A phone without a booth by aarrgh @ FlickrI don’t usually think of myself as a laggard when it comes to technology, but I must admit we still have a landline in our home.   But not for much longer:  I’ve just begun researching a few options – Skype, Charter VOIP, and ooma – but thought some of you might have experience cutting the cord.  If you have, I’d love to hear about how you’ve made out – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A few facts about our situation:  there are two adults in the house 99% of the time.  Our current phones are all cordless, of course.  Two of them get the most use – one based in the kitchen, and the one located in my study.   Having said that, we also need a handset in the bedroom, as my wife is occasionally called to substitute teach, usually early in the morning.

We don’t make a lot of long distance calls.  In fact, we don’t use the landline all that much – perhaps a handful of calls each day.  It pains me to admit this, but we’re paying about $55 a month to Frontier for all this service…  [superemotions file=”icon_cry.gif” title=”Crying”]

Oh…  two  other facts:  my wife is opposed to simply using cell phones, and I have a greater chance of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize than I do of getting her to use a headset on the computer.

So: I want to dump the conventional phone service but want “regular” phones or an option that features something that looks and behaves like a regular handset.  For these reasons, I’m leaning toward ooma, but I certainly need to do more research.

What are my options?  If you’ve made the leap, I’d love hearing about your experience – please comment!

The Fine Print:  I have no connection to any of the companies or products mentioned in this post, other than being a Charter cable customer

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23 Comments on Desperately seeking advice: dumping the landline

  1. Luke says:

    Do you have cable? Does your cable provider offer service? We’ve cut the cord, and gone to a cable-based phone. We bought one of those base-station and subordinate phones (one base station connected to the modem, and every other handset (6 total) is on a charger in the other rooms) Works great as long as we have power and the cable is operating, and we save about $100 a month over haveing seperate cable, internet and phone bills.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Luke,

    We do have cable – from Charter. I looked at their offering last night, and it was $29.99 per month – “for the first 12 months.” I spent a fair amount of time on the ooma site last night, as well as looking at ooma reviews at newegg.com and amazon. It sounds really good. If you opt for the basic service, all your local and long distance calls are free. That sounds awfully appealing.

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  2. Kevin M says:

    I went cell only for a few years when I was in an apartment. It worked fine, but I’m not a big phone user. We now have a landline (but never use it) since we have DSL. “Naked DSL” is only $5/month cheaper, so we figure we might as well have the landline as insurance. I don’t have any experience with the ones you’re looking into, unfortunately. But I’d appreciate a follow-up post when you select one explaining why.

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  3. AndyW says:

    I am considering the same thing. My buddy has used ooma for over a year with no problems. He has 4 kids ages from 9-17. Heavy use. BTW I was at Frys in Northern California and saw that they have refurbished ooma base stations for $180.

    Here is my idea: (I already pay for internet so that is not calculated)

    $180 ooma
    $100 new wireless handsets for the house
    —————
    $280

    – $900 (75 per month)
    ================
    $620 net savings the first year ($900 per year after that)

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  4. Eric Ketzer says:

    Hello,

    My name is Eric Ketzer, and I am a Manager at Charter Communication. I would be happy to discuss our phone service with you. Two major difference between us and traditional VoIP: 1) Our phone service is independent of your High Speed Internet, so it will not affect your bandwidth or speeds. 2) Depending on the dwelling, we are usually able to connect the MTA to your punch-down block and run the phone service to the existing jacks, so you do not have to live off of one phone jack.

    If you have any additional questions you can send them to Umatter2Charter@chartercom.com. Please include the title of your blog and my name in the subject line.

    Thanks, Eric

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  5. Bill A. says:

    How often do you lose power?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Bill:

    A few days ago the power went off for a few seconds. That happens perhaps once every couple of months.

    But I assume you are referring to true outages, where power is off for an hour or more – in that case, I’d say only once or perhaps twice a year.

