Fed up with my landline phone bill, I finally cut the cord

Fed up with my landline phone bill, I finally cut the cord

Summary: I cut the cord on AT&T Mobile in 2011 and ported my number to Google Voice and I haven't looked back since. Here's how I did the same thing with my over-priced landline phone.

TOPICS: Apple, Apps, iOS, iPad
Fed up with my landline phone bill, I finally cut the cord - Jason O'Grady

Update 2013-1231: ObiHai announced that Google is ending support for XMPP based calling with Google Voice on May 15, 2014 which will make Google Voice incompatible with the OBi100 device.

Update 2014-0417: I wrote an article about VOIP to landline service options (including Anveo and Phone Power) in the wake of Google Voice's May 15 deadline.

(My original blog post follows)

I received the following email from reader Just Blaze and wanted to follow up on my post from 2011:

I'm looking to make the change. Do you still stand by what you mention in your 2011 article ("Outta here! I'm porting my AT&T number to Google Voice")? I've just moved from US (New Jersey) to London. I'm thinking the best thing to do is to keep my US number for folks who want to reach me back home. I can at least get the voicemail and int calling free to the US + there are much better phone/data rate for local services here (UK). Thoughts? Thanks

Yes, I still stand by my article from 2011 about dropping AT&T for Google Voice. But remember that with Google Voice, you still need a mobile phone with service and the Google Voice iOS app (free, App Store). It's not 100 percent perfect (occasional drops, periodic quality issues and such) but it's hard to beat the price. If you don't need a mobile phone you can also use a Google Voice account with a landline. More on that in a second.

If you still need a mobile phone but don't make a lot of voice calls I highly recommend the secret $30 per month plan from T-Mobile. It includes 100 minutes of voice calls and unlimited data (albeit only 5GB at 4G speeds) and is the best kept secret in technology. The problem is that it's almost impossible to find and very well hidden on the T-Mobile prepaid site.

Since porting my mobile number in 2011, I've also ported my landline phone number to Google Voice. I used to like the quality and reliability of a landline phone and the reassurance of having 911 service, but the pricing was the simply too much. A Verizon landline in my area with unlimited local calling, an unpublished listing, Caller ID and Call Forwarding was costing me $48.30 per month. Ridiculous. Even lowering it to a basic pay-by-the-call account with no trimmings would have cost me $30 per month, so I decided on spending zero dollars per month instead. 

Although it's not technically possible to port a landline directly to Google Voice, you can do it by porting to a cell carrier first, then porting from the cell carrier to GV. I purchased the excellent ObiHai OBi100 Service Bridge ($40 from Amazon) which turned my Google Voice number back into a landline (with dial tone). You simply plug the OBi100 into your cable modem, configure it, then plug a traditional landline phone into the ObiHai bridge.

Now, I've got both my mobile number and my landline ported to Google Voice for the ultimate flexibility. My calls are free (at least through 2013) and I get to keep my mobile and landline phone numbers for life.

Further Reading:

I'm also completely fed up with the exorbitant pricing of cable TV and cut the cord on that too. More on that in my next installment. 

Are you still using a landline phone? How much do you pay per month?

Update 2013-1231: ObiHai announced that Google is ending support for XMPP based calling with Google Voice on May 15, 2014 which will make Google Voice incompatible with the OBi100 device.

Topics: Apple, Apps, iOS, iPad

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  • Magic Jack

    These days you need a reason to keep a landline. In our case it was to have a number to give our kids school so our cell phone wouldn't be bombarded with PTA and special event announcements. That's no reason to spend $50.00 a month though. So a couple of years ago I switched to Magic Jack. It's not free like Google voice (which I hadn't heard of at the time) but at $20.00 a year it's practically free, and these days they've got a unit that doesn't need to stay plugged in to your PC.

    And while we're at it, allow me to pimp another great service I've discovered: localphone

    This is a company that employs VOIP for international calling so you can dramatically lower your cell phone bills. Works best if there's only one or two numbers you regularly call. In my case, it's my dad in Canada. These days landline calls to Canada are usually free for most VOIP providers, but your cell phone company probably still charges an exhorbitant per-minute fee (on top of a monthly "feature" fee to lower the per-minute cost). Well, what Localphone does it set up a U.S. local phone number that is linked to that international number. So instead of calling my dad at his Canadian number I'm dialing the U.S. based number I set up with local phone. The service, in turn, charges a low per minute connection fee. I think Canada is something like 1 cent per minute. I call my dad once a week and I find that if I put $10.00 into my Localphone account I can talk to him for months before running out of credit. Call quality is decent.
  • I like this article

    Other ways to save: If you have AT&T cell service you can port your landline to a mobile $9.99 a month add on.

    MagicJack is way too problematic if you ever need to "chat" with customer service (they don't allow you to talk to them). I tried to port my landline over to them, they could not figure out how to "press the button" to make it work. Call Quality is subpar when compared to AT&T. Skip Magicjack.
  • How did you get your cell number ported?

    I tried to the same to a Skype number and was NO WAY by ATT.

    Were you able to just a pay a data plan on the cell phone??? I was told NO WAY also by them.
    • To aT&T Mobile.

      I used the AT&T Home Phone service box:

      Since I have an AT&T cell account it counts as once of my $9.99 lines. I was switching from Vonage so being able to talk to both Vonage and AT&T customer services helped port the number.

      It works for me.
    • what are you trying to do?

