Got Landline? VOIP, Magic Jack and the fall of the phone

One of the most significant trends in technology is the shift in phone pricing and usage patterns.    Ironically we now spend far more on phone related services than in the past even as we spend far less per call for conventional usage.    Thanks to Skype, Magic Jack, Vonage, and dozens of other ISP based phone services you can now generally make long distance calls at a tiny fraction of the former cost.     There are important exceptions to the plummeting price rules, such as using your own US cell phone in Europe which can have catastrophic cost implications.

However for local and US long distance you should review your current setup and consider alternatives.     Some of the points to consider are:

Do you need a landline?     If no, consider just using your cell phone.
Do you make a lot of calls?   If yes, you may want unlimited use plans.
Can you port (move) your landline number to your cell phone?    If yes, it makes moving to a “cell phone only” more plausible as you won’t lose your old phone number.
How expensive are your cell calls?      If “expensive”, review your contract – you should not be paying all that much anymore for great service and many calls.     Texting has become the new way to gauge customers so review those plans as well, and DO NOT let your children make phone decisions without your understanding – they rarely do a cost benefit analysis, making teen texting and ringtone purchases some of the most cost inefficient phone usage in all of history.

Magic Jack is not for everybody but they keep lowering the bar on “nearly free” calling and are now preparing to offer expanded free calling services, number porting, and more:  AP Reports

In my opinion a good general rule is that you generally can do much better than having a “separate landline”.      For me this takes the form of “bundling” my landline phone with high speed internet and cable TV.     But markets differ and deals change almost daily in terms of who is offering what.     If your landline is separate from your internet, you may benefit greatly by “porting” your local number and using VOIP  (Voice over IP) services such as Magic Jack, Vonage, or other internet based phone services from your local ISP.

Got Analog? Coupons are available to buy converter boxes

If you’ve got one or more analog sets and you don’t want to shift to a cable plan to access TV after February 2009, you’ll need want to apply for digital converter box discount coupons available free from Uncle Sam at this website: https://www.dtv2009.gov/

The coupons are free, you can order two at a time, and the process is simple and only takes a few minutes. Each coupon is for $40 off the price of a converter box making them very cheap.

Editor’s Note: ALWAYS order two coupons.  I’m suprised at how many people don’t realize that all the old TV’s in their house will be worthless after February ’09 without a box. Nearly everyone has at least two, or can easily give away their extra card.  -John Ghysels