smart spending

4 ways to cut your phone bill

One disadvantage of VoIP phone services is that users need more than just a telephone and landline to make a phone call.

For starters, users must have high-speed Internet access and may have to download some computer software. Vonage also requires the use of a special phone adapter and Skype requires a computer headset. MagicJack is a product in and of itself that connects a phone cord and a computer's USB port.

VoIP users have reported problems with the quality of phone calls made over the Internet, and consumers have reported varying levels of success when contacting their provider's technical support teams.

Another concern with alternative telephone services is if your Internet goes out, your phone service goes out, too. Ditto if your electricity is interrupted.

"If the power goes out, it could be a problem," Taylor says.

He recommends buying a battery backup package, which can keep a computer running for about one to two hours after electricity stops. These generally cost about $100 at an electronics store.

The ability to make 911 calls over Internet telephone services is another concern. In many cases, when users set up the service, they're required to provide a physical address for emergency response units, and that address stays in the user's profile.

However, if the user moves any equipment to a different location without updating his or her profile, problems can occur.

"You don't want to call 911 and have the police show up at your old location," says Taylor.

Before signing up for any Internet telephone service, be sure to read some of the company's online reviews first.

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