How do I pick the right phone/internet plan?
May 18, 2006 7:34 AM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out the most affordable, logical phone/internet package for my house. There are too many options, and I'm not quite sure where to start.

OK, so here's what I have:

- a cell phone which I would like very much to make my sole/primary phone, but which does not get any reception in my apartment (very frustrating);
- a landline for the phone: necessary, expensive, underused;
- "high-speed" DSL, through the same provider as the landline service.

I have an old G3 iBook (no wireless), but am going to buy one of the new MacBooks this weekend, and so will finally join the wireless world.

I would like to somehow get rid of my landline. Can I have calls to my cell phone (call received when I am at home, that is) forwarded somehow to my computer, and use Skype (or something) to take them? Is this something I work out with my cell provider, or a setting within Skype? Is Skype the best solution here? I've never used it. (A side concern is that I make a small but significant number of international calls. Does Skype handle these well?)

(Alternatively, if there's some sort of voodoo that would boost my cell phone's reception so I could use it in my house, I'd love to know about it. This would pretty much solve everything.)

I would also like to increase the speed of my internet connection: it seems pointless to have wireless capacity but only DSL speed. Is cable the most reasonable/cost-effective solution? Prices I've heard seem fairly high to me, but I don't know any other options. Are there even any other options? I'm totally out of this loop.
If it becomes necessary for me to subscribe to a cable internet service, would it then also be logical for me to use something like Vonage instead of the aforementioned Skype for my home-phone needs?

The final variable is that of cable TV. I currently neither have nor want it. However, my landlady (who lives in the same house) has cable, and has said that if I pay for half of it, I'm welcome to share her line. She, in turn, may be interested in boosting the speed of her own internet connection via cable. (She would not need or want any sort of internet phone.) I don't mind paying half the monthly fee for a few cable channels if the net result is a lower monthly phone/internet bill. This leads to a number of questions:
- can a single cable line reliably carry two TV and two internet signals? (And would my using an internet phone carrier significantly increase the signal load? I have no idea about this stuff.)
- Is the solution to most of these issues as simple as splitting the cost of cable with her, and using the cable for internet and home phone? It seems too easy - am I missing something?

Obviously, I would like to spend as little as possible, but have not included information about prices. I guess I'm asking for general advice on what sort of connectivity I should have; I'll do the price comparisons once I come up with a plan.

Sorry for the excess detail, and thanks for any advice!
posted by Dr. Wu to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cable is the best way to go. Get Vonage or some other VOIP for your local and long distance calling. Comcast doesn't require you to have a great cable package to have internet. So if your landlady is okay with an $11/month, 15 channel cable service, get that along with high speed internet and Vonage with a total monthly bill for you equaling $53 (5.50 for cable, 22.50 for internet, 25 for vonage) not including tax.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:39 AM on May 18, 2006

Right now I have internet over cable (Verizon), basic cable (for some reason it's cheaper to get internet + basic cable than internet by itself), VOIP via Vonage and a cellphone that doesn't get reception.

Some suggestions:

Is FIOS available in your area? Is so, you may want to look into that-- it's much faster than cable internet. You can get 15mbps for $45, which is about what I pay for cable internet. One of my friends raves about it.

VOIP is usually a lot cheaper than a normal landline. It does use bandwidth unlike a phone over cable. Vonage has a 500 minute plan for $15, unlimited plan for $24. It has some other nice advantages too like being able to have your phone number follow you when you move. Also all domestic and some international calls are free.

As for the cell, I'm in the same boat. I'm considering breaking my contract my cell is so useless inside.
posted by justkevin at 7:51 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far, y'all.

Two follow-up questions:
- What is FIOS?
- Do Vonage or other VOIP services allow for call-forwarding? The potentially complicating issue is that while I reside in area code 860, my cell phone is registed in area code 914. (Are area codeas even relevant anymore?) That is, I'd want to receive all my calls at the 914 number, though I live in 860-land. Would this be a problem?
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:23 AM on May 18, 2006

Second the FIOS reccomendation -- I don't have it, but several family friends do and they love it. I'm usually not a Verizon fan, but FIOS looks to be a win.

I personally have RoadRunner cable internet (in Central NY state) -- it runs about $50/month after taxes, fees, etc. For landline phone, I use Vonage's Unlimited Plan ($25/month), which gets me unlimited long-distance calling anywhere in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and parts of Europe, with very reasonable rates elswhere.

Yes, it ties up bandwidth -- I can't mantain a conversation while BitTorrenting anything, for instance -- and yes it won't work in a power failure, but since you have a cel you're actually safer than I am -- I'm cel-less and have survived okay for about two years using this system.

Occasionally there are service hiccoughs, and it took a bit of effort to get the Vonage box connected and playing nicely with my D-Link wireless router and the rest of my network, but the "hardest part" (disconnecting my house from Ma Bell and patching the Vonage box into the house's phone cabling) was actually pretty easy.

So, for $80/month, I get cable 'net that's fast enough for anything I want to do, and unlimited long distance -- to put it in perspective, Verizon's unlimited long distance plan is $80 alone, or was three years ago when I briefly experimented with it.
posted by Alterscape at 8:23 AM on May 18, 2006

Not-quite-on-preview: FIOS = Verizon's fiber-to-the-premises system. They're rolling it out in test markets; I'm not quite sure where 860 is, so I don't know if you're in their area yet..

With Vonage, you can set up your inbound line in whatever area code you want -- I'm in 607-land, and I have my Vonage number set up as a 607, but I could plug my Vonage router into an internet connection anywhere in the US (or the world, I think) and make/receive calls that appear to terminate/originate in 607-land. Likewise, you could ask Vonage for a 914 area code even if you're living in 860. I'm not quite sure if this answers your question -- can you describe in a bit more detail what you want to have happen?
posted by Alterscape at 8:26 AM on May 18, 2006

Thanks for posting this question, I am wondering the same thing.

Comcast currently has a promotion for reduced rates if you get cablemodem and phone service together which may be helpful.

Does anyone know if VOIP plays nice with tivo? Googling reveals people having problems but I can't tell if it's a few isolated cases, or something to be avoided at all costs.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:36 AM on May 18, 2006

Modems over VoIP tend to be problematic at best, and a complete failure at worst. 2nd generation TiVos support 802.11b wireless and ethernet natively with add-on pieces. Look around on their support site for the specifics.
posted by jeversol at 8:45 AM on May 18, 2006

Also: check your email. I have this silly as-seen-on-tv thingy that's supposed to boost cell reception. I got it free and don't want it, so I sent you an email offering to send it on. I'm just curious if the thing actually works.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:46 AM on May 18, 2006

About FIOS.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:57 AM on May 18, 2006

Vonage does allow call forwarding, you can probably even set up with Vonage using your current landline number.
posted by modofo at 10:44 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for your answers, and sorry for the non-response -- been unable to get online today.

I really appreciate the suggestions and input!
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:03 PM on May 18, 2006

I love Vonage. Despite what some say, it rarely drops calls. I have had it for a couple of years, and I lost one call. Not bad. I am thinking about TIVO, but don't know if I need a landline...
posted by peglam at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2006

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