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Experiences with Alternate Local Phone Companies?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the dodging-the-baby-bells dept.

Technology 346

chasmosis asks: "In the last few months, I've moved about 25 minutes outside of St. Louis and discovered that the local baby bell charges exorbitant rates (at least in my view). I've explored alternate local carriers like Sprint and others who have had uncompetitive prices, poor customer service records, or were unclear on things like 'specifically what exchanges can I call that are still considered local calls'. Right now I'm on SBC's Metro plan where I can call to and from much of the St. Louis local area as a local call instead of a toll call. I'd dump my landline entirely and get another cell if I didn't need it for dial up internet, since I live in the sticks and there is no cable, no DSL, and the top speed for dialup is 28.8. What are other people using for alternatives to their local telephone provider? What are your experiences, good and bad?"

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w00t! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248468)

...It's summer!

Re:w00t! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248479)

No it isn't.

Re:w00t! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248495)

...It's summer!

Not in Australia you insensitive clod!

If you really want to escape (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248477)

Just get a cellular/mobile phone. All of my friends that have tried alternate phone companies (like from the cable company) have had really hard times getting things working right. The ones that have just gone straight to mobile have been much happier.

Re:If you really want to escape (1)

drew_92123 (213321) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248537)

I've had "some" luck with those 3g modem cards in a laptop here at work. It was about as fast as Ricochet was in my area, 5-11 kbps. Not great but at least as fast as a good modem connection.

While cable is still a little expensive, it may offer a better alternative if you really need a reliable connection and don't want to put money in the bells pockets.

If your not concerned about reliability, try looking for a bargain DSL package.

Re:If you really want to escape (2, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248742)

ok in what world is cable more reliable than DSL?

I can't honestly speak for anywhere but my locale, but here you recieve a static IP with DSL, you have a fixed guaranteed bandwidth rate up and down, it considered a business class connection with equivelent response and support, and it costs the same as cable.

Cable internet on the other hand, has NO guaranteed bandwidth at all, it's 100 people on a t1 and all 100 are told they have a 1.544mbps connection, if you read the fine print, the cable company doesn't guarantee your speed at ANY rate, not even 56k. They also consider it theft if you use a router and nat your connection! It violates their terms of service. You have agreed not to run a server of any kind. You have a capped upload speed that is slower than your down speed. And for this I'm going to pay about $5/months more than DSL???

Is my area an exception or do you really think of a shared consumer grade connection as more stable than a guaranteed business class connection?

Re:If you really want to escape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248545)

RTFA. He needs a landline for 'net access.

Re:If you really want to escape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248592)

Why don't you? "What are other people using for alternatives to their local telephone provider? What are your experiences, good and bad?" Discussion was not restricted to his situation only.

Re:If you really want to escape (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248633)

Just get a cellular/mobile phone.

Expensive if 99% of your long distance calls are international!

Re:If you really want to escape (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248645)

Bzzt. The poster needs dialup internet.

Re:If you really want to escape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248651)

Bzzt. He asked for experiences in general. (See the very end.)

Vonage... (1, Interesting)

H0NGK0NGPH00EY (210370) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248480)

I know it's no good for the poster of this story, but for those with cable or DSL, check out Vonage [vonage.com] . And tell them you were referred by user timandjeni - vonage@timandjeni.com ;^)

Re:Vonage... (1)

wheezl (63394) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248516)

Yep I use vonage too. It is scwheet. better than any POTS I have ever had. Also dumping your local bell might be one of the best feelings you ever have.

Re:Vonage... (1)

TexTex (323298) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248518)

How's Vonage work with 911 service? It's a real interesting concept but I'm curious if they are able to tie into location-based networks for emergency services.

Re:Vonage... (1)

tdemark (512406) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248535)

Basically, when you dial 911, they forward the call to your local 911 center based upon the physical address they have on record for the device.

- Tony

Re:Vonage... (4, Informative)

krisp (59093) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248671)

From Vonage's web page:

Your Call Will Go To A General Access Line at the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). This is different from the 911 Emergency Response Center where traditional 911 calls go.

* This means your call goes to a different phone number than traditional 911 calls. Also, you will need to state the nature of your emergency promptly and clearly, including your location and telephone number, as PSAP personnel will NOT have this information at hand.

So, your 911 call doesn't exactly have traditional 911 priority, you don't speak to an operator who has your name,address and phone number on her screen, and they won't know where to send the police if your call gets disconnected.

Re:Vonage... (1)

s10god (409764) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248719)

So if your life depends on the line working, stick with a tradiotional land line???

