With some of my family overseas, Skype and iChat have become important tools for voice communication, second only to the cell phone and face to face protocol. It occurred to me that outside of telemarketers and the very occasional late-night pizza dial, the land line has become a relatively unused service. Unused, yet a consistent and not insubstantial monthly bill.
With thoughts of finally ditching the land line, but still a bit resistant to going completely phoneless in the home (what about when my cell battery dies?), I came across an article in Linux Journal by Andrew Sheppard, author of Skype Hacks, that shows you how to reconfigure your home telephone system to be completely routed through a server running Skype and Linux.
My solution was to build a Skype server that provides 24/7 phone service with the minimum of hassle and fuss. By dumping your regular phone company and taking back control of your home phone wiring using a Skype server, you will have not only a phone system with nearly the same capabilities as before–indeed, in some ways better–you will also save a bundle of money! In my case, I save a little less than $700 US each year (this year, next year, and the year after that, and so on), or about 82% off of my old phone bill.
Using a Skype server plugged in to the existing copper phone wiring of your home means that you can lift a receiver anywhere in your home, at any time, and get a regular dial tone. Incoming calls either from Skype users or regular phones ring all handsets throughout your home. Basically, you can make Skype behave like a regular phone line, but at a tiny fraction of the cost.
There are some big benefits to switching to a Skype server. It’s likely a lot cheaper and if you’re a regular Skype user, you can now use the service with any handset in the house instead of sitting at your computer.
There are also some downsides. The phone system still remains one of the most reliable services. It’s more likely that I’ll lose electricity than I won’t have a dial tone, which may be of some concern for fire and bugler alarm systems. You also wouldn’t have 911 service in this scenario, but if you have a cell phone anyway, this may be a moot point.
What are the rest of you hackers doing for phone service these days? Is it time to give up the land line entirely, simulate it with a Skype server or VoIP service, or are you still happily rocking the POTS? Give us a shout in the comments.