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Category Archives: Phone

911 Funding Affected by Lack of Landlines

We’re approaching almost 50 percent of Americans having completely ditched the landline phone to only use a cell phone. The reasons for that are many: keeping the same number even when moving from state to state, no long distance charges, always having your phone on you, fewer telemarketing calls. But one unforeseen byproduct of people cutting the home phone cord is that 911 services are losing their funding.

More from the Washington Times:

With landlines rapidly disappearing across Kentucky and the country, the old way of paying for 911 communications services has withered, too. That has left cities and counties struggling to maintain old systems and forced them to scramble to pay for upgrades or buy new systems.

“This is sort of a consequence of the structural changes the telecommunications market has gone through over the past 20 years,” said Trey Forgety, director of governmental affairs for the National Emergency Number Association.

The problem is especially bad in Kentucky, where local governments can charge fees on landlines for 911 services but are not allowed to tax cellphones. Fees from cellphones cover about 20 percent of the total cost to operate 911 systems in Kentucky, yet they account for 80 percent of all calls to 911 dispatch centers, according to Joe Barrows, executive director of the Commercial Mobile Radio Service Board, which collects cellphone fees in Kentucky.

Many state governments are collecting tax on cell phones, but because local governments cannot, sometimes that money does not make its way back to the local 911 infrastructure. More on this story as it develops at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

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Skype Translator Now Works with Landline Phones

Skype is one step closer to becoming a universal translator, with its Skype Translator now able to perform real-time spoken word translations when calling moble and landline phones—meaning the receiving caller does not need to be using Skype for the translation to work.

More from PC World:

Why this matters: Prior to this experimental feature rollout, Skype Translator required both people to be using Microsoft’s messaging app. Now, Skype’s looking to remove that dependence by allowing at least one side of the conversation to be Skype-free. That will make Skype real-time translation much easier to use since users don’t need to figure out a special time when both people are on Skype. Instead, one side just makes a regular phone call from Skype on a Windows 10 PC.

Skype translation to landlines and mobiles sounds like a great addition, but we haven’t tested it yet so we can’t say how well the new feature works. Keep in mind that this is still a preview feature so expect some hiccups.

Using the new Skype feature appears fairly straightforward. Just input the phone number of the call recipient, specify which language each party is speaking, then hit the phone icon to connect the call. Skype currently supports nine spoken languages, including Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Italian, and Russian.

The world is becoming more and more connected, and that’s a good thing in this case.

Only 20% of Households Believe Landline Phone is Important

Acccording to a RAND Corporation study, twenty percent of the households in the United States still believe having a landline phone is important. The survey also found that having a cell phone is 3.5 times more important than having a landline.

More from EurekAlert.org:

Study findings suggest about 90 percent of American households have at least one mobile phone, 75 percent have fixed internet service, 58 percent have mobile internet service and 49 percent have fixed telephone service. Mobile telephone service was the most important service for the typical respondent, followed by fixed internet service, mobile internet service and fixed telephone service, although a portion rank fixed telephone first.

Only 2 percent of Americans report purchasing none of these four services, while 93 percent have some form of telephone service and 85 percent have some form of internet service. Of those Americans with telephone service, about 8 percent participate in a reduced-price telephone program, such as the Lifeline program overseen by the Federal Communications Commission.

The study was based on a survey of more than 6,000 adults who participate in the RAND American Life Panel, a nationally representative internet-based survey panel. (Panel participants who do not have internet service are provided access by RAND.) Participants were asked their preferences regarding landline telephones, mobile telephones, mobile wireless internet, and high-speed or fixed internet.

The fact that nearly half of households have a landline shows that the death of the landline is not going as quickly as many in the business have thought, however. It is not clear how many of those landline customers purchased fixed telephone service as part of a bundle with TV, Internet or other services as many providers offer.

Google Fiber Officially Announces Home Phone Service

Google Fiber, where available, has been making inroads against traditional telecom companies, many of whom offer cable TV, high speed internet, and digital voice home phone services as part of a three-service bundle. Previously, the home phone landline service was not part of Google’s offerings, but now they have officially announced that they are going to provide phone service as part of their bundle as well.

More from the Washington Post:

For $10 a month, Google Fiber customers soon will be able to buy an add-on known as Fiber Phone — a service that, according to a company blog post, appears to mimic much of the functionality of Google Voice. Voicemail on Fiber Phone can be automatically transcribed and sent to your email. You’ll get unlimited domestic calling, as well as international calls at Google Voice’s rates. And you’ll have access to one phone number that can be set up to ring all of your phones — whether landline or mobile.