I was damned near burned out of home just because I did not have a passively powered phone(Main breaker blew when centeral air/heater fused its main buss). I would hate to have to rely on a powered up PC and working net connection for my life.

Re:Vonage... (2, Informative)

jackDuhRipper (67743) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248760)

The Vonage service doesn't require that your PeeCee is on; the phone device itself is hooked directly to your router.

(I don't have one, but have kept an interested eye open toward it ...)

S

Re:Vonage... (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248774)

And if your power is out this changes things how?

Re:Vonage... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248623)

I think you meant timandjeni@vonage.com. Yep, thats probably what you were trying to say: timandjeni@vonage.com, almost certainly:

timandjeni@vonage.com

timandjeni@vonage.com timandjeni@vonage.com timandjeni@vonage.com timandjeni@vonage.com timandjeni@vonage.com
timandjeni@vonage.com timandjeni@vonage.com

The ups and downs of Vonage (3, Interesting)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248723)

This is going to be month two on Vonage for me (voip phone service through a cable modem) and its a good service but...

1. They have significant voicemail problems. I think the consensus at dslreport's voip forums is that they are overselling/pushing their VM system too hard or they just expanded too quickly. Its not just lost VM but sometimes my phone wont ring when VM is enabled. Workaround: use a plain-jane answering machine. Afterall, you get a normal POTS phone jack from the Cisco ATA they send you.

2. Be mindful of you upload speed and what apps you're running on your home lan. You don't want to use this when kazaa or whatever is maxing out your upload cap. Throttle bandwidth to leave yourself 100kbs. Vonage also has a 30kbs compressed codec for people without much bandwidth.

3. Of course, if you lose network connectivity (or power for that matter) you lose phone. That probably isn't much of a concern in a world of cell phones, but its something to consider if you don't have a cell phone and are far from your neighbors.

The pros

1. It sounds excellent. Its POTS quality as far as I can tell. Think of it as MP3 compared to CD.

2. If you're already paying for broadband its a smart investment. Telling the local monopoly to piss off is very gratifying. Not to mention you have built in number portability. Just plug that Cisco ATA anywhere and you have your old phone number.

3. The geek quotient of using VoIP without the other party know or asking, "What are you calling me on, a damn tin can?"

Work with Linux? (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248750)

Sorry about the redundant question. Is it Linux friendly? Sounds interesting enough.

Cell Phone (-1, Flamebait)

Al-Quassam Brigade (669688) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248485)

Screw the local bells- just use your cellphone unless you talk as much as a girl & have to have a landline.

Re:Cell Phone (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248544)

use your cellphone unless you talk as much as a girl & have to have a landline.

I know some folks are lazy on here, but is the comment really too big to read fully?

I'd dump my landline entirely and get another cell if I didn't need it for dial up internet, since I live in the sticks and there is no cable, no DSL, and the top speed for dialup is 28.8.

Re:Cell Phone (1)

sassyanniee (683031) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248589)

As much as a girl?

saveonphone.com (4, Informative)

TexTex (323298) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248489)

Check out http://www.saveonphone.com. They've got a listing of some of the top alternate carriers with their basic stats listed. Many of these use the same lines as major carriers so you're not necessarily getting a lower-quality service.

Maybe of these can switch your local and long distance. I went with Total Call International due to the cheap intrastate rates...which often are more expensive than LD rates. And they bill every 6 seconds with no monthly fee. So when MCI called to earn my love back and I told 'em the rates, the rep said

"Oh...well, yeah. You got us beat." ...ken

Re:saveonphone.com (3, Insightful)

Tyrdium (670229) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248532)

"Oh...well, yeah. You got us beat."

This ought to be setting off alarms for people using MCI. It seems (to me, at least) that they simply don't care enough about a single customer to even try to keep them. The good thing about smaller companies is that they need your business, so chances are you'll get better customer service than with a larger telco.

Re:saveonphone.com (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248567)

This ought to be setting off alarms for people using MCI. It seems (to me, at least) that they simply don't care enough about a single customer to even try to keep them. The good thing about smaller companies is that they need your business, so chances are you'll get better customer service than with a larger telco.
Two red flags for smaller companies - they could be gone in a month, leaving you stranded; if you switch to another company later on, you stand a good chance of getting "slammed" afterwards.

Re:saveonphone.com (1)

moehoward (668736) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248614)

I use TCI. I love TCI. TCI resells Qwest. I don't like Qwest.

TCI answers their phones, and has empowered customer service folks. A couple quirks on billing early on where they were not doing the auto-credit card if your bill was under $6 or something. But, now they do the charge no matter what. They are dirt cheap and they don't have any stupid fees, no matter how little you use.

