A springtime cable bill proved to be a call to action.
We had come to the end of a year of $50 off the monthly bill. I had “earned” that by vaguely threatening to cancel more TV service, having set the stage by cancelling a couple of non-essential tiers over a year prior.
But now, the bill was back in its full glory. I didn’t think the same ploy would work again, and I don’t like to be bluffing, so I started looking into ways to seriously lower the bill.
The phone was a good place to start. Consumer expert Clark Howard recommends Ooma, a Voice over IP (VoIP) provider. They sell a box that plugs into your router and your phone jack to provide free internet calling, except for the monthly FCC fees of under $4. I found a refurbished Ooma Telo on either Woot! or 1Sale, I forget which.
The instructions recommend that you place the Ooma box after the cable modem, but before the router. I tried it and it worked, but the X10 server software running on our main computer got confused. So I switched the Telo to connect out of the router, and it was fine. I also adjusted the router’s Quality of Service (QoS) settings to prioritize the phone traffic.
I have been totally satisfied with the result. Pick up one of our landline phones, hear the Ooma dial tone, then make the call as before. Sound quality is indistinguishable from the cable provider’s service. You do not need a high level of internet service for this to work (more detail in a future post).
Ooma offers a Premier service for $10/month, which includes a second line, call forwarding, caller ID, and all the trimmings. I took advantage of the free trial, but since the object of the exercise was to save money, I opted out of Premier. One nice bonus: caller ID seems to be part of the basic deal. The FCC fees were as advertised, under $4. I did elect to port our existing phone number to save everyone the trouble of updating. That was a one-time $40 charge.
After the porting took effect, I called and cancelled the cable phone service. It didn’t save as much as you might suppose, since it broke the “bundle” discount. But from here on, any further downgrades would bring full savings.
Oh, and I got another $10 off the bill for the next year.