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Experiences with Alternate Local Phone Companies? 346

Posted by Cliff
from the dodging-the-baby-bells dept.
chasmosis asks: "In the last few months, I've moved about 25 minutes outside of St. Louis and discovered that the local baby bell charges exorbitant rates (at least in my view). I've explored alternate local carriers like Sprint and others who have had uncompetitive prices, poor customer service records, or were unclear on things like 'specifically what exchanges can I call that are still considered local calls'. Right now I'm on SBC's Metro plan where I can call to and from much of the St. Louis local area as a local call instead of a toll call. I'd dump my landline entirely and get another cell if I didn't need it for dial up internet, since I live in the sticks and there is no cable, no DSL, and the top speed for dialup is 28.8. What are other people using for alternatives to their local telephone provider? What are your experiences, good and bad?"
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Experiences with Alternate Local Phone Companies?

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  • saveonphone.com (Score:5, Informative)

    by TexTex (323298) * on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:43PM (#6248489)
    Check out http://www.saveonphone.com. They've got a listing of some of the top alternate carriers with their basic stats listed. Many of these use the same lines as major carriers so you're not necessarily getting a lower-quality service.

    Maybe of these can switch your local and long distance. I went with Total Call International due to the cheap intrastate rates...which often are more expensive than LD rates. And they bill every 6 seconds with no monthly fee. So when MCI called to earn my love back and I told 'em the rates, the rep said

    "Oh...well, yeah. You got us beat." ...ken
    • Re:saveonphone.com (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tyrdium (670229)
      "Oh...well, yeah. You got us beat."

      This ought to be setting off alarms for people using MCI. It seems (to me, at least) that they simply don't care enough about a single customer to even try to keep them. The good thing about smaller companies is that they need your business, so chances are you'll get better customer service than with a larger telco.

      • I use TCI. I love TCI. TCI resells Qwest. I don't like Qwest.

        TCI answers their phones, and has empowered customer service folks. A couple quirks on billing early on where they were not doing the auto-credit card if your bill was under $6 or something. But, now they do the charge no matter what. They are dirt cheap and they don't have any stupid fees, no matter how little you use.

        I simply don't understand why people aren't using them more.
      • Funny. MCI was like the original internet big ISP. And thats exactly what was said 5-7 years ago. MCI was too big to provide good customer service in the ISP business like local ISPs could.
  • Personally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rusty0101 (565565) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:44PM (#6248496) Homepage Journal
    I use Vonage as my non-cell phone. However this is because I do have a Cable modem connection. So this is no help to you.

    If you can live with the Cell phone for phone service, you might want to look to DirectWay, or StarBand (or others) to provide Internet service. Response times might not be as fast as dialup, but even with fair use caps, you will probably get better data rates than dialup.

    Good luck.

    -Rusty
    • I use Vonage as my non-cell phone. However this is because I do have a Cable modem connection.

      I've seen their ads locally. But can you put their VOIP modem behind a NAT router?
      • It's not a modem. It's a terminal adapter. And it runs standard SIP, so any SOHO router you didn't pick out of the trash bin and spent more than $10 on should work.
        • o any SOHO router you didn't pick out of the trash bin and spent more than $10 on should work.

          I assume this also goes for a linux 2.2 box running ipchains as a NAT/MASQ router?
          • I assume this also goes for a linux 2.2 box running ipchains as a NAT/MASQ router?

            You can keep assuming, or check if your setup is SIP aware. I have no idea, as I don't think that PCs belong where firewalls are supposed to go.
          • Yes, should work fine.
            Worst case is that you need to portforward some ports, although with a proper stateful (2.4 series) firewall you're good to go.
      • I have a Linksys AP Broadband Router, with the Cisco TA, directly connected to one of the hub ports. The Linksys is doing NAT against several devices in my apartment, including the TA.

        A lot of questions are addressed at the vonage web site. When I signed up for vonage I did have a linux box (debian, kernel 2.2.something) acting as my NAT gateway, and never had a problem.