I simply don't understand why people aren't using them more.

Personally... (4, Interesting)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248496)

I use Vonage as my non-cell phone. However this is because I do have a Cable modem connection. So this is no help to you.

If you can live with the Cell phone for phone service, you might want to look to DirectWay, or StarBand (or others) to provide Internet service. Response times might not be as fast as dialup, but even with fair use caps, you will probably get better data rates than dialup.

Good luck.

-Rusty

Re:Personally... (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248667)

I use Vonage as my non-cell phone. However this is because I do have a Cable modem connection.

I've seen their ads locally. But can you put their VOIP modem behind a NAT router?

One of the best things about Washington, DC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248498)

Is the huge calling area. I can call large chunks of DC, Virginia and Maryland for free. Guess it pays to have so many lawmakers living within those zones.

Re:One of the best things about Washington, DC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248538)

Is the huge calling area. I can call large chunks of DC, Virginia and Maryland for free. Guess it pays to have so many lawmakers living within those zones.

Amen brotha! DC! w00t!

Get the cell (4, Insightful)

Alethes (533985) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248499)

I'd get the cell for all the voice calls and just keep a very cheap, basic landline service with no long distance plan just for your internet access (assuming your ISP is a local call).

Re:Get the cell (1)

s10god (409764) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248745)

I would hardly call $35 a month CHEAP.... granted I pay $8 for Call ID... The only cheap part is the $5.95 i pay for unlimited dialup.

AND WHEN THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO STOP PAYING FOR THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR!!!?!?!?!??!

McLeodUSA (4, Informative)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248507)

Mcleod is available throughout much of the midwest and doesn't completely suck. I've been with them for about two and a half years now and haven't had any major problems with 'em. They offer all the same services as Ameritech/SBC/whatever and cost a little less. And local calls are just that, local no extra charge. I'd never even heard of "local toll calls" before reading this article.

Re:McLeodUSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248748)

i'll stay anonymous for this posting ;)

i switched from qwest to mcleod usa (i'm in the denver, co area).

i've never experience bad phone service before that. you know how you normally can just pick up a phone and call someone, not so with mcleod. it was amazing, the service was intermitent at best.

i had to switch back to qwest.

i live in st. louis (2, Informative)

honold (152273) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248508)

and the largest bell 'competitor' around here is birch telecom [birch.com] . they compete on price and service, but afaik still use sbc's line facilities. due to anti-monopoly laws, they're forced to allow this.

i've never used their residential service but i know of some small businesses that use them and were pleased with the service.

We prefer our monopoly were I live... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248510)

..they are friendly, flexible and bastards all rolled into one.

Earthlink Satellite (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248513)

I know it's just resold starband or something, but i know a couple friends with earthlink's satellite service. They like it pretty much; as long as you can get around poor customer support, usb modem (w/o linux drivers), high setup cost (around $550 here), and the possibility of them dropping the service altogether(high likelyhood?)

I believe they're getting around 256k-400k speeds up and down

Re:Earthlink Satellite (1)

burnsy (563104) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248565)

Not a chance on the 256-400K down...

Q: What sort of upload speed can I expect? [dslreports.com] (#2000)

A: Generally consumer grade satellite broadband systems are advertised with upload speeds of "up to" 128kbs. One way systems come with no upload speed predictions.

In actual use, at least at this time, none of the consumer grade two-way satellite systems get upload speeds near the 128kbs suggestion. There is a wide variance in actual upload speeds from moment to moment. You can expect that most of the time the upload speed of a two way system will be in the 30kbs-80kbs range. Due to latency issues with satellite connections, most upload speed tests will show speeds lower than actual FTP uploads.

Re:Earthlink Satellite (1)

httpamphibio.us (579491) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248763)

It doesn't really matter what the Q&A says... Up until a couple months ago I had a cable connection that advertised 128k download speeds and there was rarely a time when I got LESS than 128, often much much faster.

And just try get a 'dry' line for dsl... (4, Informative)

Lysol (11150) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248514)

I use my cell exclusively for voice. So when I needed static IPs for my servers, and thusly DSL, I called up the good 'ol local monopoly, er, I mean, phone provider here in nyc - Verizon - and it was a whopping $19 for me to just have a line. I told the Verizon lady, no caller id, no long distance, no nothing - there will never be a phone hoooked up to it.

Turns out, the Verizon charge is about $9 and the other $10 are taxes. But still, it's a rip. That means if every citizen in nyc has a land line, there's gonna be at least $100,000,000 in tax revenue. A month! How about a tax break on that?