Google Fiber’s effort to draw in phone customers highlights how the company is becoming more like traditional service providers even as many telecom companies are looking to become more like Internet content firms. Even providers of cellphone service have been shifting their focus away from voice and toward the more lucrative provision of mobile data. Reports this week suggest T-Mobile may soon unveil new phone plan options that eliminate voice service entirely to give you a bigger bucket of data.

Fiber Phone fits within these trends in that it would help customers add some cloud-based functionality to their home phones. But it’s not immediately clear why consumers would pick Fiber Phone over Google Voice. The two services share many of the same features, but Fiber Phone carries a subscription cost and requires an at-home installation that you don’t need with Google Voice. In this respect, Google Voice might be considered a “better” service.

Google Fiber has been very successful in its pilot areas, but has yet to expand to the rest of the United States. It is hard to tell whether this phone addition will help or hurt the service as it looks to expand—currently Google Fiber is only available in one residential community near Stanford University in Palo Alto, along with the Kansas City, Austin, and Provo, UT metro areas, with plans to expand to Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Atlanta, and Southern California.

Google Fiber Testing Home Phone Service

More than three years ago, Google Fiber launched its pilot program in a number of cities and metropolitan areas, bringing high speed internet and cable TV service to places like Kansas City, Austin and Provo. Now the company is testing out a landline phone service to go along with the already existing services, and complete the competition against cable and internet providers offering “Triple Play” options.

More from Ars Technica:

Adding Fiber Phone requires a service visit from a Google Fiber employee and installation of a new piece of equipment. It sounds like Fiber Phone will wrap in some of the features of the Web- and smartphone-based service Google Voice.

Fiber Phone will feature “a phone number that lives in the cloud,” Google said. “With Fiber Phone, you can use the right phone for your needs, whether it’s your mobile device on the go or your landline at home.” There will also be voicemail transcription, spam filtering, call screening, and do-not-disturb. Customers can get a new number or transfer an existing landline or cell phone number to Fiber Phone.

Google considered offering phone service when it first launched Fiber, but the company decided not to go through with it because phone service faces additional regulations.

As Fiber extends to more cities, it should at the very least help to lower prices among cable TV and internet providers in those areas and a create a more robust competition to help the end consumer.

Landline Phones Can Now Send and Receive Text Messages

It wasn’t long ago that every home had a landline phone. It wasn’t long before that when every landline phone was attached with a cord. But cordless phones have given way to cellular phones, and no many homes do not even have a landline, with residents preferring to use their cell phones. Cable companies bundle landline phone at almost no charge with internet and TV services, so low has the value of landline phone gone.

AT&T is trying to put a little bit of value back into landline home phone service, with its new Android app allowing customers to send and receive text messages via landline phone.

More from Android Police:

The latest official AT&T Android app is essentially just a text message service, but it’s exclusively for those customers who pay extra to be able to send and receive text messages from a landline. And boy, do they pay extra – according to this page, it’s $10 for 100 messages a month, $25 for unlimited, on top of whatever they’re paying for the line in the first place. The app is a virtual message bucket, but it does include some advanced features like scheduled texts, auto-reply, and (apparently) a call function, though it isn’t clear if this is some VOIP or reroute solution that uses the landline number or if the user simply calls using his or her cell phone.

This makes a lot of sense if you’re running a business, especially if your clientele skews young. I know some people on the opposite end of the spectrum from dear old Mamaw who would rather poke themselves in the eye than leave a voicemail, so this pricey add-on would allow business owners to cater to their very specialized communications needs. The app is free, but of course it’s only useful to AT&T landline customers.

Other landline home phone providers have yet to capitalize on this technology. Many will probably wait to see how AT&T’s does before creating similar apps of their own.

Sprint Targets DIRECTV Satellite TV Customers

AT&T recently closed its $49 billion acquisition of satellite TV provider DIRECTV, making the company an even bigger giant in the telecom world, and is trying to take advantage of its large new customer base by offering deals to bundle their satellite TV service with AT&T’s telecom services. AT&T’s rival wireless carrier, Sprint, has decided to go after the same customer base, offering a year of free wireless service to DIRECTV customers who sign up with Sprint.

Here’s more on the deal from Forbes:

Sprint will offer DirecTV customers who sign up for its service unlimited voice and text and up to 2 GB of data per month for a full year, while also providing customers an option to trade in their existing phones for cash or have their early termination fees paid for by Sprint. After a year, customers will pay a monthly fee of $50 for the plan. Customers must buy or lease a new phone through Sprint and will also have to pay a one-time $36 activation fee, in addition to the usual monthly taxes and surcharges. The offer is well timed, running through September 30, likely targeting customers who are looking to upgrade to Apple’s latest iPhones, which are due in mid-September. In comparison, AT&T is offering $300 in bill credits to DirecTV customers for each wireless line they port to the carrier, as well as a $10 per month recurring discount, in addition to trade-in benefits for smartphones. This effectively values Sprint’s offer at $600 and AT&T’s offer at about $420 for the first year, excluding trade-in benefits.