        -Rusty
  • Get the cell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alethes (533985) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:44PM (#6248499)
    I'd get the cell for all the voice calls and just keep a very cheap, basic landline service with no long distance plan just for your internet access (assuming your ISP is a local call).
  • McLeodUSA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Verteiron (224042) * on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:45PM (#6248507) Homepage
    Mcleod is available throughout much of the midwest and doesn't completely suck. I've been with them for about two and a half years now and haven't had any major problems with 'em. They offer all the same services as Ameritech/SBC/whatever and cost a little less. And local calls are just that, local no extra charge. I'd never even heard of "local toll calls" before reading this article.
  • i live in st. louis (Score:3, Informative)

    by honold (152273) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:46PM (#6248508)
    and the largest bell 'competitor' around here is birch telecom [birch.com]. they compete on price and service, but afaik still use sbc's line facilities. due to anti-monopoly laws, they're forced to allow this.

    i've never used their residential service but i know of some small businesses that use them and were pleased with the service.
  • by Lysol (11150) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:46PM (#6248514)
    I use my cell exclusively for voice. So when I needed static IPs for my servers, and thusly DSL, I called up the good 'ol local monopoly, er, I mean, phone provider here in nyc - Verizon - and it was a whopping $19 for me to just have a line. I told the Verizon lady, no caller id, no long distance, no nothing - there will never be a phone hoooked up to it.

    Turns out, the Verizon charge is about $9 and the other $10 are taxes. But still, it's a rip. That means if every citizen in nyc has a land line, there's gonna be at least $100,000,000 in tax revenue. A month! How about a tax break on that?
  • talk america (Score:3, Informative)

    by anthonyclark (17109) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:46PM (#6248519)

    Talk America [talk.com] gives us good service. We pay 50 bucks / month for unlimited local and long distance (within SE Michigan). It's cheap to call my Mum in the UK. The only problem we have is that ameritech used to 'pulse' the dialtone to tell us we had voicemail.

  • Sprint PCS (Score:5, Informative)

    by chunkwhite86 (593696) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:47PM (#6248522)
    Check out the "Vision" service from Sprint. It's an extra $10 a month for unlimited usage. There is a USB data cable which lets your sprint phone (I have a Sanyo 4900) work as a USB modem - and yes, it works with Linux. The Sprint Vision service gives you a digital connection at about 56k.

    They don't advertise it any more and they don't sell the cable any more. Check ebay for the cable and make sure you have a compatible phone.

    Here's a HOWTO for it. [natecarlson.com]
    • Re:Sprint PCS (Score:2, Informative)

      by leinerj (115797) *
      I have a sprint phone with the Vision plan, but BE AWARE they do charge you for the connection to a laptop with your phone. Any sales rep will tell you its free, but check your bill. They want you to purchase a pcmcia data card instead. The reason I signed up with them was for the unlimited data rate with my laptop, but it only applies to web ON your phone.
    • An extra $10/mo for unlimited is a pretty good deal. AT&T's data plans go from $7.99/mo for 1MB transfer to $99.99/mo for 100MB transfer. Speed is a little faster than 56K dialup. Forget that.

      If you can deal with the 14.4K speed, even old school 2G CDMA phones can do dialup with a data cable. It uses your airtime minutes though, so I hope you have free night and weekends.
    • I have the Sanyo 4900 and I got the cable at Radio Shack for $20. It didn't come with the software, but they don't have any software for Mac OS X so I didn't care. Mac OS X does have built-in drivers for the phone so I was set.

      $10 a month for unlimited data is great. For a while it was our primary Internet connection, now we've got a cable modem. No additional charges (we were on a lot) and >56k speeds. This is our only phone and it's been great.
      • I had the same cable from Radio Shack, but this cable does not recharge while you are online, so after 3-4 hours you have to recharge your phone.

        I searched on the net and found this cable [gomadic.com] that does recharge while you are on the net too, it's 15 bucks. I got the cable and returned by Radio Shack cable.

        And the good part is that the cable came with a small size cd that had the required software for windows (and also PIM updating tools for the phone), but I never tried this out, cause I use my phone only in L
    • Re:Sprint PCS (Score:2, Interesting)

      by phylus (468215)
      You will also get your service yanked for this.