      @PogoBlue said "landline"-->"mobile". I'm not clear what you want to do? i.e. what do you want to port to what? If you are trying to port your Skype to your mobile, there is indeed no way (are you trying to circumvent Skype Out?, besides what's the point? If you want to port your mobile to Skype, again, what's the point? Just use Skype on your mobile phone and pay for the data.
  • MagicJack Plus

    I have the MagicJack Plus unit mentioned above. I used to have a "metered line" which was only $8.33 per month for the phone but taxes and local fees raised the bill to around $23 a month. The charge included something like 10 or 25 outgoing calls and I never came close to even 10.

    I rarely make calls from home and the phone I have isn't very good, so I can't blame quality on MJ. I definitely would recommend MJ+.
  • Uncertainty on the future of Google Voice

    I too have the OBi and use Google Voice for my voice and fax lines at home. Both products have been working out great for me. Two lines for just the price of the OBi equipment. What are your thoughts though towards the changes to GV and it's integration with Hangouts? I'm concerned that OBi integration might not be supported in the near future.
  • Full Unification: Google Voice + Unlocked GSM Wifi phone + PayGo = $3.33/mo

    I use an unlocked GSM Wifi phone + a Pay As You Go plan to get my service fee down to as little as $3.33/mo. Ala RepublicWireless.com, I almost always have access to Wifi at home or at work. I make all my cell phone voice calls over VOIP data connection using GrooveIP. This bypasses the cellular provider. I use the cellular data service only when Wifi isn't available. But I'm only paying for my actual usage, not a monthly pay-for-what-you-don't-use plan.

    Using data-only calling allows full seamless, SINGLE # calling (and texting) with Google Voice. I never say to people, "If you can't reach me at home, try my other cell #, or try my work #, or my international cell #, or my Skype #, etc..."

    Using GrooveIP with Google Voice allows me to extend single tel # functionality for Incoming and Outgoing calls to all smart devices.

    Incoming: Google Voice forwards all calls to my various devices - cell, land line (+ pseudo, such as OBI), tablet, etc - I don't have to give people multiple tel #s to try to reach me; call one number, GV finds me.

    Outgoing: I never use the cell # the cellular provider gave me. With Groove IP being able to use either the cellular data connection or Wifi, it allows me to make all calls (and texts) showing the caller ID/# of my Google Voice account. They don't call or text my cell # later, which I may not have on or with me at the time they call or text.

    I have one GV Tel # to the world - calls find me at whatever device I have with me and Groove IP allows you to extend that functionality to all your Android devices. And it works around the world. Since your calls are now Internet Telephony based, you can be in any country, and as long as you have a local data connection, people still just call your normal GV # to reach you! How awesome is that?!

    It's cheap too! Using this setup and a pay-as-you-go cellular provider with my unlocked GSM phone, I can get my monthly service down to $3.33 a month by using WiFi most of the time

    Implementation Details:
    I use AirVoice.com for Paygo @ $3.33/mo over the AT&T network. I use a chinese market THL W100 cell, which is a terrific $150 bargain unlocked GSM Wifi Android 4.2 phone. (It gets unadvertised AT&T 3G in the USA.) No perpetual monthly carrier phone surcharge - $150 once and you're done!

    A shout out to David Gerwitz for his excellent How-To on setting up Google Voice and OBI.
  • I think I am not clear on this.

    If you have a cell phone with one of the major providers, you get free (included in your monthly charge which you are paying anyway) calls within the US and Canada. Now for overseas, Google Voice, is not a cheap option. Better to get all the people you call overseas on Skype (at least device independent - if you and your friends are on iOS, use FaceTime and yes, you can turn the video off in both Skype and FaceTime). For friends and family with Android, I use Skype, for all the iOS friends and relatives, we use FaceTime.

    What I would like to see is the amount of data each will eat out of your data plan, per minute. Of course you could always use WiFi instead, but generally how much data does each service consume?
  • Manoa, you seem confused by the concept of saving money.

    The purpose of using google voice is to consolidate all devices under a single number while reducing your monthly cell bill. The major providers charge $50-150/month just to stay connected with voice/text/data. The average texter uses 88 min/month on calls, which for the average $70 plan means spending $840 per year for calls that cost 80cents/min. And when someone emails you and leaves a voicemail, you must check your email, personal phone, work phone... then you call them back, trying their work phone, cell phone, home phone, email...That's RETARDED. I have ONE number. It follows me on any device, in any country, on any service, and any smartphone.

    If you have google voice handling calls, using talkatone or grooveIP on your phone, calls take about 1-3mb/min. Each month I use about 130 min, plus unlimited texting and 500mb data for a $4 monthly fee. YES, FOUR DOLLARS.

    1. At home, my wifi covers all texts (talkatone) and calls (grooveIP) thru google voice FOR FREE (one time $20 to port my number over to gvoice).
    2. Around the city, my hotspot (free from freedompop) connects my phone's wifi to 3g/4g data, which i pay $4/month for 500mb. If I wanted more, I can pay $20 for 2gb.
    3. For calls while traveling outside of 3g areas, I'm going to activate my phone with pageplus , which gives me 166 min/month for $7.50, using verizon's wide network.

    $11.50/month is only $138/year. Instead of $840. Which means I now have $700 to spend on a small vacation I could not have otherwise afforded. If the value of that savings isn't clear, then why did you bother reading or commenting on this article in the 1st place? >_
  • OMG

    It's 2013 and you still had a land line ??!!!
  • OOMA

    Been using OOMA for over 3 years now. Haven't had a single bill since. Works great.