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  6. Victor Thombs says:

    Kevin,

    Our family made the same plunge earlier this year, and dropped Verizon landline (about $50/mo) for Vonage. It has been a good change, and calls to certain overseas locations are included! We use that, since a sister-in-law lives in Ireland. All in all, worth the switch.

    I’ve been a lurker for a while, love the site- thanks for the information,

    Vic

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Vic,

    Thanks for commenting, and for your kind words… I really appreciate it!

    Kevin

    [Reply]

  7. Vijay says:

    I switched to Ooma a month ago, and have been happy with their service so far. I think it’s worth it, specially if you plan to use for the long term.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Vijay,

    ooma looks fantastic, based on what I’ve read so far… glad it’s working out for you! Thanks for the comment.

    [Reply]

  8. Garry says:

    I started using Vonage while stationed in Bahrain. My family called a local number and could reach me half way around the world. Now we use Vonage as the home phone with wireless phones and wired wall phones. If the internet goes down calls are forwarded to my cell. Now my son and I are using google voice which is a free service to route calls through one number. Vonage will satisfy the wife, cut your bill in half and provide you with all sorts of options when you travel. Voicemails being emailed to you are great. Make sure your wireless phones are the latest technology as WIFI can interfere with many older phones making you think its VOIP that is the problem. Cut the cord!

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  10. Bill A. says:

    I have been reluctant to get off of land-line because:
    -power outages (I live in an area with frequent snow and ice storms) You can argue that cell phones will work, but in the last ice storm we were out 5 days and the towers were swamped. Also, my alarm system has battery back up, but wouldn’t be able to dial.
    -911 location reporting — do the VOIP vendors do something for this now?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Bill:

    This is from the ooma Owner’s Manual (I downloaded it from their site):

    Emergency 911 Calls

    If you pick up any phone connected to an ooma device and dial 911, the call will override other calls currently active on the ooma system and your 911 call will be immediately routed to a 911 service center. In most locations throughout the US, Enhanced 911 (E911) is now available. If you dial 911, the service address location you registered with ooma will automatically be transmitted to the dispatchers handling the call. For your safety, always be sure to keep your ooma service address up to date. To update your service address, please visit the ooma Lounge or call ooma customer service.

    If you are using your ooma system with a landline and you place a 911 call, the call will be placed over your landline phone service to ensure that your location is quickly identified. 911 calls will continue to work even if your Internet connection is down or there is a power outage in your house. Note: Placing a 911 call during a power outage requires a line-powered corded phone.

    Under rare circumstances, the ooma system with a landline may not be able to disconnect an active call immediately to place the 911 call. In this case, you will hear a fast busy tone. Hang-up the phone, wait 15 seconds, and then dial again.

    I am really leaning toward ooma. I’ve read dozens and dozens of user reviews, and they are overwhelmingly positive. Users who’ve used Vonage and switched to ooma are positive, and report that call clarity is equal to or better than with Vonage. Skype is out of the question due to the whole headset thing. And Charter, well, I’ve grown weary of their price hikes on cable and internet service. It seems as though they raise prices twice a year; I’ve no appetite for experiencing that with their phone service. And ooma is free – unlimited local and long distance service, caller ID, call waiting, voicemail, etc. There’s a “Premier” service level which adds some extra features – and it’s only $99 per year.

    I’ll report back when I’ve made the switch. Thanks for your help!

    Oh – one other thing – owners with alarm systems DO report issues with ooma’s compatibility with the system. I think you’re best off with a landline if you have a system that dials a call center if your alarm is tripped.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Bill: Here’s a more direct answer from the ooma User’s Guide re the 911 question:

    By using the ooma system with a landline, you increase the reliability of your phone service and retain traditional 911 services. This allows you to make and receive phone calls, including 911 calls, even if your Internet
    service is down or your power is out (regular phone company calling charges apply and a line-powered corded phone is required). Look for the (phone symbol) icon throughout this guide for important information about using your ooma system with a landline.