      I have heard of people who were obviously using their cell phone as a modem, which is not allowed in their ToS.

      Sprint will basically tell you to either buy their real data connection with those Merlin cards ($100 a month I believe), or pay for all the bandwidth you used (1 or 2c/kb I believe).

      I would not recommend going the "PCS Vision through Cell Phone to computer" route unless you're very courageous/stupid.

      If you absolutely have to, and don't want a loca
  • by heldlikesound (132717) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:48PM (#6248528) Homepage
    Mind you the through-put is about 1b/s.

    Good luck Kimosabi!
  • I know its not great, but it is better than dial-up in the booneys, I know. But depending on your dial up provider it can be about the same cost as the phone line bill + the internet service bill.

    Just a thought.
    • Yeah, I am heading into the same situation. Retreating from busy areas, just too much agro :).

      Checked satellite, buts kind of expensive and fails to work with:

      Online games
      Linux

      If those two were covered we'd be ok with Satellite, but that latency and lack of Linux support is a killer. What I mean by Linux support does not equate to offical support, just that yu plug in and setup as you would witha static IP on DSL.
  • by ZPO (465615) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:48PM (#6248533)
    There are a few basic kinds of CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers).

    1 - Local Facilities based: The CLEC has an independent CO (switch site) in the local area and can either extend facilities to you (not likely unless you are buying 2-4 DS1s+ of service) or extend POTS/DSL/DS1 service via copper loops from the closest LEC (local exchange carrier - the old baby bell) exchange.

    2 - Non-Local Facilities Based: The CLEC's switch is located somewhere else and simply trunked into the area. They CLEC may or may not have direct colocation in the LEC's COs.

    3 - Reseller: The CLEC just takes your order and passes it to the LEC to fulfill. Its still the LECs lines, switch, numbers, etc.

    There are also myriad variations on the above. In general if you can get service from a local facilities based CLEC go for it. Most of them aren't really setup for residential (not profitable), but you may get lucky in your area.

  • by homer_ca (144738)
    Company uses a couple PRI's from AT&T for local phone service. They provide the service, but the local loop still belongs to SBC. We got a pretty good rate due to our volume. Install support when we switched over was incompetent to say the least, but no problems since then.

    No matter who you use, they'll still end up reselling the local loop from the baby bell. Only exceptions I know are if you get phone service over digital cable TV or VoIP like Vonage.
  • Too late for you, but checking into all aspects of a new area are part of my moving process.

    Broadband important? Choose a neighborhood that is supported by broadband. Don't move to where there is none, and then bitch about it.

    Local phone service not up to par? Well...that's another decision point in the move.

    "I've moved....and discovered..." does not count.
    If it is important to you, find thse things out before you move.
    • No kidding, when I decided to move I made sure there apartments available within highspeed areas before I looked at anything else. There are other considerations, rent, is it a slum, has it been condemned, have I located employement within the area, have the last 7 tenents died in drive by's, etc. But surely anyone can see those are minor compared to whether or not the apartment is within the service area of a broadband provider.
  • by Archfeld (6757) * <treboreel@live.com> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:51PM (#6248556) Journal
    They are small, only in Calif and Minn. but there service is fully fiber to the house, they offer phone, cable, and TV at SUBSTANTIALLY LOWER prices than COMCRAP and they offer a better selection of channels. The only downside is the phone is not self powered like the old landline princess phones on a ma-bell connection. So when the power goes out, your phone is out as well :(
    but I've got a cell for emergencies like that.
  • by RandyF (588707) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:55PM (#6248578) Journal
    From what I have found you have these options:

    1. Satalite (good speed but the lag time causes problems with session-based protocols such as VPNs)
    2. Line of site microwave (I'm not going to pay for building a tower on my place!)
    3. Paying for a fiber/cable/T1 line (way too expensive)
    4. Forming a "bandwidth coop" where the locals string together cable modem lines and equipment and share a single connection somewhere (there was an article on /. sometime back about this)
    5. Two cans and a string (Bandwidth is just way too slow...)

    Another option is an idea for a grass-roots company to bring high-speed to the last mile...

    good luck.