Re:And just try get a 'dry' line for dsl... (1)

wheezl (63394) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248564)

I must agree this is total BS. I don't have cable to my building here in Brooklyn and had to get DSL (this wasn't so traumatic since SpeakeasyDSL has to be better than any crap ass cable provider) the extra $20 a month for a phone line I never use really blows though. However the $20 plus the $40 for Vonage turns out to be less monthly than Verizon was screwing me for anyway.

Re:And just try get a 'dry' line for dsl... (1)

dimension6 (558538) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248695)

I'm somewhat lucky that my building is pre-wired for Verizon's DSL internet (read: ethernet jacks on the walls) in NYC, so I don't have to sign up for a blasted land voice line (I was researching it, and, sure enough, the rates+taxes are incredibly high!). I just use my cell phone for talking ... Do DSL providers usually require voice subscription?

talk america (2, Informative)

anthonyclark (17109) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248519)

Talk America [talk.com] gives us good service. We pay 50 bucks / month for unlimited local and long distance (within SE Michigan). It's cheap to call my Mum in the UK. The only problem we have is that ameritech used to 'pulse' the dialtone to tell us we had voicemail.

Sprint PCS (4, Informative)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248522)

Check out the "Vision" service from Sprint. It's an extra $10 a month for unlimited usage. There is a USB data cable which lets your sprint phone (I have a Sanyo 4900) work as a USB modem - and yes, it works with Linux. The Sprint Vision service gives you a digital connection at about 56k.

They don't advertise it any more and they don't sell the cable any more. Check ebay for the cable and make sure you have a compatible phone.

Here's a HOWTO for it. [natecarlson.com]

Re:Sprint PCS (2, Informative)

leinerj (115797) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248603)

I have a sprint phone with the Vision plan, but BE AWARE they do charge you for the connection to a laptop with your phone. Any sales rep will tell you its free, but check your bill. They want you to purchase a pcmcia data card instead. The reason I signed up with them was for the unlimited data rate with my laptop, but it only applies to web ON your phone.

Re:Sprint PCS (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248608)

An extra $10/mo for unlimited is a pretty good deal. AT&T's data plans go from $7.99/mo for 1MB transfer to $99.99/mo for 100MB transfer. Speed is a little faster than 56K dialup. Forget that.

If you can deal with the 14.4K speed, even old school 2G CDMA phones can do dialup with a data cable. It uses your airtime minutes though, so I hope you have free night and weekends.

Re:Sprint PCS - Get the cable at Radio Shack (2, Informative)

kuwan (443684) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248672)

I have the Sanyo 4900 and I got the cable at Radio Shack for $20. It didn't come with the software, but they don't have any software for Mac OS X so I didn't care. Mac OS X does have built-in drivers for the phone so I was set.

$10 a month for unlimited data is great. For a while it was our primary Internet connection, now we've got a cable modem. No additional charges (we were on a lot) and >56k speeds. This is our only phone and it's been great.

t-mobile (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248523)

I don't know if t-mobile is available out there, but I heard they now offer a $20 unlimited data option, so you could use your cell phone for internet access.

Hey I got sprint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248524)

I just baught a Sayno 9700 from Sprint, with a 45 dollar unlimited nights and weekends/300 anytimes/unlimited vision.

Now the cool thing about this phone is that you can hook it up to your linux box using a USB cable (search on google.. i got the gogamic cable), and you can have a broad band connection via your phone. It's great, I get about 15-50 Kbps now. It sure beats dialup, the speed is fast, but what's bad is the latency, I get over 400-600 ms latency (due to the obvious reasons).

Maybe you should try it, I'm close to the St.Louis area too (in illinois).

Smoke signals (3, Funny)

heldlikesound (132717) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248528)

Mind you the through-put is about 1b/s.

Good luck Kimosabi!

Color me confused.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248529)

"25 minutes out of St. Louis", and yet you're in "the sticks"?

Re:Color me confused.... (1)

CadmannWeyland (609987) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248597)

That's one of the great things (if you like it that way) about St. Louis. The city itself is moderate in size, surrounded by lots of urban stuff. But if you go 25 miles south, or 45 miles west, you're in the sticks.

Works for me anyway. Get to work in good tech community, and get back to nature on the drive home.

:-)

Cadmann

You could try satelite (1)

jrl87 (669651) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248530)

I know its not great, but it is better than dial-up in the booneys, I know. But depending on your dial up provider it can be about the same cost as the phone line bill + the internet service bill.

Just a thought.

Re:You could try satelite (1)

StarTux (230379) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248627)

Yeah, I am heading into the same situation. Retreating from busy areas, just too much agro :).

