The incumbant and only land line phone carrier for
Bolton. Other companies may claim to offer alternative
landline service but, in fact, are leasing the wires
from Verizon. Due to municipal and PUC (Public
Utilities Commission) regulations, no other landline
wires are allowed. Alternative providers may
provide lower cost rates but servicing of land line wire
problems will take longer since an alternative provider
has to issue a trouble ticket to Verizon to fix problems
thereby slowing problem resolution. Although
incumbant carriers are not allowed to delay service,
there is no financial incentive for the incumbant to fix
your problem and money is the motivation for all
aka Broadband Voice
Phone carried over coaxial cable as used for Cable TV so
is usually provided by Cable TV providers.
Since they are the coaxial cable service provider for
Bolton, Comcast offers voice service over their Cable TV
system. Coax is capable of much higher voice
quality but cable operators were slow to master phone
service delivery. Comcast was very slow out of the
gate with many problems but they now provide a stable
service with very good quality. However, unlike POTS
wire line service, cable service requires home equipment
for the interface which will not work during power
failures. There were also some issues with support
of 911 emergency service but that, too, has improved.
Also be aware that the true long term monthly cost is
buried in the the fine print. Most advertised
pricing is based on "new customer" discounts that are
gradually reduced over 6, 12, 18 and/or 24 months.
Since a phone line is a long term proposition, you
should always compare services based on the
non-discounted rate. What
may have started as a seemingly very low rate for
a bundled plan with TV, Internet, and phone can end up costing
a great deal more when the regular rates kick in.
Many are quite shocked a year later.
caveats may be that cable voice may include less advanced
calling features that some need like Canada and Mexico calling at
low to zero cost, distictive ring, and so on.
Although Comcast (like all cable phone services) use
technology very similar to VoIP
(Voice Over Internet Protocol) and would
thus seem to suffer the same connectivity issues that VoIP
has, cable phone service is carried over their own cable
system that they control. As such, they can maintain a
much higher level of reliability and
quality than independent VoIP providers that use whatever Internet service you
have without any control over the equipment, connection, or operation.
Last but not least, they also may be issues
similar to VoIP service such as limited or no support
for home appliances
like Fax machines, modems, security alarms, and media equipment.
Despite all that, may customers are happy with their
cable phone service.
Internet Voice Providers
aka VoIP (Voice Over IP)
CAVEAT: VoIP Services Limitations:
All VoIP systems utilize your existing Internet service and equipment making them entirely dependent upon the quality, reliability,
and speed of your Internet service. While browsing web pages or downloading data, you seldom notice the
very frequent but short-lived connection interruptions because they are not noticeable as you read a screen or wait for a download to finish. Streaming a video or movie is
a task you might think would readily show interruptions. However,
when you watch a video it is usually buffered for 10-30
seconds. During interruptions of the transmission, the preloaded buffer continues to
show the program. Only when the interruption lasts longer
than the data in the buffer takes to play out would you see an interruption.
This is how Netflix, VuDu, Hulu, Amazon Video, and all the
other video streamers work.
Despite the seeming simplicity of a 2-way voice conversation,
it has more stringent requirements in order to make the
conversation feel like real time without delays. As
such, each half of the conversation cannot be buffered for
more than 1 second without it becoming noticeable. If each person's voice were buffered as much as a movie (10-30 seconds), the call
would be impossible since each party would have to wait 10-30 seconds
for their speach to play out to the other party,
then another 10-30 seconds for their reply to make it back to
them - meaning a horrendous dealay of 20-60 seconds
round trip. A roundtrip radio conversations to the
moon and back only takes 3 seconds!
worse, since VoIP calls are sent in separate packets - like
all Internet traffic - it is hard to maintain a call link if
the packets get out of sync, are dropped, or are delayed too
long. This is why the better VoIP services involve a
base station adapter bigger than a matchbox. You
need a good deal of processing power to work through those
issues fast enough to maintain a call and escape the notice
of the participants.
Fundamental VoIP Rule: If
you don't have a speedy and stable Internet service,
Internet modem, and router, VoIP will NOT work for you in
the long run. There's no magic. Unstable service/equipment
will frequently drop calls or destroy quality.
As of 2015, Ooma is one of the leading VoIP providers that offers
very low cost personal and business plans that require
purchasing their VoIP adapter box. The
box for personal service supports 1-2 phone numbers and with the addition of
an add-on box, a 2nd phone line. The business box has
all the features of the personal system plus a PBX like
feature set with multiple mailboxes, outgoing messages,
blocked phone number lists, time of day features, and
more. Any of these plans is still a
fraction of the cost of a landline.
You buy their
VoIP adapter, connect it to your Internet router or cable modem, and it provides a standard RJ-11 telephone jack to
connect your standard phone(s). Being VoIP, it depends on the quality of your
Internet service connection. Ooma can also be expanded
to support a 2nd set of phones with their own 2nd phone
For $10/mo + tax (about $14 as of 2015), you can get the Premiere personal package which gives you 2 phone numbers. By buying a small outboard box, you can have the 2nd number feed another set of phones in the house,
just like a 2nd land line. Since the cost of 2 land
lines with free nationwide and Canada calling is about
$180/mo and Ooma Premier is $14/mo, you have
a savings of about 13x - making it worth trying.
been testing Ooma for about a year and find it to be one of the best VoIP systems we have researched but, even so, we would not rely on it for our main
line. That let's you know what we feel about the
other VoIP providers which we think even less of.
For critical or business communicaitons, VoIP service cannot
yet be a total replacement for
a plain old copper connected land line or cable voice service.
