Like many Americans today, the economy is currently using me as its punching bag. So, I've decided to take a hard look at my monthly expenses and lop off anything I think I can live without—a financial amputation before gangrene sets in, if you'll permit the metaphor. First in the crosshairs is my landline; I'm wondering if I can completely replace it with the much heralded and much cheaper Internet-based phone service, Skype.
People are ditching landlines for cellphones at a record pace, and if the Web has conditioned us to hold one truth to be self-evident, it's that anything and everything can be had for free or practically free. So why is my phone bill still so damn expensive?
I ditched the telco long ago for what I thought was a better option: VOIP supplied by my cable operator, Time Warner Cable. In fact, I succeeded only in trading one evil for another. Competition from cellphones and VOIP has done very little to bolster quality or lower prices when it comes to home phone service. That's because both the phone and cable companies are dinosaurs clinging to antiquated business models that prey upon people's resistance to change. A company like Time Warner can offer a meager discount to the telco with absolutely no improvement in quality. They've got us drinking the Kool-Aid believing there's nowhere else to turn.
That's why, when Skype came along a few years ago, I stayed away from it. There's no way it'll work as well as my landline does, I assumed, plus, it's probably really confusing—an early adopter toy that only a hardcore technophile would ever have the patience to put up with (you know, the same people who install Linux just to be different). But, now I'm ready to give it a shot. With a graphical user interface (GUI) overhaul currently in public beta and some exciting new Skype phones hitting the market, the timing seems right.
It's amazing how quickly a dwindling bank account can change your perspective.
If you think Skype is the Answer...........Think Again............check out the fastes growing phone company in the nation, Magicejack. No kidding, I was looking for something like this for a while, I own one now and think it is great! I keep my phone number anywhere I take it and the service is only 19.99 a year with discounts if you add years. I read the story on Cnn a source that I trust as much as Popsci. I am not a jerk trying to get people to buy this, I just want people to benefit like I have. Its great and the quality is there.
Yet more comm fragmentation. Started with the breakup of Ma Bell, and continued via cellphones and now VOIP.
Biggest question I have is how you find others. The old 411 really fades fast as you get into the cell/VOIP area. So, now you have privacy, but many people and businesses that you might want to hear from can't find you. Same goes for when you want to find a long lost bud, or locate a relative. ( I was prety happy to find my aunt after Katrina)
Not to mention that everybody gets back to the telco network for a lot of the calls. Skye to cell, Skype/Cell to landline require some landline network. As landlines are lost due to competition, odd little connectivity gaps will probably occur.
Then there's the old power outs. My cell MIGHT still work during a power outage, but my internet probably won't. Say what you will about the landlines, they're pretty reliable. They
have their own power source, and are generally available when the power grid is down.
I'm not a luddite, I love tech. But, I'm not at all sure that this is an advancement.
That's a cool article that you did on skype. Obviously as you can see from my screen name, I'm biased towards jaxtr's phone service, but I wanted to see what kinds of experiences you've had around the phone services that don't require downloads or special equipment like jaxtr.
Also, the voip space is filling up with a number of great solutions like skype, but I wonder where you see the tipping point where landlines disappear from the equation in a big way. Or do you not see that tipping point ever happening and that a co-existence will be struck up between, mobile, landline, and voip?
As you said, the history of world-wide and local service outages at Skype is troubling. Equally troubling is the lack to Customer Support or Technical Support. Something goes wrong, and you find that they have NO phone number for support, no email address, no chat (not even Skype chat)... the only contact method is a "support ticket" to be filled out on a web page, and the MINIMUM response time for that is FOUR DAYS. When you have a problem with your phone, can you wait four days for a response?
Likewise, Skype has a long history of taking customers money and then blocking their account, and once again your only recourse is the support ticket with FOUR DAYS response time. This is particularly common if you are traveling and try to "top up" your Skype account - so the next time you take a trip, would you like to get halfway around the world and find that Skype has decided not to let you phone home, and they won't even answer your questions as to why?
There are other excellent phone replacements. Gizmo5 has very good service, excellent prices and good customer support, for example.
sounds great ... anyone know if your computer phone number contacts imported to the skype client transfer over to the philips phone? ... I love the idea of having my contacts all synchronised and being able to maintain them on the computer
I've used VOIP for some time now, and there is nothing to worry about in cases where your broadband goes down.
I live in Houston and we lost power for a week during Hurricane Ike. While our neighbors with phone service were fine, we only had our cell phones. They were down for about 24-36 hours, then we had intermittent service for two weeks until the tower nearest us was repaired. Basically, we had to go out to the curb to make a call; the service could no longer make it into the house.
It wasn't the end of the world, because everyone was in the same boat. The real change isn't from landline to VOIP. It is from wired to wireless. The amount I ever use a phone at home is rather limited. I use it on the road, at the store, at the office. Most people were back to work before they had electricity restored. Having crappy cell service for the month after the storm was far more of an imposition than a week without home phone service.