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Magic Jack Internet Phone Service
Old 04-20-2008, 03:53 PM   #1
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Magic Jack Internet Phone Service

Two yrs ago I switched off Verizon for basic home phone service to Cavalier Telephone and my monthly bill dropped from about 80 to 42 bucks. Cavalier is fine with me, but when added to our $135 cell phone bill for 3 lines, we're were still spending almost 200/month and the hard line is almost never used.

For many months now, I've been trying to break free from the psychological dependence on having a land-line at home, when along comes this late nite infomercial advertising the Magic Jack service. Since I was unable to sleep, I went online in the middle of the night and ordered the service. I was not very attentive to the details, so I banked on the 30 day free trail period. The device is 39.xx and 19.xx PER YEAR for the service. I signed on for the 5 yr plan for a total of $96.xx. I did not opt for "expidited delivery" and my Magic Jack arrived in about 3 days.

I looked into vonnage (24.95/mo), but the 911 interface spooked me. Supposedly Magic Jack's 911 interface is more direct. The install was a bit clunky, but it did self install and was up and running in less than 10 min. Quality was awful until I went to the site and downloaded a patch....voila! We've only had it for two days now and so far so good.....could this thing really be this good? Anybody else tried this?

magicJack - Official Homepage
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Old 04-20-2008, 05:33 PM   #2
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Interesting! I had never heard of it before and the price is right. Easy access to 911 is a big plus, too.

This is something I will consider, instead of just dropping my landline as planned (after ER and moving north).
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Old 04-20-2008, 05:43 PM   #3
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The only reason I keep a landline is because it works on a different power source and for enhanced 911 services. According to Magic Jack's website, it does not.

Quote:
Does 911 service work with magicJack?


Yes, 911 Emergency Services works with magicJack. In an emergency, dial 911.

Please note that magicJack may not work during a power or internet outage.


How do I get 911 Emergency Service on magicJack?


Register your current US address during the registration process.

Please make sure that your address information is complete, up-to-date and accurate. (If you travel, you must update your 911 service address.)

Wait for a confirmation email that your 911 service address is registered. Dial 911 only in an emergency. Our 911 service is different than 911 service offered on traditional phone lines.
(Emphasis added)
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Old 04-20-2008, 05:49 PM   #4
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Ohhhh!!! Maybe I am done considering. It's not even the same 911, and then there are the potential power outage problems.

Thanks, Leonidas.
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Old 04-20-2008, 06:14 PM   #5
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I have had Vonage since January 2004 in two different homes in 2 different states. I have 911 service. No issues. I will never pay for a land line again.
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Old 04-20-2008, 06:41 PM   #6
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The biggest issue is that you are dependent upon both your internet provider AND local electric utility. If either goes out, this service will not work. Landlines have thier own DC power. I think I am personally ok with the 911 issue since we have at least four cellphones in the house at any given time. I have heard that by law even non-activated cellphones have 911 service, so that could be an option for some. I dreamed the other night that it was a scam by the telemarketers and my new number can't be put on the "do not call list", so Im going there now to register!

I am hoping to find someone who has the service and knows of other limitations or problems before I cancel the landline.
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Old 04-20-2008, 06:46 PM   #7
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The biggest issue is that you are dependent upon both your internet provider AND local electric utility. If either goes out, this service will not work. Landlines have thier own DC power. I think I am personally ok with the 911 issue since we have at least four cellphones in the house at any given time.

And when there is a major weather event -- Katrina, major snow storm, etc., the cell phone transmissions are immediately taken over by emergency services until they can stablize the situation. That could be several days. I think back to a major snow storm last year in Seattle that had people without power for two days at least. I went 4 days without power (also means your local gas station can't pump gas!)

Basic phone service (land line) is available -- you have to ask your carrier. They won't like it but they will sell you residential service without all the bells and whistles.
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Old 04-20-2008, 06:53 PM   #8
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And when there is a major weather event -- Katrina, major snow storm, etc., the cell phone transmissions are immediately taken over by emergency services until they can stablize the situation.
These major weather events usually take down land lines as well...
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Old 04-20-2008, 07:12 PM   #9
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Vonage immediately defaults to my cell phone if either the ISP or power goes out. We had no issues using cell phones during the 2004 hurricanes (3 of which hit us) in Florida.
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Old 04-20-2008, 07:54 PM   #10
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In Missouri I'd be more concerned with ice storms that can knock out electricity for a few days, so I suppose landlines would be better in a situation like that. However, I could recharge my cell phone in the car. Vonage would not do me a bit of good! I won't be retiring near hurricanes. REWahoo is right, at least for Katrina, after which both cell phones and land lines into and out of New Orleans were affected. It matters not to me - - I will be up north loving ER in snow country!
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Old 04-20-2008, 08:06 PM   #11
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I've tried all sorts of voice over IP setups.

They work great if your internet connection is really good. That has nothing to do with download/upload speed and a lot more to do with latency and jitter.

If you dont know what those latter two terms mean, you'll have to learn when something doesnt work right or you find that most of the people you're talking to seem to be living in a dumpster with the lid shut, and gargling with marbles while they talk to you.

Because the ISP will say that they dont guarantee VOIP to work unless its theirs and blame your VOIP company. The VOIP company will blame your ISP. Both of them may blame your router and/or VOIP box.

It worked fine for me with one carrier in one location. It worked fine for me with the same carrier in another location just before they stopped providing tech support, dropped a firmware upgrade to my VOIP box that made the phone ring at 3am on a regular basis, and then abruptly went out of business and took my phone number with them. The replacement VOIP provider worked well for a while, then sporadically badly. I bought a new router that emphasized the priority of VOIP traffic. I bought a new cable modem. I had the cable company replace a hundred yards of cable through my yard and my neighbors yard. Neither of us was particularly happy with that. Shortly after I gave up and went back to a landline, that company also went out of business overnight with no warning.