Even with a 30 mbps Internet connection, a
high end Motorola Surfboard SB6120 cable
modem, and the latest AC-3200 Asus firewall, router and
access point (FRAP) with Quality of Service features to
prioritize the Ooma traffic, we
still get an occasional
dropped or garbled call (about 1 in 10 have
at least a minor glitch). That's very good VoIP but
far from the reliability needed for critical, professional conference, or sales calls.
If you make a lot of short calls, the dropped
calls are less of an issue. But having a 1-2 hour support,
business, therapy, or consultation call drop on you is
totally unacceptable, if not embarrassing.
As always, never
take advertisements, web pages, or prices at face value.
Verify everything, read the fine print, read 20+ reviews
from each of 5+ trusted sources, and never buy
anything you can't return at no cost to you.
One of 1st and most advertised VoIP providers is Vonage. They've had their ups and downs but
have hung in and offer what seems to be a zero cost
start up with a longlist of features. However, many have
complained that once the introductory deal expires,
higher prices kick
in with a cost of 30-$50/mo, contracts are hard to cancel, and
you are charged an additonal early termination fees if you want to leave.
Vonage and Ooma call quality are
very close. For us, Ooma feels a tad better. You
pay for the Ooma equipent up
front, then extremely little on a monthly basis. In the
long run, Vonage costs 2-5 times more.
Despite these issues, some are happy with Vonage.
See VoIP section header for the caveats of VoIP!
At the lower end of the VoIP services are smaller
players who advertise heavily with thumb drive sized
adapters. Beware. The large the ad budget, the
less there is for design. Many of you
may have seen the "Magic Jack" ads promising quality,
simplicity, and near zero cost.
Nothing is free and companies have to make money - so
carry a lot of salt.
Here's a few more of the lower cost products.
SOHO & Business VoIP
As of 2015, the list of VoIP providers seems endless.
Ooma and Vonage are both rated decently for personal and small business solutions. Although they all use the same principle
to encode and decode voice
sent over the Internet, they can vary
greatly in terms of quality, reliability,
features, and price.
The following list shows some of the services
that promote themselves as being ore capable
and being able to scale from a few lines/users to acting
like corporate phone system (PBX). They operate like the main switch board systems in large
many features, multiple mailboxes, day/night control rules, line forwarding, multiple rings, and so on.
The difference is that "switchboard"
features are actually run "virtually" on
the provider's system miles o rstates away.
This list is
jus a sample and not meant to be defniitive. Do the
research, read as many reviews as you can find, then
read the fine print. Lastly, always compare them by
their true full price after any introductory pricing has
Internet Services Providers (ISPs)
aka VoIP (Voice Over IP)
ISP's provide your computer or household with a connection to
the Internet. This has always been done using an adapter
box called a modem which is an abbreviation of the words
MODulator and DEModulator. That tech talk for a gadget
that converts the bits of your computer into a form that can
travel over a circuit than back again into bits at the other
Originally, that meant bits into sounds that could
travel over a voice telephone line. While telephone modems
are still used in rural areas, most people now have cable TV and
Internet service that TV or fiber optic cables - but the
principle remains the same.
Original telephone modems
could convert and send up to 14,400 bits per second - which is
about 1,440 characters or bytes per second. That seemed
fast at the time even though it would take 3-5 minutes to
transfer just 1 MP3 song. The modems now used with
Internet service over cable TV connections transfer data at 3
million to 1 billion bits per second! That's 3 to
100 million characters per second meaning the same MP3 song
would take less than 1 second to transfer.
With the advent of
DSL and cable Interent service, the number of dial up ISP dwindled drastically.
However, many of the oldest, biggest names still remain to service the
millions who don't have cable in rural areas or on limited budgets.
If you have a telephone dial up modem, here's a list of a few dial up ISPs
still operating as of September 2015. There are countless other
smaller ones far too numerous to list here:
Cell phones now offer data speeds
almost as fast as cable Interent connections - far faster than
dial up or DSL. However, cell data
plans are usually VERY expesnive to use them this way.
are lucky enough to have a low cost cell phone data plan, you can use your
phone as your Interent provider. That is, you
connect your computer to your phone with a USB cable, via Wi-fi, or
via Bluetooth. Late model full featured Android phones all have
this capability. You do this by enabling your phone's "USB
tethering" , "Wifi hotspot", or "Bluetooth tethering" mode.
The image above examplifies a Wifi hot spot setup. You enable
the phone's "hot spot" mode then connect to it like it like you do
with a hot spot at your school, lover's place, office, library, or
A safer and speedier method is to directly connect the cellphone to
your computer and enable the cellphone's "USB tethering" mode as shown
above. It's safer because others can't access your phone whereas, when
it is a Wi-fi hot spot and you negelected to encrypt it, others can
use it too and that would really blow up your bill.
WARNING: DO NOT use your phone as an
Internet connection unless you
fully understand the cost
of your cell data plan. Some have been blown away when their cell bill
went from $60 to $300. Using a cell phone to access mobile
Interent sites with its small screen and occasional restaurant
searches or mapping uses little data whereas computers use many more
times that amount.
Comcast Internet (was MediaOne, then was AT&T)
High speed access via TV cable system. After years of many problems,
it is now quite reliable and offers ever increasing speeds.
DSL use special techniques
to send data over standard phone lines but their signal and speed
dwindle with increased distance. As such, DSL is always
problematic with unstable speeds and quality. Once there were many DSL
providers but they collapsed in 2000-2002. In late 2002, Verizon
brought DSL to this area with a speed of 768 kbps. It's was about 1/2 the speed of Comcast cable at
that time for about $20
less. However, with high speed cable service, DSL is a last
resort for those without cable or one a strict budget.
Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLEC's) once offered the same
services as Verizon by leasing their lines and reselling service,
selling phone, long distance and Internet at a discount. However, with the advent of better services from
the incumbants, Verizon and Comcast, most CLEC's have disappeared.