Getting rid of Bell: still a head-spinning exercise

The debate at home about going VoIP with Vonage for our main phone line heated back up at home yesterday. It’s something we’ve been thinking about for months, and according to our calculations we’d save $40 a month – but it has two main impediments:

  1. We use DSL for our internet connection and are not willing to switch to cable. “Dry” DSL is now an option (DSL service without local phone service on the same line) but it’s so new no one seems to know about it.
  2. Our security system requires that we have phone line monitoring. Nevermind the fact that we get reamed out the ass paying for it. And we’re locked into our contract until the summer of 2007.

(1) is no longer an issue, now that “dry” DSL is available – DSL without Bell phone service. #2 is still an issue, though it might be possible to get it to work over VoIP.

I called up my ISP to ask them abou dry DSL and they didn’t have a lot of answers for me unfortunately. They said to switch my line I’d have to fight Bell tooth and nail, and also that Bell still requires that you pay for using their wires even when they’re not providing service on it.

I poked around online and found another provider – TekSavvy out of Chatham, Ontario. They mention dry DSL right on their website so I figured I’d call them up to talk about it. Well, I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with a fellow named Bill who answered all my questions and generally impressed the hell out of me with his candor and straightforward facts. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Yes, Bell still charges your DSL provider for using their copper when Bell isn’t charging you for phone service. In most places, that’s $16.99 a month. HOWEVER, that fee is currently unregulated (Bell set it themselves) and the CRTC is expected to set this fee in the next few months. It’s likely that the CRTC will force Bell to lower it. Right now, for my dry DSL, it would be $16.99/month on top of the DSL service.
  2. It is really hard to get Bell to convert a currently active phone line with DSL to “dry” DSL. They will fight and bitch and complain. Also you might be without any service for two or three weeks. BUT, if you have another free line running to your house (and you probably do – they always run lots of extra copper for future service), it’s much easier to get them to bring up dry DSL on that unallocated line. The wait time is still 2-3 weeks but since they’re not losing any money out of the workorder, there’s less crap to cut through. Once you get DSL up on the other pair, you can cancel your phone service and the other DSL service. You might have some overlap for a while though, but it sounds like less of a mess.
  3. If I wanted Vonage to keep my existing phone number, I’d have to ask Vonage to take it over when I activate their service. Yet another reason to do point #2 (get a second DSL service temporarially) first, because if I cancelled my phone number without Vonage taking it over, I’d never get it back.
  4. I even picked the guy’s brain about running my security system over VoIP. I’ve read about some people doing it but he said there are two main problems:

    the reason the security companies are so dead-set against internet monitoring is because of insurance and possible outages. If your internet went down say four or five times a year, that’s considered a lot of times. They are very slow to change their tune because they’re afraid of not being able to provide reliable enough service, and of losing their insurance coverage. And insurance policies take forever to catch up to technological advances.

    the reason that you will have problems trying to trick your security system into running over VoIP is because VoIP is asynchronous – only one side transmits at a time. Normal phone service it, by definition, synchronous – both ends of the line can talk and hear each other simultaneously. Security systems talk like this and need a synchronous connection. Your VoIP provider would have to be able to switch very fast between the two ends of the link while your security system is talking in order for the connection to work. I think this is what I have read about where people phone up Vonage and get them to change some setting on their line which improves the security system communication

What I would kill for is for my security provider to just install and support a dialer capture module like this one. It tricks your existing system into thinking it’s talking to a phone line, while retransmitting the data over the internet using TCP/IP. Boy, would I.

So that’s a lot to think about, but it’s also more information than I’ve ever gotten on the subject. Many thanks to TekSavvy, I might just be calling them up for my new DSL service if I can solve issue #2.


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2 replies

  1. Good post. Phone companies are nearly impossible it seems. Glad more players are entering the market, hopefully with higher service standards and ethics.

    Can Vonage acquire cell phone numbers from Bell as well? What about other carriers?

  2. Helpful post, got me going in the right direction and then I hit the brick wall of Bell. Spoke with one of their drones about getting my existing DSL-only line converted to dry loop and they said they don’t do that. Then I called back and asked another drone about installing a dry loop from scratch and was told it was only offered as part of their own ISP service, in which case it was free. So the Bell access costs more but then I can eliminate the line costs… out of the frying pan etc..