Checked satellite, buts kind of expensive and fails to work with:

Online games
Linux

If those two were covered we'd be ok with Satellite, but that latency and lack of Linux support is a killer. What I mean by Linux support does not equate to offical support, just that yu plug in and setup as you would witha static IP on DSL.

CLEC types and features (4, Informative)

ZPO (465615) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248533)

There are a few basic kinds of CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers).

1 - Local Facilities based: The CLEC has an independent CO (switch site) in the local area and can either extend facilities to you (not likely unless you are buying 2-4 DS1s+ of service) or extend POTS/DSL/DS1 service via copper loops from the closest LEC (local exchange carrier - the old baby bell) exchange.

2 - Non-Local Facilities Based: The CLEC's switch is located somewhere else and simply trunked into the area. They CLEC may or may not have direct colocation in the LEC's COs.

3 - Reseller: The CLEC just takes your order and passes it to the LEC to fulfill. Its still the LECs lines, switch, numbers, etc.

There are also myriad variations on the above. In general if you can get service from a local facilities based CLEC go for it. Most of them aren't really setup for residential (not profitable), but you may get lucky in your area.

Cell and Satelite (1)

rlgines (102992) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248534)

Well I'm 45 miles outside of St. Louis so I have a similar issue (yep I drive in every day). We use the local phone company only for having minimal connection to the wired world if necessary. Most of my phone time is spent on my cell phone while in St. Louis (my cell wont even work where I live ). For Internet access I am using Starband with WinProxy as the gateway for my home network of ten PCs (yep our family has LAN gaming parties every once in a while).

This is far from an ideal setup, but is all that is available. It is the small price that I pay for being able to live on my own littel piece of paradise away from the noise and congestion of civilization ... the nearest Walmart is over 20 miles away.)

Good luck. If you get cell service okay where you live, I would just go with that and a satelite connection.

AT&T (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248540)

Company uses a couple PRI's from AT&T for local phone service. They provide the service, but the local loop still belongs to SBC. We got a pretty good rate due to our volume. Install support when we switched over was incompetent to say the least, but no problems since then.

No matter who you use, they'll still end up reselling the local loop from the baby bell. Only exceptions I know are if you get phone service over digital cable TV or VoIP like Vonage.

ComCast (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248543)

I live in the NW Burbs of Chicago and recently switched from SBC to ComCast when I moved. I have ComCast for cable-modem and cable-TV so I thought having them for phone would be good as well.

However, they have been very expensive. It is a toll call to call just about anywhere and they charge up to $0.07 per minute for what used to be a local call under SBC. Furthermore, they require that you buy callpacks in minutes rather than flat pricing per call and they charge enough for the by-the-minute callpack that you have to use all your minutes before you save.

Customer service is rude and they charge you $5 to change any item on your plan.

Last month my phone bill was almost $70 and I didn't make a single call that wouldn't have been local on my old SBC plan that costs about $35 a month.

Anyhow, I am thinking about switching to "The Neighborhood" by MCI. Supposed $49.95 a month plus some taxes but no surprises and unlimited local and unlimited (US-only) long distance.

Investigate before you move (1, Flamebait)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248549)

Too late for you, but checking into all aspects of a new area are part of my moving process.

Broadband important? Choose a neighborhood that is supported by broadband. Don't move to where there is none, and then bitch about it.

Local phone service not up to par? Well...that's another decision point in the move.

"I've moved....and discovered..." does not count.
If it is important to you, find thse things out before you move.

alternate phone companies are a bad joke (1)

potsmaster (636762) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248553)

for the past couple years, i've been using rcn [rcn.com] rather than sbc/pacbell [sbc.com] for my local dialtone (650 area code). during that time, i've been paying a "local number portability fee" to -er- somebody. i recently moved about seven blocks. rcn doesn't provide service at my new location so i switched to att [att.com] . could i move my phone number? ha!

to continue my subject line: unfortunately, the incumbent phone company (sbc/pacbell [sbc.com] ) is even worse and will never get me back as a directly-paying customer...

Re:alternate phone companies are a bad joke (1)

arkanes (521690) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248694)

It's probably too late, but if they give you ANY sort of hassle about keeping the number, raise bloody hell. Demand to speak to supervisors, file complaints with the BBB and FCC - the whole works. That number portability fee is to compensate them for a federal mandate on portability - don't let them get it for free!

