3/17/06

VOIP and Vonage

I've finally gotten rid of my ISDN phone line I've had since April 1998. I had an ISDN line back then for two reasons (if I remember correctly). First, ISDN gave me a faster data connection to the Internet than regular dial-up. This was way before DSL of any type was available where I live. (I live 36 miles from the White House and 30 miles from \ downtown Baltimore—hardly the boondocks.) It also gave me related lines, one I used for voice and the other for fax. And the ISDN connection for data did not use either (if I remember correctly. A third bonus, but not necessary for me, though it would come back to bite me: It gave me a "foreign exchange"; I have a Columbia number though I live in a small town west of there. When I moved to two-way satellite as my "always on, high-speed Internet connection (I used to tell people in my classes, when it came up, "It is absolutely the greatest, if you have no other choice.") I stopped using it for ISDN data connection, but kept the 2 lines to keep the numbers I had for years and because it was less expensive than ordering 2 different local numbers.

Recently, I decided to check out Vonage (pronounced "VAH-nidj," by every employee of theirs I talked to, by the way, not a French "vo-NAJ"). It seemed like a good deal. I decided to sign up for the "$14.99 Basic 500" package. I gave them my phone number, 410–309–6910, and they said they could transfer it. (There were a few caveats.) I did not try to transfer the fax number; I only get junk faxes on it and I can hook a computer up to any phone line to receive a fax in an emergency. Everyone I deal with uses e-mail.

Vonage sent me the Linksys VOIP router. They gave me a temporary, "virtual" number, plugged everything in and it worked! The outbound calls identified themselves as being from my number (the one they were trying to get). Sweet. Inbound only worked, of course, to my new, virtual number. My old number would ring on my old line.

A few weeks later, they gave me the news that they could not transfer my number until I removed the ISDN and the foreign exchange attributes. I asked Verizon. They said to remove the ISDN, I needed to cancel the ISDN and then call residential services and ask for a new residential phone with my old number, which they would hold for 45 days. I did it and waited. Vonage contacted me again. No, go. They cannot take over a disconnected line. I need to get the line back from Verizon. Then Vonage could do it. I just had to make sure it had no foreign exchange on it.

Do you see where I am going? I cannot get that number as a local number; it is not local to my home. Someone suggested I just ask a friend to register it from an address local to him. Think about that a minute. Neither Verizon nor Vonage will give me or allow me to take over a number at a different service address.

The bottom line is that I had to give up the office number I've had for 7 years, and start using a new number. I had to tell everyone who might need it, what the new number is. (I am still doing that: credit cards, banks, frequent traveler programs, etc.) Still, most people e-mail me.

I was grumpy about it for a few days. But, I am very happy with Vonage, it's features, and the service.

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