My Frankenstein Telephone.

20 05 2009

I don’t know about you, but I have always hated my phone company. For the first 25 years of my life, there was no viable alternative to my ONE land line provider. Cell phones, at first, were prohibitively expensive and even now with better rates, the Cell phone service providers here in Canada gouge their customers for every penny they can squeeze from them. Now with recent passage of new legislation, more competition should soon change that… But I will believe that when I actually see it.

Well, tired of paying too much for landline telephone service, I decided to see what I could do to drastically reduce my monthly telephone bill. My eventual solution definitely isn’t graceful, but it’s cheap and it works.

My first attempt at a cheap, alternative solution to standard phone service was to purchase a device called the MagicJack. MagicJack is a device about a third the size of a deck of playing cards (and about the same shape), with a USB connection on one side and a standard telephone jack on the other. You plug the USB end into any PC running Windows XP (or later: I am running the release candidate for Windows 7) or a Mac running OS X, and a standard telephone into the other side. When you first plug in the MagicJack, you computer will tell you it found new hardware and will look for drivers. All you have to do is hit Yes or Continue when prompted, and MagicJack will pretty much take care of the rest. There will be a registration procedure (quick and painless) where you will get a choice as to which area code you would like to use for your new Magicjack phone service. There are a lot of choices, but unfortunately for me, they are all U.S. cities (I am in Canada). I picked an area code for Seattle Washington, and MagicJack provided me with a phone number to go with it. I could now receive calls from anywhere, and had unlimited calling anywhere in Canada of the U.S. for one year all for the initial investment of $59 Canadian (just a hair under $51 U.S. at the time of writing), with additional years of service cost $20 each. I tried it out was very impressed with the call quality. At times the call quality was better than my regular land line, and at worse it was only marginally worse. Averaging out the $59 investment out for the year meant I now had quality telephone service for about sixteen cents a day, or just under five dollars a month.

Great, I’m done – right? Not quite: remember the fact that I had to get a phone number that was in the U.S.? Well, that meant that if anyone wanted to call me, they would have to pay long distance charges, as they were dialing a Seattle number, despite the fact that we are both in the same city. This wasn’t good, so I had to look for a solution to that problem now. I did some searching on the ‘Net and found a company called DID Worldwide that provided a service called Direct Inward Dialing (DID). DID provided me with a local phone number that would forward to a VOIP (voice over internet protocol, or in other words talking over the internet) service for five dollars a month. That was great, except it wouldn’t work with my MagicJack, as it doesn’t work the same way as traditional VOIP services – it acts much more in the way of a traditional phone service. The solution came to me quickly: For quite a number of years, I have been using a program called Skype to chat with friends and family over the internet. It works great, and all calls between one computer and another using Skype are absolutely free. Skype also offers a paid service called Skype Out where they offer various plans that allow you to call land lines for very good rates. I have been using this service for a few years. I chose the cheapest plan, three dollars a month for unlimited calls in Canada and the U.S. As I said, I have had this plan for about two years now and love it as it is very convenient to be able to call using my PC or laptop anytime I have access to an internet connection and avoid using my cell phone minutes. Heck, I can even use Skype on my cell as there is a mobile application and I pay a flat fee for data, so I can avoid long distance charges. People, I must say this: Skype is good! 🙂

I remembered that Skype also offered call forwarding to any phone number in the area that I paid for outgoing calls to: Canada and the U.S. Well, my MagicJack number is in Seattle, and that is definitely in the U.S., and the phone number I paid for though Worldwide DID would work with Skype, all I had to do was configure the various services to point in the right direction, and I should have incoming and outgoing calls with unlimited calling anywhere in Canada or the U.S. with a local phone number, voicemail, call display, call forwarding and conference calling all for about ten dollars a month. This is a vast improvement over the thirty-nine dollars a month I was paying.

Well, after a week of using my Frankenphone I have to say this: IT WORKS!!! I am making and receiving calls like normal and paying a quarter of what I was paying before. I have call display, call waiting, call confrencing and more all for a measly ten dollars a month.

But even more importantly, I was able to tell the phone company to go screw themselves.