Ways to Slash Home Phone Bills

The economy has signs that it is getting better, but most economists are remarking on how slow it is recovering. Many are still looking for ways to save some money in order to keep their home finances under control. For many, the home telephone will sooner or later come under greater scrutiny. With the popularity of cell phones, it may not get the usage it once did, and it more and more might be viewed as an optional expense.

As long ago as 2011, USA Today ran an article about “More people ditching home phone for mobile”, which says 26.6 percent of homes had only wireless phones. Gigaom posted an article in December 2012 reporting that 35.8 percent had only wireless and another 15.9 percent report they have both but rarely if ever use the landline. This has truly become a society that has determined that landlines are truly optional.

Having said that, there are some pretty valid reasons for keeping and concerns about ditching the home landline. These are worth noting, as different circumstances can alter the best approach for any household to take. These concerns often include emergency 911 service, preparedness in power outages, service bundling and fax capability.

• Emergency 911 service is a concern, although it isn’t as great as it once was.  Smartphones have a rudimentary GPS-type of receiver built into them. All cell phones can be triangulated between towers to find an approximate location.  However, it is still, nonetheless, far less accurate than a fixed landline.  If anyone in the household has a chronic medical condition, then doing away with the landline might not be the best idea.

• Many landline phones do not require power to operate. In a power outage, corded phones can still work as long as the telephone lines are intact. Cordless phones, however, require power just to operate and will not work at all. Cell phones will work as long as they can hold a charge. Many smartphones, however, have a very short battery life expectancy. A VOIP service would be dead, as there would be no power to the router and/or modem during a power outage.

• Phone companies are no longer just phone companies. Often, a subscriber can get a bundled service package that includes cellular, television, landline and Internet service. Careful calculation needs to be made to determine whether or not cancelling a landline service, and thus unbundling the package, makes economic sense.

• Cutting the landline would mean finding an alternative for faxing documents.  In reality, this isn’t that large of a concern as it may seem, as there are various services on the web that allow the sending and receiving of documents, although some of the alternatives presented later in this article offer faxing. One caution: Avoid email to fax or vice-versa if you are transmitting private or confidential information, as email is not a secure means of communication whatsoever.

So, cutting the landline totally may or may not work. With these things in mind, there are several alternatives still, and these may be mixed and matched for the best combination for a particular situation. Equipment costs should not be overlooked, although in most cases the change in equipment will pay for itself over time.

One alternative is a rather simple one, unless the current phone service is bundled in with other services. Simply change the landline service to local calls only. Half of the cost of a landline is often either explicitly for or in order to subsidize long distance. Local call service only usually will block any outgoing long distance calls.

Online Mom blog wrote about a service that Verizon offers called Home Phone Connect. With this service, a subscriber is given a device with an antenna (it requires power), which has a landline connector to which the subscriber plugs in the home phone. It uses the cellular voice network to operate, and the old phone number can be ported over to the service.

There are various voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) services available as well.  All of these services have their supporters and their detractors, so it pays to read the reviews thoroughly before diving in.

A popular service that has been around a while is Magic Jack and Magic Jack Plus. It allows a subscriber to port their phone number over, and it has the ability to plug in a normal telephone, and in the case of Magic Jack Plus the equipment does not have to be plugged into a computer.. Some travelers love it because the device is small enough to take with them and use in any hotel where high speed Internet service is available.

Skype is another popular service. It does not have the ability to port over a phone number, as Skype has their own pool of numbers. Part of its attraction is that many people have Skype, and Skype-to-Skype calls are free. In addition, it can handle video calls. There are various subscriptions if there is a need to call landlines or mobile numbers. An unlimited US and Canada subscription currently runs about $2.99/month. An online number can be purchased as well so that landline and mobile users can call the subscriber. With the proper subscriptions, Skype calls can be forwarded to another number, such as a cell phone.  While regular phones will not work with Skype, there are Skype phones available in the Skype store.

Vonage costs a bit more ($25.99/month), but some claim the quality of the call is better. It allows telephone porting, has an add-on (with an additional cost) for faxing, and has an adapter box for regular phone lines allowing the user to keep their regular phones.

Ooma is a relative unknown, but it is starting to catch on. Getting an Ooma device, in which you plug in a regular phone, is about $200, but there is no monthly fee. It’s hard to beat a services where a subscriber can call anywhere in the US without spending a dime other than the usual taxes and fees. There is a premier package for $9.99/month. Phone number porting can be done for an additional cost.

RingCentral is perhaps the most interesting newcomer. It is definitely geared for business, but the price is still competitive (starts $8.29/month for a Pro plan) and offers a lot of features that someone with a home business might be interested in. It has the concept of a unified messaging, which can handle incoming calls or faxes with one phone number. However, it can accommodate different routing based upon which phone number was being called, which is excellent to separate home and phone communications. The drawback is that each additional local phone number is $4.99/month, which is about twice what Skype charges  It will work on smartphones, computers, or IP phones.  It is unclear whether or not there is a way to use a normal phone (with or without an adapter). It can send or receive via Internet faxing as well.They also offer phone number porting.

With a combination of cell phone, cutting out unneeded features and using a VOIP system, phone costs can be dramatically reduced in many cases. If a subscriber currently has DSL and phone service, often cutting out the phone and going on an Internet-only plan frees up enough funds to purchase equipment for a VOIP system and provide pretty decent savings within a year. The author has done it, so he speaks from experience.