A few days ago I got an e-mail from Vonage telling me they were increasing my bill another $1. This is now the third time they have done this. When I first bought this “light” plan, it was 300 minutes and $9.99 a month (not including taxes). This past increase they decided to throw in an extra 100 minutes.
I don’t really use my home phone that much… the reason why I got it was back in 2007, my girlfriend was living with me (now my wife) and she did not get reliable cell reception in the house. I did not want her to be at home and not be able to contact people.
Today, we’re used to having a home phone, though the only time it is used is for local business reminders to call us about appointments and our family. Additionally, I think it’s important to have the home phone since I have a young child and would like anyone in our house to easily pick up a phone and call 911 in an emergency.
I had been looking around for alternatives for a while… I just didn’t feel like I was getting my money’s worth. Also, I have had the following problems/criticisms with Vonage since day one:
- The caller ID sometimes fails to identify the caller.
- The Vonage router just randomly disconnects from their service, prompting me to have to reset it.
- The lack of a feature to individually call block some numbers.
The last thing I listed has been a hugely requested feature by Vonage customers since 2007… and nothing has been done about it.
One of the big alternatives I started looking into was Ooma. On the surface, they’re just another VOIP provider, but they have some compelling features that Vonage does not have. One of the biggest enticements of Ooma is that if you choose to, you can just pay the taxes of having a VOIP line entails per month and that’s it… the service is essentially free. Or you can choose to subscribe to their Premier service for $10 a month. There are no minutes to keep track of for either the free or premier plan.
So when I got that e-mail that said they were raising their price again, I immediately purchased an Ooma router on Amazon. It’s scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. I plan on subscribing to the Premier service and having them port my number from Vonage to Ooma.
I will report back once I receive it and am going to update this with my progress and satisfaction level of the whole procedure. Stay tuned!
*** UPDATE: 11/2/2013 ***
So I received my device on Monday from Amazon. I purchased a refurbished unit for about $106. The Ooma router will be in my cellar, so I’m not worried if it had any scuffs or scratches. When it came, it didn’t have any.
The Ooma is cool because it’s set up like an answering machine. This makes it easy for the more senior folks out there who are still used to having one in their home and not using their phone company voicemail service.
The way you’re supposed to set up the Ooma is right after your cable modem… you plug in the Ooma, and then from there you plug in the rest of your network (or one computer). I prefer to keep my Ooma behind my firewall because I am using dynamic DNS services and other things where I want to keep my router first in line. If this sounds too technical for you, don’t worry… you can just put the Ooma after your cable modem and all will work fine.
For me, I just needed to find the right set up to keep it behind the router but keep call quality high. There are a lot of old posts out there on how to do this, but as of 2013, I would say it’s much more easier. Just plug your Ooma device into one of the available router ports for your network. Then plug a laptop into the Ooma to go to the web set up. Turn off QOS (just set it to 0 for both upstream and downstream) and enable the web interface from the Internet port.
Then depending upon your router config, set QOS to give the Ooma device highest priority in your network. Now you can also access your Ooma from your network since we enabled the web interface.
So far things are great… I logged into Vonage, turned off voicemail and set forwarding after 0 seconds to the new temporary number I have with Ooma. I have just submitted the porting process. Ooma says it can take three to four weeks, but in the meantime people can still call us as I’m forwarding everything.
The last part once the porting is complete is I need to call Vonage and cancel my service with them. Would be nice if they just cancelled it automatically once the port is done, but obviously Vonage hopes you drag your feet and they want to keep collecting money from you.
So my bill with Vonage is currently $11.99 a month (not including taxes and fees), but is going to $12.99 a month as of next month. Vonage is also charging me $6.08 in fees and taxes for a total of $18.07. I signed up for Ooma Premier and am going to pay $9.99 a month (I paid the annual option) and somehow my fees and taxes are only going to cost $3.72 a month. I also find it quite sneaky how Vonage does not detail your taxes and fees on every bill you get… you need to dig around in their web site to find out what they’re charging you.
Anyway… I hope to update down the line once I’m all ported over and we’ve had some time to use the service.
*** UPDATE: 11/17/2013 ***
I did a live chat session with Ooma yesterday to inquire about my porting status. Ooma offered a Porting Status page to check in on where it is in the process, but every time I checked mine, it came up blank. After the person on the other side of the chat looked into it, he said it was still in process and that he would check into the porting status page being blank. Later on that afternoon, I got an e-mail from Ooma saying my scheduled completion date would be December 11th. I can now log in to the Ooma web site and the porting status page shows up. Not sure why it wasn’t before… I’m assuming they fixed something on their side.
Now while the porting process takes a while, which stinks, it’s not necessarily Ooma’s fault. Half of the port process needs to occur over at your previous carrier, and I’m sure they’re not too thrilled to just go through all of them. In the meantime, I’m just forwarding all my Vonage calls to our Ooma temporary number, so life goes on with barely a hitch. I have already started to use my Personal Blacklist feature to block the same telemarketers from calling and driving me nuts.
*** UPDATE: 12/8/2013 ***
So my Vonage number finally ported over on December 6th. I received a voicemail and e-mail from Ooma letting me know and that I may not have phone service while it was transferring. Both my wife and I were at work, so this did not impact us at all. Once porting was completed, I received another e-mail from Ooma letting me know and that I may need to reboot my Ooma device in order for it to register the ported number. I did not need to do that and everything worked as it should when I made a call to the phone number. Ooma lastly told me in the e-mail to wait one business day before cancelling my service with my previous provider.
The next day, I got an e-mail from Vonage saying that my number had been ported and that my service was now cancelled. This is nice as now I didn’t need to do anything and my Vonage is automatically cancelled. This is honestly the way I expected a number port to occur… why would I need to call and cancel if my one phone number with them is now gone?
So I’m all ported over now! So far, so good. Ooma is a good alternative for people looking for something “not Vonage”. I liked Vonage at the time, but they were falling behind on offering features that the other guys were already including.