Photo: Flickr / Jon Ovington
Every year or two, it’s once again revealed there are still people who are renting their telephones from the phone company.We all gasp at the nerve of these greedy phone companies that are taking advantage of the elderly by charging far more for a service than the current market rate.
We then reassure ourselves that we could never allow such a thing to happen to us.
But perhaps it already has.
For example, some of my neighbours are paying the local phone company as much as $45 a month for a service that includes unlimited domestic, local, and long-distance calls as well as features such as caller ID and call waiting. In contrast, I pay $30 per year for the same service, which also includes calls to Canada.
How do I do it? By using one of these four alternatives to traditional landline service…
1. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
No matter how your voice is transmitted, it’s ultimately converted into data. If you already have high-speed Internet service in your home, you’re already paying for data service. Therefore, you can use Voice over IP technology instead of the traditional copper wires your phone company laid years ago.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve tried providers such as Vonage, Comcast, Lingo, and the now defunct SunRocket. For between $20 and $30 per month, each offered unlimited local and domestic calls, as well as some free international service. Each provided me with a box the size of a paperback book that I plugged into my Internet service provider’s modem.
Money Talks News Founder Stacy Johnson looked into VoIP four years ago in Goodbye Landline and found advantages (cost) and disadvantages (unlike a traditional landline, when your power goes out, so does your phone.) But back then, these few VoIP alternatives were the best available. No longer…
2. MagicJack+ and netTalk Duo
For years, MagicJack advertised phone service at amazingly low prices, but their previous product had two big drawbacks.
First, it only worked through your computer, which had to be on at all times. Second, customers had to order a new telephone number – they couldn’t use their old one.
Now they offer a new product, MagicJack+, that addresses these concerns. The matchbox-sized device plugs directly into an electric socket. You simply provide an Internet connection, and it provides the dial tone to any standard telephone.
I was so satisfied with the service that I purchased one for my home and one for my office. Even better, you can even take this device with you when you travel in order to make free calls home from your laptop. The device costs $40 and service is $30 a year after that.
And just in case you think I’m shilling for one company, check out netTalk Duo – a similar product with almost identical pricing.
This product, now sold at many large retailers, is a VoIP device that claims to offer “free” monthly service. Although I have yet to try it, I found out that it would cost me $3.47 in taxes and fees each month (you can find out here what taxes and fees apply in your local area).
While this is only a mere $41.64 dollars a year, two things bother me about Ooma.
First, it’s advertising “free unlimited” calling that clearly isn’t without some monthly costs. Second, it’s selling the device for $200 and offering service for $43 a year – far more than the price of their competitors, MagicJack+ and netTalk Duo. Nevertheless, this is a far less expensive alternative to traditional landlines. So check it out to see if it’s for you.
4. Skype and Google Voice
Skype is used by more than 600 million people around the world. It’s so popular because users can call internationally free. The downside is that calls must be made through your computer to another person’s computer in order to avoid charges.
Skype does offer a service called Skype Out, which reaches traditional telephone numbers for an incredibly low price. My wife is a huge fan of this service as it allows her to make free calls to overseas relatives. If your computers are equipped with cameras, then you can also make video calls. Like MagicJack, this is also a great way to make calls home from overseas using your laptop. Google Voice is a more feature-filled competitor, but the Internet giant still does not have as many subscribers as Skype.
Someday soon, these alternatives to your local phone company won’t be mere upstarts. They’ll be the establishment. And the media will be reporting on those weird people still paying $45 a month for traditional phone service.