The question is, will all of this work? Early predictions show that even though the offer through Sprint has a higher monetary value, AT&T has greater coverage and customer satisfaction. But this could take a chunk out of the money that AT&T hoped to gain immediately through this merger, and that’s probably a victory enough.

Big News for Time Warner Cable

Time Warner Cable has set its special meeting for shareholders to vote on the planned merger with Charter Communications, according to Forbes Magazine. Shareholders of record as of July 28 will be allowed to cast votes on the merger plans. As a result, Charter is organizing a similar, separate vote that same day. The deal can only be completed if it is approved by a majority of each company’s shareholders—this outcome is likely, as it will help both companies compete in a landscape where other pay-TV giants, such as DIRECTV and AT&T, are also consolidating.

More from Forbes:

Time Warner Cable and Charter had announced last May that they had entered into a definitive agreement to merge. Charter is a leading internet communications company and the fourth-largest cable operator in the U.S. The deal values Time Warner Cable’s stock at $195.71/share, which gives the company an enterprise value of $78.7 billion. Charter will provide $100 in cash and the rest in shares of a new public parent company, tentatively called “New Charter,” for each Time Warner Cable share outstanding. Charter had earlier agreed to buy Bright House Networks and the Syracuse-based company will also be a part of New Charter. The deal is currently under review by the FCC and the companies expect the deal to close by the end of the year.

Time Warner Cable’s stock gained around 1% over the week through Thursday. We currently have a price estimate of $198 for Time Warner Cable. For the year 2015, we estimate revenues of $23.7 billion, in line with the consensus estimate, and EPS of $6.86, compared to a consensus estimate of $6.61.

The proposed deal with bring both companies territories they’ve never had before, and will expand the influence of both on the market as both cable TV and broadband internet providers.

Think About a Landline

Many households these days go without a landline phone, with each member of the household having a cell phone. But in many cases there is no need to ditch the landline, even with a cell phone, as home phone service is more affordable than ever before, and often available in cost-saving bundles with other necessary household services, such as cable television and high-speed internet service.

Take, for example, Charter Spectrum Digital Voice. When bundled with Charter Spectrum TV and Charter Spectrum Internet, it adds no cost to the monthly bill for the first year. With this home phone service, the calling area is beyond that provided by most cell phone plans in the United States, including the entirety of the US (the contiguous 48 states, Hawaii and Alaska), as well as Canada and US territories like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands. Your talk is unlimited, meaning that your bill is the same each month no matter how many calls you do make in these areas.

Charter’s home phone service also adds a number of calling features that customers can’t live without, including Caller ID, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, and an easy to use Voicemail service with free storage. Perhaps the most vital service is Anonymous Call Rejection, which means you won’t be getting any calls from blocked numbers and that means way fewer calls from telemarketers!

In addition, when you lose or break your cell phone, it can take days to get a replacement, especially if your phone is insured and you’re waiting for one to come through the mail. Do you want to be out of touch for that long? Think about a landline.

Charter Communications Upgrades Cable TV and High-Speed Internet Services

Rolling out throughout the United States, in all of the territories where Charter Communications provides cable TV, high-speed internet, and digital phone services, is a new rebranding effort that also encompasses broad improvements to Charter Communications services.

The rebranding effort has Charter now folding its three major home services under one new umbrella: Charter Spectrum, with cable TV, high-speed internet, and cable home phone services rebranded as Charter Spectrum TV, Charter Spectrum Internet, and Charter Spectrum Digital Voice.

The major improvements to the service come with the internet speeds, moving up from a max of 30 Mbps downloads with the regular service to services beginning at 60 Mbps and as high as 100 Mbps in some Charter Spectrum areas. This is as much as 30 times faster than AT&T U-Verse and 60 times faster than DSL, which Charter is happy to advertise.

Beyond that, Charter Spectrum TV boasts an expanded cable TV lineup, offering the most HD channels available at each of its price points. It is fully digital cable service and more and more high-definition channels are constantly being added to the lineup.

New Charter customers, when they sign up, will receive the upgraded Charter Spectrum services. Current Charter customers will notice new HD channels popping up in their lineup, and internet speeds upgraded automatically.