Astound cable, internet, and phone (2, Informative)

Archfeld (6757) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248556)

They are small, only in Calif and Minn. but there service is fully fiber to the house, they offer phone, cable, and TV at SUBSTANTIALLY LOWER prices than COMCRAP and they offer a better selection of channels. The only downside is the phone is not self powered like the old landline princess phones on a ma-bell connection. So when the power goes out, your phone is out as well :(
but I've got a cell for emergencies like that.

Re:Astound cable, internet, and phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248727)

Wow, that looks really cool. I'm planning to move to the Walnut Creek area in a couple weeks, now I'll know where I have to find an apartment, so I can get this.

I also live in St. Louis. (1)

iamwoodyjones (562550) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248557)

I agree that prices out here suck! However, with a friend working in SBC, I have to give his why on why they charge so much.

The government is allowing others to taxi off of SBC's line to be "competitive". They tell SBC what they can charge these people for while these other companies are using their lines to make money. However, SBC owns the lines and when maintance comes around they have to go out and incur the costs of fixing it when it's not even theirs.

So, they charge extra where they can. Also, the same goes for DSL. Even with Charter as their competitor SBC has to share their DSL with third parties but Charter doesn't have to share their cable. That's why they've slowed down on the roll out of DSL. The more they roll out, the more they get penalized by having to share it.

So, in retrospect, if SBC rolls out lines (tele or internet) then they have to share it with others who didn't have to pay the cost of rolling it out or the cost of maintance.

However, charter doesn't and yet SBC is trying to stay competitive with them.

Re:I also live in St. Louis. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248659)

Aww, let's all feel sorry for SBC together. [forbes.com] Why don't they cut their CEO's pay down by 1/80th, to, say, a measely million a year ? That should free up $79 million dollars with which they can install DSL for everyone in Missouri who still doesn't have it, and in just one year !

telecom == fraud. There is no honest phone company in the US.

Has anyone worked with this approach? (1)

CadmannWeyland (609987) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248558)

I know exactly where you're coming from as I'm in almost the identical circumstances. Currently I just eat the cost of the metro-type calling solution and use landline for dial-up IP.

However, some friends have looked at this solution. I've not had a chance to look at it much yet. This company provides internet service from cellular towers in your area. They claim (I believe), that if you can use a cell phone from home, then you can use their stuff for your internet access.

Anyway, here's the URL: http://www.convergenow.net

I'd be really curious if any other slashdotters have had success with these folks or similar ones.

Cadmann

Try Direcway Satelite, u can use there VOIP (1)

BraveHeartCalif (682895) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248569)

+++++++++ there internet speeds are reasonable

I'm in the same boat... (4, Interesting)

RandyF (588707) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248578)

From what I have found you have these options:

  1. Satalite (good speed but the lag time causes problems with session-based protocols such as VPNs)
  2. Line of site microwave (I'm not going to pay for building a tower on my place!)
  3. Paying for a fiber/cable/T1 line (way too expensive)
  4. Forming a "bandwidth coop" where the locals string together cable modem lines and equipment and share a single connection somewhere (there was an article on /. sometime back about this)
  5. Two cans and a string (Bandwidth is just way too slow...)

Another option is an idea for a grass-roots company to bring high-speed to the last mile...

good luck.

Just say no to dial up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248579)

> the top speed for dialup is 28.8

That's just wrong. Wrong in so many ways.

Knology is good (1)

zoid.com (311775) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248585)

I have Knology Phone/Cable/Cable Modem Internet service and it is pretty good. The pipe the phone calls in over TV Cable. Not really sure how it works. They put this box outside the house and run wires out of it into the main phone line box. No special phones or anything like that. I get all 3 for a price of around $100/month.

Consider a satellite dish and Vonage (2, Informative)

John Murdoch (102085) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248587)

Hi!

What may be a very good option for you to consider is improving your Internet connectivity and then exploring VOIP (Voice Over IP). DirecTV has a satellite data arm called DirecWay [direcway.com] that offers two-way broadband via satellite dish. (We have considered it, but only as a fallback to our existing circuit.)

Once you have the broadband, look at VOIP...
Once you have broadband, you might want to look at VOIP, especially Vonage. They will assign you a number and provide "local" calling service to every exchange in your "home" area code(s). VOIP quality is improving, and there are more and more people in the newsgroups providing helpful advice.

Is this the BEST solution?
Your mileage may vary. This is certainly a cutting edge solution--and, as the old adage goes, it may be hard to stay on the cutting edge without bleeding. If you're looking for better bandwidth anyway, it's worth taking a look at.

Re:Consider a satellite dish and Vonage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248612)

Vonage costs more than a phone line. How you can call it a competitor is beyound me. Hey, I have $1 bills for sale for only $2 ! How many do you want ?

