Friday, January 11, 2008

Making a Choice

I do think the time has come for me to make a big decision here. Either I have to resign myself to dealing - coping, is a better word -with the slow, contrary dial-up service I have or take the plunge and sign up for Broadband Services with our local TV cable company.

My cousin sent me an e-mail a week or so back after I had posted the mini-rant about how long it had taken me to load a tiny video to my blog that I need to either move to a high-speed provider or just accept the dial-up -and lower cost -for the lower quality service it also provides. Bite the bullet is pretty much what he was telling me.

Yesterday, after spending a lot of time online, getting very, very frustrated too, as I was trying to pull up my telephone bill so I could pay it, (not all of the problems there were due to the dial-up though), when I finally was able to access it, the amount due was $20 more than it should have been. I had changed my phone service back in August to a plan offered that would give us unlimited long distance calling in exchange for a flat fee per month. I figured by eliminating the long distance calling charges each month, having a set price there, would give me a tiny bit more control over my finances. A cousin of mine had told me about this service with our local phone company and she said it had worked great for her and her husband so I figured I had nothing to lose and switched to the "Freedom" plan.

When I saw the amount due I started looking at the details then on my bill and discovered a $5 increase in costs to the base plan as well as another charge to something labeled as "ESBI" for almost $16. In checking back on this ESBI thing, I discovered I was being billed for voice mail and it had been added, supposedly, to my service on November 27th. How this happened, I have no idea but I contacted the ESBI number to inquire about it and was told someone had signed up for that service for my phone number and the name given of the party who had done this didn't belong to anyone in this house nor did it belong to anyone any of us had ever heard of either. Considering all the hoops I had to go through to get into the online site to pay my phone bill - all kinds of security-type questions, passwords, etc -it kind of surprised me that there were not similar checks and balances for someone to add something to my bill that would increase it by $16 a month -plus that I never had any such service either. (Of course, if I didn't know I had voice mail, how would I know how to access it to see if I had any messages too, ya know?)

So after getting that corrected for and a credit issued for the bogus voice mail, I questioned other charges to my phone bill. Normally, on the telephone bill, it lists every single itsy bitsy tax and fee that add on to the base charges one pays for phone service but on this bill, under the tax and fees schedule, there were six items listed which totaled $6.39 but at the bottom, under the header of "Total" the amount showing there was $12.30. My initial thoughts were that the phone company needed to make some corrections to their program or buy all their help new adding machines. After discussing this with a rep, I was told the $5.91 difference from what was listed out and the total was for the Federal line fee. Boy, these guys manage to get you at every turn ya know. Also, she informed me the base price of the package I am using increased this month from $39.99 to $41.99- a big $2.00 increase. Ok, I argued, then my base bill total should have gone from $49.80 to $51.80 of maybe $51.92, considering a .06 cent on the dollar state sales tax. Right? Wrong! There was still this matter of the $5.91 federal line charge fee - why wasn't it showing on my bill and why was I suddenly having it added in where it apparently hadn't been added in on prior bills? No full explanation was given for this -or at least none that I understood at any rate.

Now, where am I going with this post you ask? I started out with the idea of the switch to Broadband and now, I'm ranting a bit about the phone company? Well, it all ties together here.

I know I am naive about many things - the phone company just being one of them - but I had no idea there are several other telephone companies I could possibly be dealing with. Granted, I have never heard of any of these except for Vartec, which I had at one time for my long distance calls, so I have no clue as to the reliability, dependability, much less pricing of any of these companies. Would any of them offer more or less, in the way of phone services, than Verizon?

I haven't actually gone to the extreme as yet of checking into any of these companies to see what their costs and plans are - even if they are available in the area where I live for that matter - but here's the names of the other Phone service providers: -- ATC Pre-Paid -- Broadview Networks -- CloseCall America -- Curry Communications -- MyLine -- Full Service Network -- NationsLine -- Qtel -- 1-800-RECONEX -- Spectrotel -- Talk America -- TRINSIC and O1E Choice. Anyone here ever heard of any of these companies or better yet, does anyone here deal with any of them and how are they as telephone companies go anyway?

Now, to the internet provider thing -- I know I can't get any type of DSL connection here because the lines needed for that do not extend to the area of the village where I live as yet. Verizon has been telling us they are "Coming soon" to this part of the town but we've been told that for over two years now and they seem to have stopped work on extending that service to everyone. THey are, at this time, between 1/2 to 3/4 mile away from my home now. That figures something like that would happen now since Verizon is offering a package where you can get DSL -if you sign on with them now - for $14.95 per month -for LIFE! WOW, now that would be a deal, wouldn't it? Well, it ain't gonna happen here though cause they won't move to come close enough for me to hook into that program!

But, I can get Broadband service via the local tv cable company and since that appears to be my only option for high speed connectivity, it does look like I am finally at the point where I'm gonna bite that bullet and make the big move. They have a special this month if you sign on for their premium package, which runs around $45 a month for the broadband connection, for the next three months, you get the package at half price - plus, no installation fees either. Sounds good, right? But I really wasn't looking, definitely not wanting, to increase my expenses by $45 more per month. That's a heck of a leap over the paltry $11 a month I currently pay for lovely (NOT)'s dial-up services. Then the lady I spoke to said what I can do is sign on now for the premium package but after three months, have them drop the service to the Mid-Rate plan - not quite as fast as the "premium" one but it only runs about $23-24 a month. Ok, that sounds doable. The biggest problem I have with switching internet providers is how to deal with notifying EVERYONE about my new e-mail address - not just those in my e-mail addy book, but mainly all those places that are online that I subscribe to and can't think of right now, but I do business with throughout the year - how do I find all of them to notify them of my change of e-mail address? Anyway to set up a "forwarding" mail like the post office does?

