And take years off your life expectancy…
Back in 2011 when my wife lost her job I began looking in every crack and crevice for ways to save every penny possible. Having explained my predicament to a few co-workers, one suggested I try out Google Voice as a replacement for my landline service, and I did. For the most part the service was acceptable, getting better over time. And did I mention the price? Not counting the $20 fee to port a number in, it’s free as in beer! But quite unfortunately in the fall of 2013 Google announced they would be ending XMPP support the following spring. This means the OBi 100 analog telephone adapter that connects the copper in my house to the cloud would cease to function. 🙁
So spring 2014 rolls around and I finally start researching alternatives. I find numerous free or nearly free services, some of which would even allow me to use the SIP protocol with my existing OBi ATA. But the setup was very un-user-friendly, and involved, and I had other projects to work on. So I foolishly decide to take the path of “least” resistance, and opt to try one of the “as seen on TV” brands available in my local big-box retailer. NetTalk was the first attempt. Unfortunately I wasn’t smart enough to check my number portability with them, and had I thought a little harder I probably would have spent the extra time and money to port to a pre-paid cell phone before I returned the adapter to the store.
Next up was Magic Jack (the new 2014 plus version). Having read extensive negative reviews about this company’s technical support (or lack therof), I was extremely reluctant to dip my toe into this cesspool, but I only had a week before the sky was going to fall and XMPP went away, and I don’t generally need technical support for anything unless it comes in a pill. So I held my breath and jumped in. To my suprise, after porting the number in the thing worked quite well. Obviously the cost ($40 for a year of service, plus $10 to keep your ported-in number) was significantly higher than Google Voice’s awesome freeness. But it’s cheaper than going back to AT&T for the staticy buzz of POTS dialtone, so I figured what the hell. In all I was more or less satisfied with the service. When my internet was working, so was my phone. Call quality was acceptable – the only complaint being poor call quality on the other end when my upload bandwidth utilization was high. A little QOS fiddling should solve that if I ever find it worthwhile.
Fast forward about 4 months, and I see an email from the manufacturer of the OBi 100 ATA stating that Google has reversed their decision to end XMPP and will officially support it for the forseeable future. I took this as happy news, but again made a moronic decision not to immediately drop everything and start the process of porting back. Had I realized I only had 6 weeks remaining on my Magic Jack subscription, I would have acted somewhat expeditiously to switch back. But instead I procrastinated until the day I picked up my cordless phone to call my parents and got the “your subscription has expired” message.
The next day I sprang into action. First order of business is porting my old landline number from MJ back to a pre-paid cell phone. And sadly, two hours and six different service reps later I’m still on that order of business. It took three different AT&T reps before I got to someone who spoke english proficiently. This lovely lady named Gwen (mis?)informed me that Magic Jack would not allow the number to port through without paying a $30 fee. This enraged me somewhat, but I followed her advice and contacted Magic Jack to pay the ransom. Much to my annoyance, no-one there would help me – said I needed to have the port initiated first, and then I would be emailed in order to collect the ransom. Unfortunately it took two different chat operators and two different talking heads to find that out. Evidently, every communications company in the world has outsourced their front line support personnel to Bangalore. I so miss the days when you could call a company and know that there was a human being on the other end. Sometimes they were even decent human beings. Unfortunately these days the language barrier prevents me from developing any kind of dialog to know what it is I’m talking to. Sometimes when I’m using live chat I think I’m talking to a computer.
So I wait. In the mean time, I’m hoping and praying that Google Voice never again goes away. I’m also counting up the reasons why I feel Magic Jack is a sleazy, underhanded serpent of a company and storing that away so like State Farm, I will know never to engage in business with them again.
I just saw the port order confirmation which is scheduled to be completed in six days. I also paid the $30 ransom to Magic Jack to release the phone number I was paying them $10 a year to keep for me. What upstanding citizens. I truly hope porting from the AT&T Go Phone to Google Voice is as painless as it was the first time with T-Mobile. If it’s not I will have a serious debate on the value of having a home phone, when measured against the aggravation it generates and years of my life I’m kissing goodbye in the process.