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Issue #606: March 3-9, 2019

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Q: Just read your article about switching emails (Geek Note: I.G.T.M #599, January 13-19, 2019). Could you give some guidance on switching telephones?  I no longer use or need my home phone but I’ve had the number for many years and many people don’t have my cell number. I currently use Ooma which is inexpensive but all I need number forwarding or maybe a voice mail box.

– Dale W.
Destin, Florida

A: Ditching your so-called “land line” is a popular way to save a few dollars on monthly utility bills.  If you’re already using Ooma, you’ve discovered one way to do that.  For those who don’t know, Ooma is a company that offers what is called voice-over-IP (VOIP) calling using your Internet connection.  They offer several tiers of service, and for a typical residential user, it can be similar to actually having a land line.  You have a telephone number, a physical device called an Ooma Telo (separate from your computer), and you can place and receive calls through it.  Unlike traditional home telephone service, Ooma is free.  However, you must purchase the Telo, and the government does manage to insert itself in the mix to collect taxes and applicable fees.

There are several factors to consider before taking the significant step of pulling the plug on your land line.  Many companies offer discounts for bundling services together, so you should make sure your phone service is not linked to any discount deal you’re getting for something else, such as your cable TV or satellite.  There are also different types of home Internet connection, so be sure your Internet doesn’t come into your house via the telephone line, or you might just find that disconnecting the phone also disconnects the Internet that you plan to use to replace it.  Finally, you need to understand how ubiquitous services such as 911, dial-0 for an operator, and so on work with whatever you switch to.  The last thing you need is to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency only to find your new provider doesn’t “provide” that service, or provides it in a way you’re not expecting.  For that matter, you need to be aware of any other devices or appliances in your home that require a standard dial-up phone line.  That could be anything from a dinosaur-esque fax machine, to something like a cable or satellite TV box that needs a phone line to stay connected to the mothership.  It’s been my experience that many people don’t even know what’s hooked-up and running in their own home, so do your homework before you pull the plug.

As for you, Dale, since you’re already using Ooma, it seems like the only issue you are facing is that not everybody has your existing mobile number. I assume you’re concerned about losing contact with people who only know how to reach you by your home number.  Perhaps you don’t realize that in the modern technological world, you have a capability called LNP, or Local Number Portability.  That means that you, as the customer-of-record who owns your home number, can move it to another carrier, or even to another location. According to Ooma’s website “There are several options when it comes to Ooma phone numbers.  When you register your Oopa Telo online, you have the option to pick any new phone number in almost any U.S. area code.  If you prefer to keep your current phone number, submit a request to Ooma to port your current number to your Ooma Telo.  Porting your existing number might take a week or two.  Once your number has been ported you may cancel your old phone service.”  You didn’t say how long you’ve had your Ooma service, but I also didn’t see any restrictions on their site about how long you have to port your number.  Perhaps it’s not too late.  A call to Ooma Customer Service is probably in order, as they are the ones who would be able to help you with that. 11e0a1b

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