    If you plan to use the ooma system without a landline backup, you will not be able to make or receive phone calls, including 911 calls, if your Internet service is down or your power is out.

    [Reply]

  11. Kevin M says:

    Kevin – sorry if I missed this, but how do you currently access the internet? I pay about $45 a month for the lowest speed DSL and basic phone (thru AT&T). There’s got to be a cheaper option.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Kevin M:

    I’m using Charter cable – the mid priced (???) plan. Between basic cable and high speed internet, I’m paying about $100 per month.

    kc

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  12. Till says:

    Skype and Headset. I don’t quite get it. You don’t have to use a headset with skype. On laptop camera, speakers and mic are integrated. You can carry the laptop to the kitchen and cook while the other side is watching both hands free and nothing on your head.

    On a desktop you can route the sound over the speakers, mic and cam are independent. If you want privacy, I find a little earbud or small headphones more comfortable than holding a phone receiver to your ear. There should also be wireless headsets.

    Till

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Till,

    Thanks. “Headset” was an oversimplification on my part. She wouldn’t go for this type of arrangement, be it mic, laptop, etc. Not gonna happen!!

    kc

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  13. Cathy M says:

    Sorry to harp on this, but I’m also not getting the Skype = headset idea. I abandoned my landline three years ago for a cell phone + Skype. There are many options, such as a wifi phone, that don’t require a headset or even a computer. For some ideas, here’s a page of Skype phones: http://shop.skype.com/phones/

    I have a Skype “online number” for my business that’s different from my personal cell number. It costs $6/month (would be $5 if I had signed up for a full year).

    I also have unlimited calling to regular phones in the US and Canada for $2.95 a month, so my monthly total is a little less than $9. I signed up for the unlimited calling plan recently because I have a client that enjoys long and frequent conference calls, and I was going way over my cell phone limit.

    Instead of getting a wifi phone, I use my iPhone and the Skype app. This means I can use the iPhone over my home wireless network for free calls that don’t count as minutes on my cell plan.

    I don’t have a router, so my wifi network depends on my MacBook being on and sharing its internet connection through is Airport. If my computer is off or I’m away from home, an incoming Skype call forwards to my cell as a regular phone call, with the caller never noticing. This costs 2 cents per minute from Skype and also counts against my cell phone minutes. I could save those pennies by letting calls go to Skype’s voice mail (included with my plan) but I like to know right away if I’m getting a business call.

    So, basically, for $9/month plus the cost of my cell phone plan, I have two phone “lines” that I can answer anywhere, not just at home.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Cathy,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. A couple of limitations we have: my wife uses her cell phone sporadically, and although I suspect she could re-train herself, usually doesn’t have it on. My cell is a BlackBerry, and is provided by my employer. Ethically, I shouldn’t / wouldn’t use it for receiving “home” calls.

    An alternative would be to buy something like the Phillips 3211 phone for use in our home. But I was looking for something as seamless as possible. ooma enabled me to use our existing phones. If I’m able to get a local number assigned (see related post) it’ll cost me $0 per month with a $233 upfront investment.

    ((EDIT (later in the day, 8/30/09): My cost for the ooma system will net out to $193. Amazon dropped the price three days after I ordered it, and I asked for a refund… and got it.))

    In any event, thanks for your comment – you’ve shed some additional light on the options with Skype. The magic question: are you happy with the voice quality/clarity with Skype?

    Kevin

    [Reply]

  14. Cathy M says:

    It sounds like you’ve found a good solution for your setup. I’m very happy with the quality of Skype calls. They sound better than calls over the cellular network, and when people find out that I’m calling on Skype, they’re surprised and remark on the good sound quality. There’s occasionally a slight lag, however–a minor delay between when I say something and when the other person hears it.

    If ooma doesn’t give you visual & emailed voicemail, it looks like you can add it for free from Youmail:

    http://www.youmail.com/home/index.do

    I don’t use it but have heard good things about it.

    [Reply]

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