POTS Wires Land Line Voice Providers
aka "POTS" (Plain Old Telephone Service)
(e.g., phones connected by pairs of copper wire)
By law, the ONLY POTS provider in Bolton
POTS Phone
Verizon Logo

Verizon

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 companies.
Cable TV Coax Broadband Voice Providers
aka Broadband Voice
Phone carried over coaxial cable as used for Cable TV so is usually provided by Cable TV providers.
POTS Phone
Comcast Logo

Comcast
 
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.

Other 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.
Interent Voice (VoIP) Internet Voice Providers
aka VoIP (Voice Over IP)
POTS Phone

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! 

Making matters 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.

Ooma Logo
Ooma
VoIP
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 number.

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.

We have 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. 

See VoIP section header for the caveats of VoIP!
Vonage Logo
Vonage
VoIP
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!
VoIP Logo
Economy
VoIP
Services
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.

Magic Jack    Lingo    Voipo
Power Phone

VoIP Logo
SOHO &
Business
VoIP
Services
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 companies with 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 expired. 

RingCentral         Mitel         8x8
Fonality         Nextiva          Grasshopper
Internet Providers Internet Services Providers (ISPs)
aka VoIP (Voice Over IP)
ISPs
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 end. 

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.
Internet Access
Dial-Up Providers

&

Cellphone
Tethering
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:

NetZero Major dial up provider
Juno Low cost, even free, dial up access.
TheWorld Small local service. One of the 1st!
AOL Once the largest. Now just another.
MSN Once a biggie. Now, just another!
EarthLink Long time big player.
AT&T Worldnet Another long time ISP. Pricier than most.

Making your cellphone an ISP!

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.

If you 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.  
 
Cell Phone Tethering
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 Starbucks. 
USB Cellphone Tethering
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.
Cable 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 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.
CLEC's 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.