Thursday, April 19, 2007

Boy, Does This Suck...

When I kicked my evil roommate out a few years ago, I was faced with suddenly paying to run a household entirely on my own. I had to batten down the hatches and tighten my belt.

I'd considered moving to a smaller place-- I had a three-bedroom apartment on the North side of Chicago, with a hook-up for the washer and dryer I'd kept in the divorce from my ex-wife Cynthia. But the fact of the matter was that my son's mother kept moving from one part of her bad neighborhood (Humboldt Park) to another, at least until I bribed her into moving to a better neighborhood, and I'd come to realize that this was the place that my son was going to consider home as he grew up. I decided to do what it took to keep the place. That meant taking every single extra shift I could get at my second job, as a waiter, and to figure out ways to save money.

I did (and still do) a lot of shopping at Aldi's. I started setting the thermostat lower to cut down on gas bills. I never had dinner out. My only indulgence was to keep cable and broadband. I justified it in that it kept me in the house, rather than going out. And I started using my cell phone as my only phone.

The last one turned out to be a pain in the ass. Cell phone reception has always been terrible in my house. It got annoying trying to carry on a long conversation.

I considered going back to having a land line. Then I recalled my bad experiences with Ameritech/SBC or whatever the hell they were this week, and the fact that I owed them money still, and that was out.

I found out about Vonage, a "VOIP" phone service-- a phone service that used your broadband line to provide phone service. It was unbelievably cheap-- less than 30 bucks a month. They included all the services like caller id, call forwarding and call waiting that the regular phone company charges extra for. Long distance within the North American continent was included, and overseas rates were dirt cheap-- I could call my friend in Singapore for 5 cents a minute!

I ran by Best Buy and got the kit; they had a rebate for the cost of the kit. I hooked it up without any problem, and have had excellent, problem-free, cheap service since then.

Of course it was too good to be true. The communications giant Verizon is suing them for an alleged patent infringement. It'll go around and around the courts until 2009. Hopefully by then, Vonage will have found alternate technologies. But this morning, Vonage released its annual report and it was blunt-- that things are not looking good. There's a likelihood that they'll go under.

With the possibility they're going under, it's going to be hard to convince more new customers to sign up, virtually assuring that they will.

With the horrible tragedy in Virginia this week, I keep it in perspective-- it's not much more than a nuisance, really, but it sucks seeing a little guy getting crushed by a giant.

12 comments:

cheer34 said...

I'm glad you kept your internet connection.

Anon. Blogger said...

I'll second cheer's comment.

I'm sorry to hear about vonage. I was considering a switch.

Technology and communication are eating my budget alive.

Beth said...

Damn those selfish Verizon bastards!

deadspot said...

Nobody roots for Goliath.

Skylers Dad said...

We use VOIP in the business I am in now. The clarity is generally very good, but there are times during peak traffic that are a bit shaky!

I will third cheers comment.

Danielle said...

We have VOIP through AT&T. It really sucks however when you have a cable outage or problems with the router which I have had to deal with. But all in all can't beat the price especially if you call internationally which we do at least 3-4 times a week. Another good thing is that AT&T isn't going any where any time soon at least.

Be well and enjoy the day

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I hate it when they have to mess with a good thing like that, especially just after you've discovered it.

Natalie said...

when we became a single family household we got rid of all but internet and cable as well. Until recently, it has sufficed to keep us entertained and in the house. I haven't had a home phone in AGES.

Coaster Punchman said...

That sucks. I have those Verizon bastards as well. Try Skype - it's free over the Internet.

Coaster Punchman said...

Oh, and that roommate story sucked. (Not the story, but the situation.) It's bad enough getting a roommate you don't know well when you're older than 25, but then a crazy one...

Johnny Yen said...

Cheer 34-
So am I-- lots of cool bloggers out there : )

Anon-
Thanks!

They're not out yet. I recommend their service, but if I didn't already have their service, I probably wouldn't get it for fear of them going under.

The cell phones alone can kill your budget, even with the family packages.

Beth-
I'm tellin' ya!

Deadspot-
Yeah, he's getting kind of a complex about it.

Skyler's Dad-
Thanks!

The only time we've had any problem was obviously when the broadband went out, which has been less often than the phone company had problems.

Danielle-
Yeah, it seems like pretty soon AT and T will be "The Phone Company" again (President's Analyst reference)

Barbara-
I'm checking out Skype, which I think is owned by ebay, so they should be around a while. I'm not doing it until I have to.

Natalie-
The New York Times had an article about this phenomenon a couple year back. It's amazing-- millions of households are doing it now.

CP-
Thanks-- I did check out Skype yesterday-- they look pretty good.

The weird thing about the evil roomie was that we'd known one another for years and hung out a lot. Something happened to him at some point. It was bad. The last few weeks, I considered asking my ex to keep my son at her house until whacko had moved out-- I was that worried about his behavior.

Erik Donald France said...

Dude, an Aldi opened a couple blocks aways from where I live. It's a pretty cool place in many ways, especially for the cashiers. Cellphone issues suck. One teacher I know uses Skype all the time, wears his little headset and chatters away all day for free.