Thanks to the internet and modern technology my phone service has gotten a lot more convenient and cheaper. Two years ago I had a conventional land line from Qwest and a simple cell phone from Verizon. My internet service was “middleband” DSL. The service was rated at 1.3 MB but rarely got over 800K. I switched to Comcast and got the promised 5 MB. I now had sufficient bandwidth to switch to a VOIP phone service. I bought an OOMA box from Costco for $229 and ported my land-line. Basic OOMA service is free but I opted for the premium service @$10/mo. which provides call forwarding and call-blocking. The cheapest phone service from Qwest is $37/month after all the taxes are added so I was able to cover the initial cost of OOMA in less than a year. I set the system up to dual ring the home phone and my cellphone. Missed calls go to voice-mail on the box and are also emailed to me as an mp3 file.
I then signed up for Google Voice. Voice gives me another phone number to use. I was given a choice of numbers in my area code. None were available for Las Cruces so I chose an exchange from Taos (to impress all my friends). When somebody calls my Voice number it gets forwarded to my cellphone. Voice has a number of features that I don’t use including a screening feature in which the caller is prompted for their name and I can chose to accept or reject the call upon hearing their response. It’s kinda like an old-fashioned secretary. Voice also emails voicemail as an mp3 file and attempts to convert the message to text as well. You can’t beat the price–it’s free.
Here’s David Pogue’s review when it first came out.
Since that review Voice has been improved in three important ways. First you can port an existing number to Voice so that you can make calls using it and dispense with phone companies altogether. Second, you can use it from a computer like Skype. Third, you can use a Voice app on an Android phone to make calls and send text messages. Although I have a very generous plan from Verizon, it’s highly unlikely that I will ever exceed my minutes making and receiving calls since most of them are routed through Google Voice. I have no text messaging account at all (I’m not a big texter) so I avoid the .05 charge per text received or made. When I use the app to make a call, Google picks some currently free Voice number from almost anywhere in the country to use for the call. If my phone is connected to a wifi hotspot, the call goes via wifi and not 3g. This fortunate since the 3g network is a bit spotty on the East side of I-25 below US-70 because all the cell towers down by I-25 are blocked by the Las Cruces dam. In fact, when I moved here I couldn’t get any signal from AT&T unless I walked two blocks up a hill to make the call. I guess I was one of the 3% not served by the AT%T network.
When I was making phone calls for Organizing for America during the past elections, I connected to their wifi hotspot and made all my calls via Voice over the net. I loved it when somebody on the line asked me why I was calling them from Taos.