs on copper and is a regulated utility, (the phone company hates it as far as I can tell.) You will have to pay for any calls out of your area but it is cheap otherwise and unless you are getting your internet from the phone company it will be a completely separate deal that you can obtain or dispose of without having to get pitched bundles/contracts etc. etc. Just a thought.

We are still on copper with the DSL because I still use a fax machine and the dsl is crapping out I am sure because they don't want to replace equipment. The tech who came out said for straight up phone copper is the way to go, internet you should get fiber. Problem is they (the phone company) want to do away with copper entirely and the phones on fiber while I guess not technically VOIP have plenty of issues with things like faxes and alarms and having enough current to ring a regular old phone.
posted by Pembquist at 12:26 PM on August 3, 2020

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