If you're like me, you look at that big phone bill each month and wonder, do I really need this? Isn't there a lower-cost alternative?
Many consumers are cutting the cord, so to speak, and dropping traditional land line phone service in favor of digital phone service. Digital telephony works over the Internet instead of over traditional telephone wires; technically, it's called voice over IP (VoIP). You've probably seen digital phone service offered as a bundle option by your cable company, and there are several companies offering Internet-only phone service for much less than you'd pay for traditional land line service.
For example, I pay about $70 a month for unlimited calling from my local land line provider. That's pretty hefty considering the small number of calls I actually make each month. I could switch and lower that expense to less than $30 a month, or go with my cable company's digital voice service for an attractive bundled price. That's big savings -- and one of the chief advantages of digital phone service.
Your own comparisons may vary, of course, but it's likely you can save 50 percent or more over what you're currently paying for land line service if you go the digital phone route. You also get access to your home phone from any Internet-connected computer, so your home phone number can follow you around when you travel. Many digital phone providers also let you check your voicemails from your computer.
In terms of how it works, let's look at your cable company's digital voice service as an example. When you sign up, you'll get a new cable modem that has a phone jack on the back. You can simply plug a phone into your modem and start talking. Even better, your cable company will come out and connect their line to your house's main telephone circuit. This way you'll have digital phone service throughout your entire house.
As attractive as digital phone service may be, there are some potential downsides. For example, if you lose your Internet connection or your electricity, you lose your digital phone service. (Your traditional land line phone keeps working even when the power's off.) Digital call quality can also be variable; most people don't have any problems, but I know a few folks who complain about tinny, echo-y calls from time to time. If in doubt, test it before you commit.
You may also run into problems with other services in your home. For example, many fax machines don't work on digital phone lines. And if you have a home security system, you may need to tie your alarm into a land line phone instead of a digital one. Think through everything in your home that uses your current land line phone; can they make the switch to Internet-based phone service? If you're not sure, check with the device's manufacturer or the service's provider. It's always good to ask in advance.
If you do your planning and testing, though, you very well might find that switching from traditional land line service to a digital phone plan is not only doable, but also much less expensive.