If you would like to buy one of these, you can visit this amazon link for the ooma. Full Disclosure - there is an affiliate code in that link which makes me some pocket change to fund my amazon habit, but if you don't want to do that, just remove the "gregable-20" from the end of the URL.
Ooma is a little device which gives you a landline phone with unlimited US long distance calling for a fixed monthly rate of free (the only cost is upfront in buying the thing). The only prerequisite is a high-speed internet connection (cable, dsl, etc).
You plug your ooma into your internet line, plug your computer (or router) into the ooma, and then plug in any standard land line phone into your ooma. The phone now works, dial tone, everything. You get a phone number in the area code you choose, or can transfer your current number to it. Incoming calls ring the phone, outgoing calls come from that phone number - nothing unusual. It is VOIP, but the quality is totally fine as far as I can tell.
I was paying about $25/month for a local-only land line in my apartment. I looked closely at the bill and realized there was an additional $15/month or so of fees and taxes on top of that. So just about $40/month total. Ooma is currently $200, so I'll break even at 5 months. I find myself using my cell phone a little less too if I'm home, so I might be able to drop that down to a lower price package. The only possible risk is that ooma is a startup and they could go under leaving me without phone service. They just raised 16 million dollars about a month ago, so it seems to me that the gamble of them lasting 5 months is pretty safe.
That's the basic description, but it isn't a barebones system. Ooma is pretty well designed IMHO. I've been looking around for something like this and did my research:
- The hardware reminds me of something apple would make - it is cool looking, easy to use, and "just works".
- Unlike Skype, it is 100% free to use after buying equipment.
- Unlike Skype & MagicJack, it doesn't require a computer to be left on all the time (or a computer running a specific OS).
- Ooma sits between my internet connection and the rest of my computer network, so it can throttle down downloads or whatever when I'm taking a call, it is able to manage packet priorities so the call is never degraded by computer use.
- Even if you do not have a separate landline service, Ooma can plug into your landline jacks and comes with the Ooma scout which communicates to the base over your house's landline jacks so that you can plug in another phone anywhere else in your home that you have another landline jack. You can buy more scouts if you want.
- If you plug in two different phones into the base unit and the scout, you literally get two separate "lines" that you can talk on simultaneously or you can easily join them.
- Works with 911 when you register your address with them.
Anyway, worth a thought as a cost saver and cool gadget. I am biased though, the more people who buy them the more likely mine will work longer, and yeah if you buy through my Amazon link, I get a couple bucks.