Re:Consider a satellite dish and Vonage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248652)

Vonage will not work well with 2-way satellite because...

1. Bandwidth contention scheme - the need to request and allocate bandwidth using the Slotted Aloha mechanism used by these systems creates unreasonable latency and jitter.

2. Frame size - most DVB/RCS systems use a 250ms frame which allows VoIP appliances to sample voice only 4 times per second - therefore quality is poor.

3. QoS - does not exist on most systems. No way to allocate bandwidth or adjust queue depth to optimize VoIP calls.

Re:Consider a satellite dish and Vonage (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248661)

Packet8 is supposed to use a lower speed codec (G.723.1 it may even work fine in dialup ?)
Many users at httt://www.dslreports.com/forum/voip should be able to give you a "preview" of this and others (like Vonage)

Re:Consider a satellite dish and Vonage (1)

MattXonn (539557) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248688)

The Vonage web site says its service does not work with a satellite connection to the internet.

Vonage Requirements [vonage.com]

Re:Consider a satellite dish and Vonage (1)

Squidgee (565373) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248710)

I second this motion.

In fact, if you have yerself a Mac try out Mac2Phone [mac2phone.com] . It's unbelievably reliable, works well EVEN WITH dialup, and is damn cheap.

In fact, I'd venture to say it's the best VOIP solution out there right now. Calls Landlines, you'll get a free IP Phone...it's all a great deal, and a great service.

Best of luck, and look into all of these solutions (Also see the bit about Verizon's wireless card and a cell carrier. That would be the second option I suggest. Scroll down for it. =p)

I live in the *same* area outside St. Louis as you (2, Informative)

||Deech|| (16749) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248611)

I've recent switched to Excel for all my calls.

I pay about $50 a month or so (I think closer to $60 after taxes) for unlimited long distance and local calls, plus caller id, call waiting, forwarding and several other options that I don't even use.

Service has been good. Billing has been accurate and on time. I don't have any complaints at all. Particularly since I'm no longer being forceably FDA'd by SBC anymore.

I can't find the url for the offer I have. However, if you drop an email to deech "at" free "dash" source "dot" com, I'll be happy to send you the phone number from my flier.

(quotes are punctuation discriptions, not text)

Instructions.... (1, Funny)

WwWonka (545303) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248613)

1) Grab about 500 some odd miles of that super industrial NASA engineered cable from below /. article.
2) Send one of the cable ends via Fed Ex to me in Milwaukee.
3) Pull tight on the cable till it feels snug (may have some extra milage on the exact cable amount).
4) Now connect your end to the bottom of a steel trash can where you are (someplace outside of St. Louis).
5)I'll do the same up here.
6)Place your noggin in the trash can and start talking.
7)Success! Now do the same with all your other friends.

Some cell phone plans (1)

CptChipJew (301983) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248616)

Such as one of AT&T's older one's allows unlimited EVERYTHING for $100/month. As long as you don't use the net on your phone.

It sounds like a lot, but if you split the phone amongst two people, and have lots of friends across the country, it's a good deal.

Get a cell phone... (2, Informative)

burnsy (563104) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248618)

And get a card like this for your laptop/desktop.

Sierra Wireless Aircard 555 [verizonwireless.com]

If you like Cox... (2, Interesting)

donutz (195717) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248629)

You should check out whether your cable company offers digital phone service. Cox Communications [cox.net] does in many locations, and they claim to have similiar uptime to regular phone service, but much cheaper prices.

I would have gone with them when I moved to California, but at the time they didn't have the service available in my neighborhood. I'm still hoping to check them out sometime.

Tenino Telephone [Tenino, WA] (1, Interesting)

chuckwroks (564628) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248631)

These people knocked my socks off. I called them up on a Friday asking for DSL for my company's office, there. Surprisingly, we were within range and everything looked like it was going to come off great. Then she dropped the bomb on me:

"Now, you understand that this may not be ready until Tuesday, right?"

Tuesday?! That's only 2 business days for DSL! Believe it! It doesn't have to be 2 months!

Having no problems (2, Informative)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248636)

I've been using one for about six months. $50/month with unlimited long distance (and about $5 for the line charge to the CLEC). NOTE: I also shill for the service. Click link for details. Yes, it will hit you with some MLM info. But just click on the 'local phone service' button.

what about the pizza? (4, Informative)

obsid1an (665888) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248646)

A friend of mine got rid of his land line, but there was a fairly serious (for him) consequence he didn't plan on. The local pizza places don't deliver to cell phones.