  • I have Knology Phone/Cable/Cable Modem Internet service and it is pretty good. The pipe the phone calls in over TV Cable. Not really sure how it works. They put this box outside the house and run wires out of it into the main phone line box. No special phones or anything like that. I get all 3 for a price of around $100/month.
  • by John Murdoch (102085) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:56PM (#6248587) Homepage Journal

    Hi!

    What may be a very good option for you to consider is improving your Internet connectivity and then exploring VOIP (Voice Over IP). DirecTV has a satellite data arm called DirecWay [direcway.com] that offers two-way broadband via satellite dish. (We have considered it, but only as a fallback to our existing circuit.)

    Once you have the broadband, look at VOIP...
    Once you have broadband, you might want to look at VOIP, especially Vonage. They will assign you a number and provide "local" calling service to every exchange in your "home" area code(s). VOIP quality is improving, and there are more and more people in the newsgroups providing helpful advice.

    Is this the BEST solution?
    Your mileage may vary. This is certainly a cutting edge solution--and, as the old adage goes, it may be hard to stay on the cutting edge without bleeding. If you're looking for better bandwidth anyway, it's worth taking a look at.

    • I second this motion.

      In fact, if you have yerself a Mac try out Mac2Phone [mac2phone.com]. It's unbelievably reliable, works well EVEN WITH dialup, and is damn cheap.

      In fact, I'd venture to say it's the best VOIP solution out there right now. Calls Landlines, you'll get a free IP Phone...it's all a great deal, and a great service.

      Best of luck, and look into all of these solutions (Also see the bit about Verizon's wireless card and a cell carrier. That would be the second option I suggest. Scroll down for it. =p)

  • by ||Deech|| (16749) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:59PM (#6248611)
    I've recent switched to Excel for all my calls.

    I pay about $50 a month or so (I think closer to $60 after taxes) for unlimited long distance and local calls, plus caller id, call waiting, forwarding and several other options that I don't even use.

    Service has been good. Billing has been accurate and on time. I don't have any complaints at all. Particularly since I'm no longer being forceably FDA'd by SBC anymore.

    I can't find the url for the offer I have. However, if you drop an email to deech "at" free "dash" source "dot" com, I'll be happy to send you the phone number from my flier.

    (quotes are punctuation discriptions, not text)

  • Such as one of AT&T's older one's allows unlimited EVERYTHING for $100/month. As long as you don't use the net on your phone.

    It sounds like a lot, but if you split the phone amongst two people, and have lots of friends across the country, it's a good deal.
  • Get a cell phone... (Score:3, Informative)

    by burnsy (563104) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @07:00PM (#6248618)

    And get a card like this for your laptop/desktop.

    Sierra Wireless Aircard 555 [verizonwireless.com]

    • I have and use Verizon Mobile Office. Basically, I couple my cell phone with a cable to my laptop to get (whoopee!) 19.2 Kbps Internet Service.

      It's slow (esp. compared to my 1.5 Mb DSL) but it's real nice when I'm on the road and have an issue to take care of.

      I don't think this card would be a replacement for broadband...
  • If you like Cox... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by donutz (195717) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @07:01PM (#6248629) Homepage Journal
    You should check out whether your cable company offers digital phone service. Cox Communications [cox.net] does in many locations, and they claim to have similiar uptime to regular phone service, but much cheaper prices.

    I would have gone with them when I moved to California, but at the time they didn't have the service available in my neighborhood. I'm still hoping to check them out sometime.
  • Having no problems (Score:3, Informative)

    by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @07:02PM (#6248636) Homepage Journal
    I've been using one for about six months. $50/month with unlimited long distance (and about $5 for the line charge to the CLEC). NOTE: I also shill for the service. Click link for details. Yes, it will hit you with some MLM info. But just click on the 'local phone service' button.

