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July 10, 2007

My Home’s Phone – The Plan

We’re lucky enough to have a summer place. We did some extensive rebuilding over the winter which is just finishing up now. Good timing from a shopping POV because Home Depot is already holding an end-of-season sale on summer stuff. But I digress.

The summer home wants a phone of its own. It has to be able to call for help even when we’re not there.  Can’t find a monitoring service willing to accept IP signaling for a residence (altho now can monitor and reset my alarms over an IP connection to the house).

Usually, when we move seasonally, we take our Vonages ATAs (the little boxes that connect house phones to the Internet) with us. That’s cool because it means we have the same phone number wherever we are and people we haven’t given our cell phone numbers to can still reach us. Up until now our houses have always had a telco landline for historical reasons and our alarm systems have been attached to them. We try not to use those lines for outgoing calls because they’re much more expensive than Vonage and because they don’t have either caller id or voice mail.

Trouble is that these telco lines are the ones that end up getting listed with 411.  People get the number and call us on this line with no voice mail or caller ID; we don’t answer; they can’t leave a message. Of course, we could get an unlisted number but NOT being listed costs money – seems wrong but that’s the way it is. We could also put voice mail or call forwarding on these lines but I’ve been stubbornly cheap.

Last fall, when we moved out of our summer place, I canceled the landline.  Actually, I tried to suspend service; but, when Verizon told me it would be more per month to mothball than keep active, I canceled it in a fit of pique. The house under construction didn’t need an alarm system.

The plan was to stay Verizon-free in the new house. That meant we did need a new Vonage “line” which stays with the house even when we’re not in residence in case the alarm system wants to make a call. A basic Vonage line is $14.99 (+$5.31 fees)/month and comes with 500 minutes of calling to the US, Canada, and MexicoPuerto Rico as well as voice mail, caller ID, call forwarding etc. A featureless line from Verizon is only $13.15/month but Verizon assesses $6.13 fees after netting out a Universal Service Fund subsidy of $1.40 which is apparently available to Verizon but not Vonage. Moreover, when we forget and actually use the Verizon line for making phone calls, we pay an outrageous amount because we’re not on any plan.

Each house will now have its own permanently connected Vonage line and a local number from Vonage – saves money for people who call from legacy phones and keeps them from getting confused about where we are, which they still tie to the number. It won’t matter to us which number people call because we’ll use the free Vonage SimulRing feature to make both numbers ring on both phones. These are two lines of one account so only one VM box and Vonage emails VM to us anyway.

Our wireless Internet Access is already reestablished; came on as soon as the antenna was put back up and needed only a little tuning for antenna tilt. This weekend I bought over one of our two Vonage ATAs  and plugged it into my router. No problem; I have an immediate voice line.  I ask the people who are installing the alarm system to use the Vonage line for that.  They look a little queasy but agree and also agree to look into alarming with straight IP between the house and the monitoring company.

Stay tuned for the next post – my plans appear to have been foiled by my alarm system’s craving for copper.

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