The poor, unloved home telephone. It seems that every year more people leave you for greener pastures known as cell phones. In fact, I don’t know anybody my age who has a landline telephone in their home.
When I was growing up in the late 80s and into the 90s, I remember having to keep my phone conversations short because someone else in the house was expecting a call. I’d be in mid-conversation and hear the beep that told me my time was up. A new call — and it was someone else’s turn on the line. I’d have to log on to AOL and finish my conversation through instant messaging.
Now though, I have my own line and can talk all I want, assuming it’s after 9PM (Nights & Weekends!) My wife and I have joined a large and increasing faction of cell-only households.
Home phone service from a local phone company can cost about $35 a month. That’s $420 a year for something you probably don’t use. I want to suggest a few alternatives to landline service that can save you big money.
Ooma is a VoIP service that plugs into your high-speed internet connection. All you need is high-speed internet, your home phone and an Ooma device, which costs about $200. After that though, you get free local and nationwide long-distance calling for the life of Ooma. You pay only a small amount for taxes and fees each year. Consumer Reports just ranked Ooma #1 in call quality, above even typical landline service.
Another option is magicJack. Just plug the magicJack device into your computer, connect your home phone, and you’ll be able to make calls over the internet. There’s one caveat though: your computer has to be on to use it. The quality may not be as good as with Ooma, but the magicJack costs only $40 for the first year, which includes one year of service. Each additional year of service is only $20. You get a local phone number, and if you travel overseas your friends and family can call you just like you’re down the road. They’ve just come out with magicJack Plus, which doesn’t require a computer to use. All you need is high-speed internet, your home phone and the magicJack Plus device. I haven’t heard much about this new device — only time will tell if it measures up to Ooma and the original magicJack.
With both alternatives you have the option of transferring your existing home phone number. In some cases you may have to pay a fee for this service.
Finally, if you don’t do a lot of calling, why not go cell-only? That would eliminate one more bill from your life.
One misconception people have about switching to internet-based phone service is that when calling 911 in an emergency, the dispatcher won’t know where to send help if for whatever reason you’re unable to give them your address. During the sign-up process with Ooma and magicJack you’ll be able to register your address. With cell phones, a technology known as cell tower triangulation helps the dispatcher know your general location, although this technology is still developing.
What could you do with an extra $420 a year? Why not cut the cord and find out!