  • by obsid1an (665888) <obsidian@mchPLANCKsi.com minus physicist> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @07:03PM (#6248646)
    A friend of mine got rid of his land line, but there was a fairly serious (for him) consequence he didn't plan on. The local pizza places don't deliver to cell phones.
    • Get the first one take-out, and tip 'em so they'll remember. They'll deliver after that.
    • by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @07:53PM (#6249027) Homepage Journal
      So make your own pizza. It's not hard. Buy some frozen crust ($.79 or so) and leave it on the counter before going to work. COme home, roll it out. Can of Furmano's tomato sauce is $.79. Brick of good whole milk mozzerella is $4, i use about half. Then, do it up how you like. I add some grated romano to a half cup of ricotta, black pepper, minced garlic and finely chopped pineapple and put a layer down before the mozz.

      10 minutes at 500F and you can kiss PizzaHut goodbye.

      Don't let the stodgy food industry keep you or your family from decreasing your communications costs! I spend around $220 per month in those (cell phones for me, my wife & my mom $97, telephone $35, i-net & cable $90) and would love to reduce. But i'm so lazy!
    • This will change with time, and has in most places. I haven't owned a land-line in years and have never had a problem ordering pizza. In fact, I know quite a few people now who don't have land lines. I think this is getting more common and the pizza places will have to adapt.
  • by The Lynxpro (657990) <lynxproNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @07:05PM (#6248662)
    $50 a month for unlimited local and long distance; call waiting, caller ID including on call waiting, call forwarding, and some other feature. I like using my landline because even if I use my cordless, my head doesn't hurt after using the phone, unlike with my mobile phone. And just the satisfaction in knowing that my money is in no way going to SBC's profits brings a smile to my face. I look forward to telephone service via Comcast Cable next year. The Baby Bells are as good as dead...and not in a Whedon-esque version of *dead* either...
  • T-Mobile (Score:3, Informative)

    by RedWingsSuck (644332) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @07:06PM (#6248668) Homepage
    I recently bought a Sony Ericcson ti-68 from amazon. It was free after rebates, and it is bluetooth enabled. T-Mobile has an internet service plan that is about $20 for unlimited access, I think. Pair the phone with a blue tooth enabled computer and you get about a 56K connection. I tried it while on vacation, and it worked great with my 12" PowerBook. I don't know if this is feasible with Linux or Windows, but you might look into it.
  • I use Comcast Digital Telephone Service [comcast.com] through the cable for local and long distance. Haven't had any issues with the service and I've even changed the set up a few times without any problems. Anything is better than Michigan Bell/Ameritech/SBC
  • Verizon customer service just plain sucks. When they were GTE it was fine, but now it's just Evil. Don't go there.
  • I live in the Kansas City area, and we are pretty much all SWB here. However, there is one alternative called Everest [everestgt.com]. Let me tell you, these guys rock. They are extremely cheap, and the offer phone, internet, and cable. I pay less than $100 a month, have all the channels I want, a phone line, and cable internet. It doesn't get any better!!
  • A while back, when we moved into the apartment before the one we're in now, we decided to give MCI a chance. The price was good, the calling was good--but it was 9 weeks before the phone was installed. When we moved apartments into the one we're in now, it was going to be another 4-12 weeks to get the phone service transfered. (We called Verizon, and got it done the same day.)

    Unless you have to share your phone line with another person, or need it to connect to an ISP, my suggestoin is to skip the land
  • I won't comment on the phone, but being a dialup user myself I know how much it can suck. And if the best I could do was 28.8 you better believe I'd have a satellite dish on the roof. Jeez, why even bother at that speed?
  • Any of the "local" providers that advertise on TV that will "get you connected for $XX.95" are no good if you ever want to get a car loan or mortgage.

    A friend recently got a car loan and they asked for her home phone number and she said she just had a cell, and they said that for any loan company to approve a loan, you need to have a home phone provided by a major telephone company. (They specifically mentioned SBC, Verizon or Sprint) I suppose this is because people would get a phone line with the no nam
  • MCI's Neighborhood (Score:3, Informative)

    by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @07:25PM (#6248842)
    Although MCI is one of my clients, I pretty much have no problem being critical of their services when I need to. (I certainly don't have a problem switching between any carrier to find a better rate or service.)

    About a year ago, I changed over to their combined local telephone service + long distance service called "The Neighborhood". Meaning, there is no longer a bill from a local telephone company. And there is no longer a bill from a long distance carrier. The Neighborhood provides both.

