Unbundle Yourself: Part 4 - VOIP for Phone and cutting off our Bell Bill completely

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By Ed.

After watching our landline bill from Bell (Basic phone service, no calling features, unlimited Long Distance Calling in Canada and the US) go up steadily for several months, we have been spurred to action.

As Robin said last week, "Why -the bleep- are we paying $67/month so companies can call us all day long to try and sell things?"

So, today I began a summer-long experiment to fully remove Bell from our lives. It isn't as easy as you might guess - most Internet connections require a basic phone hook-up for access - but we are giving it the old college try. Read on to see how we're getting started.

We're telling Ma Bell, "let's try taking a break", but we fully intend - like anyone who ever says that - to dump her expensive a$$.

So, step one in getting rid of local Phone service is to sign up with a Voice Over Internet Protocol(VOIP) Provider. This is a service that uses your Internet Connection and existing home phone to replace your old phone service. You could go home-phone free, I suppose, but we like the idea of having a phone number for the kids to give to friends and for family to call that is "our home" and not a cell number.

Check out this insanely simplified graphic from rankmyvoip.com

Anyhow, before you get all VOIP excited, make sure your current internet connection can handle the traffic. There are many websites out there that run VOIP speed tests. I used this one from 8x8inc. It produced a fancy report to show me what I had already assumed - our connection is VOIP friendly.

Lots of speed - and remember, we only have a basic, DSL connection (the slowest speed they'd sell us).

Next, I decided to do a little search and make sure the VOIP I signed up with had decent reviews. Try Rank My VOIP or GoneVOIP (for Canadians). The comparison information is wild - unlimited Canada-US calling is included in almost all plans and many of the other features you'd pay for (Caller ID, etc) are included too. It is unusual to find a service costing more than $20/month!

After doing some reading, we chose top-ranked Phone Power for a trial. We signed up for a full year to get a discount (plus, if you do a search, there are Promo-Codes to be had too). The full year cost us a little more than 2 months worth of Bell Service.

So, that's it for now. If the VOIP bundle works as promised, our next step will be to contact Bell and officially cut service with them. We then have to pay for a "Dry Loop" from our Internet provider. This will cost $8/month; truly a drop in the bucket when compared to what we were paying for phone. More on this next time (if all goes well).

We'll let you know how all this goes over the summer.

Anyone VOIPing right now? How does your overall bill look?


  1. We'd love to go back to VoIP- used to use voange when we had Rogers Internet. When we move we could only get high speed dial-up and they told my husband that we couldn't get a dry DSL. Mind you getting a phone from bell was unbelievably difficult. You'd think we'd moved to a remote article location not just 10km outside of town. They kept telling us that we couldn't get a phone in our location even though the previous owners had a personal and a business line. It was a grand adventure- it seems that the problem (ok there are many) with bell is that they grid was established so long ago that they don't even know where some of their equipment is located. I can imagine that integrating the modern infrastructure with existing lines and mapping locations from old paper records to computer files left some holes in their info. But we pay them enough to fund that upgrade. It took us 3 days to get a phone line and 2 weeks to get internet. My husband logged hours on his cell phone to finally find someone who could connect us to the internet. Turns out my father-in-law (retired bell tech) phoned a friend who could physically locate the equipment and plugged in a card to connect us and then we had to call to have the work order created for the already completed job. Bell makes me crazy. If we were closer to a large centre, we'd have more providers available to us. And now that we have our bell line, we planned to go dry, too and VoIP our phone service.
    Thanks for this info, we can use it to test our connection and shop providers. I appreciate your tech posts- I know the info is out there but on tech sites, I find it hard understand. I can do it but it feels like wading through boatloads of info written in your second not-so-proficient language- you may understand it but you have to translate every sentence in your head as you go. It hurts my brain, so thank you for translating.

    1. Wow - that sounds like a super-Gong-Show of Bell interaction. My folks are on the border of Bell service for Internet - Fiber lines finally went in and they are soon going to be able to get off the 4G internet (and the crazy data costs associated with it) soon. Maybe they'll come your way next.

      I agree with your assessment of Bell's infrastructure. And personally I get that sometimes they have trouble getting all their records straight. What drives me insane (and more to follow in our next VOIP post) is how, on the day I was scheduled to disconnect and switch to a new service, they called and offered me "An extra special plan for loyal customers like me" - featuring lots of services I didn't currently subscribe to. Like getting me to sign-up for a two year contract with them for all our various TV-Phone-Internet needs was some sort of deal for me.. Why weren't you just offering me your best deal before Bell? Why do I have to take my business elsewhere to get offered a terrible bundle deal? Do I sound bitter? Good.

      Anyhow, like I said - more to follow. Thanks for reading and the comment and glad to know you like our tech translations. Sometimes I'm not sure if I ever really fully translate...


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