Now, here's my big question too - how, exactly, do these VoIP plans work? What I've read about them, I gather you have to have some form of Broadband internet connection to get a VoIP plan but do you also have to have a telephone line, such as the one I currently have through Verizon or how exactly then would you operate a telephone on a VoIP plan anyway?

I'm wondering if there are any VoIP plans that are available in my region that would cost less than what my phone service is going to run me now per month (roughly $55 a month), that would give us the same type of phone service with unlimited long distance for a lesser fee and if I could then eliminate the Verizon expenses then completely?

Remember, I said at the beginning of this post I am really naive as hell as to how the telephone systems work ya know.

So if anyone out there has any knowledge about these things and is reading my blog, please feel free to comment - give me information much needed - or e-mail me!

End of that rant and before I end this post, here's just one more bit of "bathroom" humor, ala Maya that I found amusing albeit it off-topic here.

I've told you before about our trials with Maya and the potty training, as you will recall. She's doing great with using the potty for one factor - and has had no wet accidents for almost two months now. However, getting her to use the commode to go "poopie" still has not been achieved. She flat out refuses to do that and when she feels she needs to "go" do that, she will go to the changing table, take out a pull-up, remove her clothes herself and don the pullup, then as soon as she does her business, she comes and gets one of us telling us she needs "Dry pants."

Last night, after yet another episode of her doing that, as I was changing her and talking to her while doing so about the benefits of using the big potty for this, I reached over and emptied the contents of the pullup into the commode and flushed it. As I was doing this, Maya commented on the "poopie going bye-bye" and I said yes, it had. Told her that if she would do "plop-plop in the pottie" things would be much, much nicer all around ya know.

And she looked up at me and said, "NO. NO. NO! No plop-plop of the poopie in the pot!"

Guess she told me didn't she?


Vic, the Cariboo Ponderer said...

I know nothing about Voip. It is offered with my satellite but I haven't investigated it. I don't make many long distance calls anyway and we pay .7 cents per minute. I assume the other personal has to have Voip as well but I am not sure.

Saedel said...

Hi Jeni, here's my basic understanding of VOIP.. I hope one of your readers correct me if my info is inaccurate...

VOIP means Voice Over IP (Internet Protocol), which means you can have a regular phone number on top of your internet connection. You can call a regular phone (landline or cellular), and vice versa. From my experience, it is free. All you have to pay is the internet.

However, since it sits on top of your internet, if your connection is intermittent, VOIP will be choppy and can be frustrating, particularly if the provider is a new company.

As for my current internet connection, I have DSL and my provider is Verizon. The line it uses is the same as our landline phone number. To separate voice (phone) from data (internet), the line is split (using a splitter provided by Verizon) and the one for DSL uses a filter (Verizon-provided also) to avoid loss from noise. I only pay approximately $15 a month just for the internet. It is cheap because it is from the package I got from 2 years ago, and the speed remains the same.


Travis said...

Well, I can't help with the VoIP business. I have broadband through Comcast Cable. I don't keep a home phone, just my cell phone.

Dave said...

Saedel's description of voip is to my knowledge accurate. Another alternative if you have cell service is to drop the wire phone service completely and get broadband card serviced from either Verison or AT&T. That's what I did. I no longer have a home phone. Cell service with 500 minutes and long distance is $35.00plus all of the annoying add ons. Broadband wireless through the card is $59.00. If you use it on a laptop, it goes anywhere with you.

Smalltown RN said...

well my friend I am not the computer person in our household that would be my hubby....our internet access is via cable ADSL...and telephone and long distance calls are all through my phone company. Now with the cable thing....we were paying far to much money...until hubby got us the statellite which took over our TV problems and increased our viewing capabilities 100% and decreased our cable fews by about $75/month. I will ask him for his imput and then send u a little email and let you know what I find out...

fermicat said...

I hope you get high-speed internet access because I know you will love it. We have ours through Comcast. I can't help you with VOIP though. We've never used that.

Maddy said...

Can't help you on the technical side except to say that dial up is the sure and certain path to insanity.

On the potty front, just as well she's there to prevent you going insane with the dial up!

Minnesotablue said...

Jeni: I have service through Qwest, our telephone company. I had to much trouble with dial up and besides no one could get in touch with me because of the line always being busy. My regular phone service is through the same company. I buy a phone card through sprint for long distance as I have several family members out of state. I'm sure I could make it easier on myself but it works for me

Linda said...

I'm not sure on all of the technology involved but I would have to say that just the act of cutting your stress alone would be worth the extra money for broadband. Dial-up adds years to your life like you wouldn't believe!

Dottie said...

I'm not too familiar with the VOIP either. I could not live with dial up anymore, not since we've had broadband through Charter Communications. We do not have a land line phone; we have cell phones.