    It is a flat-rate service for residential use for calling within the US. Meaning, make as many calls as you want, local or long distance, for as long as you want. At the end of the month, you get an itemized phone bill. It contains the flat-rate fee (approx $70 with all the charges added up for me) and lists each and every long distance call placed, and at $0.00.

    For me it is several pages. And what is interesting is that when I add up all of the minutes, the end result averages to be as if I paid $0.02 per minute for long distance, and got my local telephone service for free.

    Other features are thrown in. Voice mail. Three way. Speed dial. Caller ID. Call waiting. Call waiting Caller ID. Probably some other things I forget.

    I had one outage that affected me and the entire residential area around me. It was fixed right along with everyone else.

    Anyhow, I'm pleased. I was paying as much as SBC charged for local service + caller id + metro plan. Now I get that much, more, and unlimited long distance. My variable rate phone bills have disappeared.
  • Starpower (RCN) they offer a full package of cable, phone, and cable modem. If you take the shop-around price of each of those components, they offer the phone service for 20% less then Verizon in this area (Washington, DC)

    They have provided exceptional service so far. I have had one phone outage which they fixed as quickly as verizon/bell atlantic ever had, and they were better able to diagnose their network (ie. didn't need to come into my home and make me wait there for several hours while they mucked
    • This message was posted over my RCN cable modem connection. I use them for local phone service, too, and have been very satisfied with their service.

      I'm thrilled that none of my money goes to verizon.....

  • I use SWBell for local calls only and my sprint cell phone for everything else.

    The prices our outrageous and there are no competitors in my area.
  • Every time this comes up, that's my response. In my member owned coop, and by the way I live 25 miles from town, in Alaska, and I have excellent phone, DSL, even voicemail. And once a year I get the excess back in a check, after the services are improved. I believe we have between 2,000 and 5,000 members.

    Why be a sucker and pay for some limp-weiners alimony and mid-life crises? Member-Owned Cooperative, Yeah baby!

    Weird News [xnewswire.com]

  • I use my cellphone for any and all calls I make. It's $10 more per month, and since I get unlimited evenings/weekends, I just get long-distance people to call me instead, and all is well. Plus, I can take it with me, I can turn it off whenever I want, and I get voicemail too. Funny thing is, a local land line with voicemail would cost about the same. Go figure.

    --Dan
  • by Urox (603916) <luthien3 AT juno DOT com> on Thursday June 19, 2003 @08:23PM (#6249220) Journal
    I got hit hard when I found out that CA had not only inter-LATA charges, but INTRA-LATA charges.. basically toll charges within a given area. Then I found out that Costco offered toll phone service.

    Costco will give you any needed local or long distance charges through their provider. The company is MCI, but you are getting it as if you were going to provide it to other people rather than end user MCI service. You're getting what the phone companies buy.

    5 cents a minute, no monthly fees, and you are billed on 6ths of a second. My SO and I got tired of times when the bill was lower than the cost of a stamp so we sent them a moderate size check and haven't heard from them since.
  • by freeBill (3843) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @08:24PM (#6249228) Homepage
    ...although their services may not be what you need.

    I was running a small business which did about 10,000 minutes a month on its 800 number and had relatively modest data requirements. They split a T-1 (half voice lines, half data) and gave me a good price for three services (local phone, data and long-distance). The quality was far superior to what we had been getting from our Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) provider (Qwest).

    If they offer what you need in your area, I would definitely recommend checking them out.
  • Full T1 from Birch is only $390/mo. (free router, free install, block of statics). Split a channel or two off for voice, sell some bandwidth to your neighbors. Voi la...in the end (assuming you have a few interested neighbors) costs no more than local phone service (or less....pays for itself). Just be sure to throttle your neighbors data access. Of course if by "20 minutes outside of St. Louis" you mean in Illinois, well, your screwed. IL (where I used to live) is telco and broadboand no-mans land wit
  • I used Telebright to figure out what was the cheapest provider for me (it turns out the cheapest provider was Power Net Global). Telebright is on the up-and-up and Consumer Reports actually forwarded me to that site (Consumer Reports strives to be as vendor-indifferent as possible). You type in your calling patterns (e.g. 600 minutes/month evening 200 minutes/month daytime) and they'll tell you what the cheapest plan is (from MCI, AT&T, Sprint, and other providers). Telebright makes their money by ac
  • by spacefrog (313816) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @09:28PM (#6249630)
    Although I am not quite in the same boat as the poster, the following combo works out pretty well for me.

