Home > Essays, Whining > Let’s talk nickles and dimes — ditching the landline

Let’s talk nickles and dimes — ditching the landline

Talking Nickels and DimesWhen I was a kid, I saved my money for trips to the candy store. Well it was technically a “stationery store” but I rarely made it past the front counters which featured many nickle and dime options for satisfying my desire for sweets.

Years later, some in my college cohort had other cravings that could be satisfied by nickles and dimes, though under these circumstances it meant getting set back by $5 or $10.

Now it seems our collective hunger for data and communication services are getting us nickled and dimed to the tune of $50 to $100 month. My Road Runner bill from Time Warner is about $50, but they’d like to get me up to $100 with digital cable, video on demand and phone service. My cell phone bill from Verizon is about $50 but they’d love to sell me 3G for only about $30-$50 more a month. And Verizon would also like to get me to ditch my cable for a FiOS bundle, for a low introductory rate of — wait for it — $100 a month.

So far, I’ve managed to resist their schoolyard-dealer introductory offers. In fact, I’m actively trying get clean of some of my recurring monthly expenses. And since nearly all of my phoning is done either on my cell phone or at work, I’ve decided it’s finally time to ditch the home phone (a former land line I converted to a Vonage VOIP). But even though its main use now seems to be building a voice mail archive of telemarketers’ and candidates’ recorded messages, I’m hesitant to give up the number completely.

I confess to having the fantasy of being pleasantly surprised by an old friend finding that number on a scrap of paper and calling me on a whim. And who knows, there might be some financial interest I’d forgotten that’s linked to that number.

Yes, I know the odds of my ever actually needing that number are slim to none. Still, I thought, if there were a way to keep it cheaply then why not? After some research and reading on the subject, I decided it was worth the one-time fee of $20 to port my old home number to Google Voice, which would still be able to notify me when calls came in and transcribe them to email messages, which is basically all I was doing with Vonage.

The catch (of course there’s a catch) is that, owing to the vagaries of regulations governing number portability, Google Voice will only let you port a number from a wireless provider. Which means I needed to find the cheapest way to convert my Vonage line to a cell phone before I could then move it on to Google Voice.

While I located enough information (like this) to develop a general plan, I don’t feel like I was ever fully prepared for how this process would work. And while it’s far from over, I think I’ve got enough ground covered that it’s worth documenting what’s happened so far:

  • I got a new phone. I settled on Net10, which appears to be a slightly more upscale branding of TracFone. I bought a Net10 LG-320G from Best Buy for $15, and spent another $15 at Net10.com to get the smallest amount of airtime to activate the phone — 200 minutes. Had I finished my homework I might have saved myself $10 by going with TracFone (a $10 phone and 50 minutes for another $10), but I confess that reading about all the plans and bundles was making me dizzy. Anyway the $50 total is still less than 2 months with Vonage.
  • I activated the new phone. It was pretty easy at Net10.com, using the option labeled “Transfer my number from another company to NET10.” However when I was done, it looked like Net10 had assigned me a new number. Okay the documentation said it might take a few days, but after two days had passed I started getting antsy so I fired off a tech-support email (rather than spend 30 minutes on hold). I still haven’t gotten a response but I think that’s okay because…
  • Net10 FedExed me a SIM card. I had no idea this was going to happen. Following the enclosed instructions, I replaced the existing SIM card and magically the phone reported that it had my old number! And calls placed from the Net10 phone showed up on caller ID the same way! Unfortunately, calls made to the old number are still being answered by the Vonage phone. Eventually I found some info on Net10’s site that suggests the process could take a month.

Sadly unless the planets align and my number switches over today, it looks like I’m going to have to pay Vonage for another month. The good news is that everything I’ve read says that porting your phone away from Vonage appears to be the easiest and surest way to cancel that service (which I learned you should not do before porting, or you will lose your number). Also it’s the only way that doesn’t require you to talk to a Vonage rep.

Interestingly, in the process of checking out how I would cancel Vonage (in case I actually needed to do it myself, which doesn’t seem to be the case) I discovered they offer an online-only, 300-minute “keep the customers who want to leave us” plan for $12 a month. Not that I would have stuck around, but I’m a little miffed that this doesn’t show up as a “Change My Plan” option.

I guess they figured I was already hooked.

  1. June 23, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Update: The good news is that the port went through. Kudos to Net10! Unfortunately (1) the port was effective at 12:06 AM on 6/24, which is the first day of my Vonage billing cycle, (2) I’m still getting dial tone and (3) they apparently stop taking cancellation requests at midnight. Well, here’s hoping they can be reasoned with but I won’t be surprised if I end up having to pay them the full month’s rate for six minutes of service.

  1. June 24, 2011 at 9:37 am

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