Normally, I save these money-saving tips for Two for Tuesdays, a weekly feature post that contains 2 money-saving tips each week, delivered on -- you guessed it! -- each Tuesday. However, I thought this post should stand on its own.
The telephone is one of the technologies that we use every day and totally take for granted. It's like a birth right in this country (at least) and we simply rely on making and taking calls from all across the globe. We love voicemail, caller ID, and call forwarding. Local and long distance service is pretty cheap. In fact, with the deregulation of the telecomm industry quite a few years ago (24 years ago?), long distance prices have fallen through the floor.
I'm about to tell you how to save even more money on your phone service. It's called Voice over IP, or VOIP for short, and it uses the public internet to route calls. How does it do this? Does it really matter :)
My VOIP provider is Vonage, whom I truly love. If I could marry a phone service, I'd marry Vonage. Now, don't get me wrong, I would not divorce my wife, but I would consider bigamy.
It's that great.
Here's how it works (not a technological, but rather an operational issue). Trot on over to vonage.com and sign up (or email me with your email and I will send you an invitation where you could save money on your first two months, rather than just on your first month, which is Vonage's standard offer). Wait for the package to arrive in the mail. Follow the directions. Within minutes, you'll be making and taking phone calls over the 'net. You can even keep your existing phone number (note, however, that doing so will add days if not weeks to your ability to use the service, and it's not Vonage's fault, it's your existing phone company's fault. There's this thing that became law a few years ago, where you could transfer your phone number to another service, but all the phone providers drag their feet on fulfilling your requests).
Vonage offers all of the same features, and more, that your current "landline" provider offers, all at an all-you-can-eat price of $24.99. All calls within the US and Canada are included in the flat rate. Calls cost a few cents per minute to most countries in Europe.
Here's a list of features:
- Caller ID with Name
- Call Waiting
- Voicemail Plus®
- Call Transfer
- Enhanced Call Forwarding
- 3-Way Calling
- Caller ID Block
- Call Return
- Do Not Disturb
- Anonymous Call Block
- Repeat Dialing
- International & Directory Assistance Block
- Call Hunt
- Ring Lists
- Vonage Access
- Bandwidth Saver®
- Network Availability Number®
- Vonage Online Account
- 211 Dialing
- 311 Dialing
- 411 Enhanced Dialing
- 511 Traveler Information
- 811 Dialing
Some pretty nifty features! Back when I worked for "the phone company" I would have paid over $100 for all of this (had I not been an employee). I have had one issue with Vonage in the last 4 years and it was Comcast's fault.
I highly recommend the service. But I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you about 3 possible negatives (and their solutions). The first is that when you call 911, you're not really calling the national or state-level 911 system, but rather you're calling Vonage's who then connects your call to the 911 system. I cannot tell you whether there's any delay.
The second is if your power or internet connection goes down, your phone service is down. The power situation is easily mitigated: Buy a backup unit. If your internet connection goes south, count on using your cell phone, provided you have one.
The third issue is that Vonage may go bankrupt. They're been saddled with numerous multi-million dollar lawsuits from the phone companies, over patent infringement, and they've lost. So they're paying tons of dough in fines, fees, and settlements. They also were bleeding cash before the lawsuits due to huge marketing expenses.
Time will tell if they go belly-up.
But since there are so many other VOIP providers, Vonage going out of business is not that damning to me; I can simply pick another provider. With the wealth of value-packed features VOIP offers, I will never go back to traditional phone service.