    Just for reference, I live in northern San Diego county, California. I can not get DSL (too far from C.O.) nor can I get fixed-point wireless (we tried, but there are trees in the way and my H.O.A. sort of owns the trees). I run a business from my home. The services I use serve me for both personal and business use.

    I have cablemodem service with Cox. It rocks. The downstream is awesome. At night it has sometimes even beat the supposed 3mb maximum that the cable company claims.

    I can get an analog phone line from PacBell or a hybrid phone line from the cable company, where they put a box similar to a cablemodem at my junction (demarcation) point. I don't have either.

    I have $39 service with Vonage, as many other posters do. At least with my net service, it is awesome. Sounds about as good as a land-line and has every feature you could ever want included in the base price... Unlimited LD, caller id, callwaiting, callwaiting id, voicemail, incredible forwarding options, etc.

    I have a cell phone from Sprint. Sprint isn't the best company around, but the damn thing works and is priced right. I have more minutes than I could ever dream of using and for like $14 a month I put my mom's handset on my account. Soak up those extra minutes! When I get around to buying a new phone I will be able to use their 64-144k service.

    Lastly I have a J2 fax mailbox. It gives me send and receive fax capabilities without paper cuts, a fax machine, or even an analog modem. It just works. About $10 a month.

    I keep the vonage number on no-answer forward to my cell and everything eventually dumps into my voicemail.

    This entire combo runs me about $150 a month for basically the ultimage telephone/pager/cell/internet/fax/voicemail/cablev combo I could come up with. $150, flat, no long distance charges, etc. I know a lot of people who pay $150 alone for their landline or cell phone bills alone. Other than rent, food, and auto-related stuff, that is the extent of my fixed monthly expenses.
  • CoreComm (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrkurt (613936) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @09:57PM (#6249859) Journal

    As you can probably tell from my URL, my ISP is CoreComm [core.com]. They are also my telco (I'm too far away from the CO for "real" DSL), as I still have dialup. They have been my telco/ISP for three years now, and my monthly charges are still about $15 a month less than what I was paying for Sum Bitchin' Communications (aka SBC) and Prodigy at the time.

    The service from CoreComm has been pretty good (one day of outage over the past three years); a while back they added a spam filtering service that does a good job of catching spam and redirecting it out of my inbox. If you are looking for a new telco and they serve your area, you might check them out.

    My biggest problem has been with MCI Worldcom, which was my former long distance carrier. Those assholes kept trying to bill me for service I did not have with them; as late as last summer they were trying to bill me for monthly service, even though CoreComm is my long distance company. After screaming at a couple of customer service reps, they finally closed my account. If financial shenanigans don't sink MCI Worldcom, bad service will.

  • Cavalier (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sternn (143817) on Friday June 20, 2003 @09:35AM (#6252939) Homepage
    Cavalier (CavTel) kicks much arse. For anyone on the East Coast who can get it, do so. They are about half the price of Verizon, offer more services, and are extremely helpful when you call them.

    And plus you don't have to deal with Verizon.

    The only problem is Verizon doesn't like it's customers switching, so as others have pointed out getting switched is an issue. Verizon screws up the orders on purpose usually meaning you will go a day or two without service. Verizon is losing you as a customer, so they really don't care if you complain or not. I know of a dozen or more people who have had them kill their service a few days early when switching.

    And Verizon also tells techs your loop distance from the CO is too long when you order CavTel DSL. However a few persistant phone calls will force them to actually send out a tech who will report this is not the case.

    In fact, two friends who had Verizon report to COVAD their loops were two small got sales calls from Verizon trying to sell them DSL just a week or so after they were told it wasn't possible.

    My suggestiong is any solution other than Verizon is good. They are evil bastards.

    -S

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