I like AT&T Residential Service (2, Informative)

The Lynxpro (657990) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248662)

$50 a month for unlimited local and long distance; call waiting, caller ID including on call waiting, call forwarding, and some other feature. I like using my landline because even if I use my cordless, my head doesn't hurt after using the phone, unlike with my mobile phone. And just the satisfaction in knowing that my money is in no way going to SBC's profits brings a smile to my face. I look forward to telephone service via Comcast Cable next year. The Baby Bells are as good as dead...and not in a Whedon-esque version of *dead* either...

but the real question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248666)


why do you live in a place where you can't get high-speed access?

T-Mobile (3, Informative)

RedWingsSuck (644332) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248668)

I recently bought a Sony Ericcson ti-68 from amazon. It was free after rebates, and it is bluetooth enabled. T-Mobile has an internet service plan that is about $20 for unlimited access, I think. Pair the phone with a blue tooth enabled computer and you get about a 56K connection. I tried it while on vacation, and it worked great with my 12" PowerBook. I don't know if this is feasible with Linux or Windows, but you might look into it.

mmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248670)

how about a fine southern bell. :)

DirecWay (1)

s10god (409764) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248673)

Assumming you do not need an untra fast PING you can allways go for DirectWay.... I am not sure if it is suitable for Voice over IP.. But it is a lot better than a 28.8 dialup.

It can be done... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6248674)

Stay with your cell phone for regular calls. If you have a cband system or can get your hands on a cheap one go with cband.net for internet. However, you do need a land line for handshaking and out going data. I've been using CBand since the begining of the year and am *very* pleased with it. 40+K/Bs vs 26.4 kb/s with the dial up.

Comcast (1)

briggsb (217215) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248689)

I use Comcast Digital Telephone Service [comcast.com] through the cable for local and long distance. Haven't had any issues with the service and I've even changed the set up a few times without any problems. Anything is better than Michigan Bell/Ameritech/SBC

Not Verizon (1)

dacarr (562277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248701)

Verizon customer service just plain sucks. When they were GTE it was fine, but now it's just Evil. Don't go there.

Everest (1)

Iscariot_ (166362) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248712)

I live in the Kansas City area, and we are pretty much all SWB here. However, there is one alternative called Everest [everestgt.com] . Let me tell you, these guys rock. They are extremely cheap, and the offer phone, internet, and cable. I pay less than $100 a month, have all the channels I want, a phone line, and cable internet. It doesn't get any better!!

Get a Cell Phone (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248722)

A while back, when we moved into the apartment before the one we're in now, we decided to give MCI a chance. The price was good, the calling was good--but it was 9 weeks before the phone was installed. When we moved apartments into the one we're in now, it was going to be another 4-12 weeks to get the phone service transfered. (We called Verizon, and got it done the same day.)

Unless you have to share your phone line with another person, or need it to connect to an ISP, my suggestoin is to skip the land line and get a cell phone. My friends who have cells are _easier_ to get ahold of than those with land lines, and activation / transfer takes hours or days, not weeks or months.

No phone (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248752)

I won't comment on the phone, but being a dialup user myself I know how much it can suck. And if the best I could do was 28.8 you better believe I'd have a satellite dish on the roof. Jeez, why even bother at that speed?

Tmobile Unlimited GPRS (1)

mytador (657511) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248755)

Since youre on dialup anyways, why dont you checkout TMobile that offers unlimited GPRS data internet access for only $19.99 in addition to your cell service. If you get good reception with TMobile where you live, youd be able to get 36.6K to 56K speeds with GPRS. Just get a bluetooth usb dongle for your PC and Nokia 3650 phone(often free with 1 year contract) and use phone as a modem and Tmobile GPRS as ISP.....

Alternate Local Carrier Tiers (1)

justfred (63412) | more than 11 years ago | (#6248767)

Here's a bit of trivia that most people don't know about alternate local phone carriers (LEC Local Exchange Carrier identified by OCN Operating Company Number).

LECs are divided into three tiers: A, B, and C. Most ex-Bell carriers are tier A; most third-party carriers (for example, Cox) are tier C. Frontier, GTE, and Sprint (local) are tier B. I believe that cellphone carriers mostly qualify as tier C, but I'm not sure.

Long distance calls, especially in-state but also interstate long distance, cost the LD carrier a lot more if they originate and/or terminate at tier B or C. A-A calls, for example, might cost the carrier 2c/minute; C-C calls can cost 10c!

Some LD carriers pass these costs directly to the user; others refuse to provide service to tier C users. Many LD companies are considering charging customers different rates depending on the originating and terminating LEC.

Don't be surprised if at some point in the future it costs you more to call a cellphone or a (Joe's local telco) customer long distance.
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