I like cheap. I dont like being central tech support for three companies all of which can easily blame the problems on one of the other two.

As a point of interest, all land lines are allegedly required by law to be allowed to dial 911, whether you have service or not. In practice, I've found that unless I activated a phone line with money, I had no dialtone. Maybe if you ask.

Many of these VOIP services send your 911 calls to the right place. Some send to a PSAP, which may or may not be located anywhere near you...the call is then routed to the right place after you tell them whats wrong and where you are. Enhanced 911 (e911) if supported in your area supposedly solves this.

Cell phones dont work if your area loses power and your local cell tower doesnt have battery backup. Which only lasts for a certain period of time.

AT&T (the local carrier in my area) has a $40 a month deal you can only get on their web site which has unlimited local and long distance, all the call features, voicemail and so forth...just like the VOIP providers. Its a bit more than $25 a month or $30 a month. But so far all the calls work and I havent had to spend 50 hours trying to troubleshoot a bad call connection or spend a while understanding why latency and jitter in an ISP connection matter.

For what its worth...
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This Service was made for me
Old 04-20-2008, 11:14 PM   #12
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This Service was made for me

Thanks for feedback....still hoping someone with this particular tool will come along, but CFB pretty much covered all the potential pitfalls (thanks!) I should brace myself for....I am already panicky everytime laptop siezes up thinking its the phone. For a variety of reasons none of the issues bothers me, and I did mention this service is under twenty bucks per year, right? So, on with the trial.

I ran a test of the voicemail feature and it sent me an email with .wav file...didn't know it did that! One of the problems with the landline is nobody will check the messages.
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Old 04-20-2008, 11:31 PM   #13
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The only reason I keep a landline is because it works on a different power source and for enhanced 911 services.
Just make sure that your land line phone does not need external power. Many of them do - they won't work if power goes out.

I've got the CallVantage - I was thinking that if power went out, I could plug it into the inverter I set up for my sump pump. But I don't know how long the ISP would have power, either.

That's what cell phones are for, I guess. It is set up to automatically forward to the cell if the connection is dead - I tested it, and it does.

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Old 04-20-2008, 11:32 PM   #14
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I ran a test of the voicemail feature and it sent me an email with .wav file...didn't know it did that!
That is a sweet feature on VOIP. I just forwarded one to my wife recently - here, you listen to this, I don't know what this lady wants...


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Old 04-20-2008, 11:46 PM   #15
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To extend CFB's experiences, about where he diverged with the replacement VOIP carrier for the one that went bankrupt, I am still with that carrier, for my office line. For my home, I'm on Time Warner VOIP phone service, and both are able to work during power failures by virtue of my local Battery Backup/UPS. It was a few hundred $$, but it also provides me with power for the computer during those same power failures. I can extend the time for the phones, by not using the computer, and given the relatively low power requirements of the VOIP modems, they will operate for many days. I always believed that some backup power was a good idea anyway, if the need was that critical. Now if Time Warner (my Internet provider) lines are down, or they lose power due to the storms, then I have other problems. We periodically lose service due to backhoe fade, for both line carrier and Time Warner. Getting better though, as road construction seems to have slowed down some in the neighborhood.
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Old 04-21-2008, 08:39 AM   #16
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As another point of interest, a certain 3 year old now knows all about calling 911 when theres an emergency. Losing his stuffed monkey just before nap time apparently qualified.
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Old 04-21-2008, 09:03 AM   #17
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Try this experiment: talk to someone over the VOIP line, and have them count to 10 along with you.

Using Skype, the latency that you might not notice shows up using this test, you'll be about one number ahead of the other person. Haven't tried this on a regular phone.
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Old 04-21-2008, 09:22 AM   #18
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Also, try saying "Over!" when you're done talking...
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Old 04-21-2008, 09:32 AM   #19
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I have a couple of comments:
-MagicJack works by plugging into the USB port on your computer
-their VOIP service is reputed to be better than Vonage

One thing that surprises me is all the concern about 911 during a power failure. I have never used 911 and I think the odds of needing it during a power failure is just about zero. Did I mention that I live in a penthouse, and the response team will need the elevators working?

My biggest concern with Magicjack is their long-term financial viablity. But I think I might try them anyway. Five years for $96 works out to $1.60 a month which is a lot cheaper than my current LD plan and the second line is free. Plus I can take the line to PV for the winter.
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Old 04-21-2008, 09:45 AM   #20
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One last tidbit. These VOIP guys all have to pay for their connection to the actual phone system somewhere. Some of the more expensive guys monitor their connections and have a broadly distributed network of connection points so that they maximize use of the internet before coming out very close to the wired phone on the other end of the call.

This is both good and bad. It means the quality can be good if they've chosen a good quality connection partner and they keep an eye on the connections. It can be bad because some people using some of the better connection points that are working well may say that a particular VOIP provider is terrific, while someone stuck with a lousy connection that nobody at the VOIP company has checked in six months might have an awful experience.

This (and the variability of individual internet connections) explains why you read reviews for a particular service and find they have wildly skewed results, with some being great and some saying the call quality stinks.

Some of these el cheapo guys may have one or two big connections from whoever gave them a deal the cheapest, which may work great sometimes and might turn pretty lousy pretty quick. The connection might just be someone with a rented trunk line and a switch.

Financial stability is also an issue. Sunrocket was gleefully collecting multi year pay in advance deals right up until they day their web site turned into a single page "We're out of business! Sorry!" message...
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