Lower Your Phone Bill: $70 to $10
Think you can lower your monthly phone bill from $70 to $10? Want to add a free line for that chatty child in your home? You can do all that and more by picking the right VOIP solution.
I have been using GV (Google Voice) on my home phone for a couple of years now at no cost. I recently called “the man” at the phone company and told them to put their copper pairs back on a spool and take a hike. Now I’m keeping %85 percent of my phone bill every month. Hey – 85% is an “A” grade in Canadian schools (No “eh” reference intended). The savings is great and the features are awesome if you can attain acceptable reliability.
POTS vs. VOIP
My old home phone service included local calls, LD to US/Canada, CID (Caller-ID), and a bunch of other features nobody cares about. A decent savings can be had by dropping all features, including CID, but it’s still too costly for a miser like me. And seriously, can a person live without CID in this day and age? No.
The traditional telephone system, AKA PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), has been around for a long time. POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) technology is very reliable. It uses dedicated lines, backup batteries, and multiple levels of redundant hardware to provide rock-solid service. Many people refer to this level of service as “Five Nines”.
Besides reliability, POTS features clear audio, ease of use, relatively comfortable handsets, and predictable rates. Old-school phone systems are also good for FAX and were often used for dial-up Internet access.
Times have changed and cell phones are the new staple of telephony. It seems that everyone has a cell-phone. Cell service is becoming simpler on the “voice” front, as many plans offer unlimited Domestic minutes for a flat fee. Billing is more predictable. Cell audio quality is tolerable, coverage is quite good, and the convenience is unparalleled.
We don’t need POTS for Internet service anymore. It’s a beautiful thing. The occasional FAX can be handled without a land-line. For many people, the reliability of POTS isn’t worth the price. They just use their cell-phones.
It’s still useful to have a “home line” in addition to your cell-phone. You might want a way to make “cheap” International calls, for example. Maybe your minions need a way to call for pizza even though you won’t let them have a cell-phone of their own. Creating multiple ways to make calls increases your service’s fault tolerance. VOIP can be a great way to fill these requirements without calling on Ma Bell.
VOIP is “Apps” for Your Phone
VOIP provides amazing functionality. You can “program” what your calls do using software. Use a DECT based handset like you do with your POTS, and/or leverage a SoftPhone client on your smart-phone. Receive text messages with the CID from incoming calls, provide WAV attachments for voice-mail within email, filter incoming calls based on how they relate to a directory, or anything else you dream up.
My Machine Minion
The service I put together filters incoming calls based on GV directory tags and routes calls only to interested parties, emails our voice-mail, and connects us to three “phone numbers” or DIDs. My favorite feature is the peace I enjoy in my home office during the work day; one last task for my wire cutters. 😉 Everyone else can stay as busy on the phone as they’d like without even interrupting my train of thought.
VOIP can be great, and it can be horrible. It has taken me more than a year of on-and-off tinkering to discover the right recipe. I used Google Voice, a handful of VOIP providers, and a bunch of different equipment before finding the ingredients to a reliable system. Only then did I entrust our precious home number to the demons of DIY VOIP.
Stay tuned for more info. There are a lot of tips and pitfalls that may impact your VOIP experience. I hope to share more details for those who want to take the plunge.