As published on the Dunwoody Patch website.
By Adam Freedman
A couple of months ago when my wife and I decided that for $216 a month + the surprising electricity costs of 5 U-Verse boxes, and we would love for our all in one U-Verse residential gateway to not reboot itself on a regular basis, we decided that if our service was going to stink (assumption based on having all different providers in the past), at least let's be creative about it. So here's what we did.
First of all, before I get into the details, a huge recommendation. NEVER use the email address from your internet service provider. This makes changing providers very difficult. I use gmail for my personal and godaddy for my business. I did hear that if you cancel AT&T, you don't lose your email address, but I doubt that will last forever. If you have Earthlink and are trying to leave, for $30/year you can subscribe to Premium email and keep the address even if you switch to another provider.
We moved our internet to tried and true DSL. 3 months now and not one outage. I choose naked DSL Extreme 6.0 from AT&T which is the fastest DSL service that you can get. Naked means that there is a phone number on the line but it only works for the internet. I signed up for 'business class' which I think means that AT&T can charge 3x as much but I get much better service that their more common 'residential class'. For the first year, this is $40/month + tax, but after the first year, it rockets up to $100+/month but no one says I can't threaten to cancel to get that in line again.
The second piece of the internet puzzle is a top of the line wireless router. Right now, the top as I see it, which will have a ton more features than you will ever use (dual band is a crock - most devices don't support it) is the Netgear WNDR4000, about $140. Throw away your blue Linksys 2.4G with Speedbooster router, it's old and it's time to replace it.
Ok, Internet is done, next comes home phone. This was a big debate at our home. Do we need a phone? We decided yes, for babysitters, people who ask for a number and you don't want to give them your cell (invasion of privacy!), and Dunwoody mayoral candidates.
I bought Ooma from Costco for $179+tax. This box plugs in between your modem and your router and has a phone port so you can plug in the base station of a multi-handset phone. I looked at Magicjack but it requires a computer to plug into and I wanted it to be self-standing and not require anything other than an internet connection and a handset/base. Ooma takes about 10 minutes to set up. If you don't care about what number you get assigned, you're done and can go and cancel your existing phone service. You pay Ooma $3.58/month for taxes. If you want to port your existing phone number to Ooma, it takes $40 and about two weeks to do so. Once you port your number, you can then cancel your existing phone service. Ooma has a premier add on for $99/year that they trial during the first 30 days. I found some of it's features necessary so I decided to let the trial turn permanent.
Now that I tackled the internet, wireless, and phone, the final piece as I see it is TV. We've addressed that with Roku. Roku is a little device sold almost everywhere now that allows you to stream multimedia content wirelessly (or wired via ethernet cabling) to a TV. Built into the device is Netflix, Hulu-Plus, Amazon, Pandora, Crackle and hundreds of other services, most of them free (no Vudu since that a Wal-mart product and archenemy of Netflix which I believe has provided funding to Roku). We have several Roku boxes that we have purchased over time, and they can be had for as little as $60 each. Being that we are Netflix streamers, we subscribe to the $9/month account. We don't get DVDs in the mail, so the whole Qwikster debacle doesn't matter to us. In fact, Netflix has said over and over that the future is streaming and don't be suprised if they separated the businesses so that they can sell/sunset that side of it on it's own terms, especially since we've starting using Redbox. In terms of 'must see tv' that is current, we don't have any that we can't find on the internet. If we cared that much, we would subscribe to Hulu-Plus (another $9/month) so that we could see Modern Family since apparently we are the only non-addicted family in the entire world.
Negatives? Yes, no local channels except on one tv that I went out and bought a powered $25 rabbit ears antenna for. I don't care for anything local really except sports and weather. Both you can partially replace with a regular radio and a weather radio, but nothing beats sports in high def. Another negative is that none of the phone jacks in my house have any signal for phone. This means I am reliant on the base station and the handsets (which I have 2 of) to support the whole house. Not a problem yet, but we'll see. The third negative is no faxing capabilities. VOIP lines are notoriously bad at handling faxes. Luckilly I haven't needed to fax in a really long time.
So, there is a slight hardware cost to get a router if you don't have one, or a streaming device like Roku if your TV or DVD doesn't support wireless streaming. But right now I was able to drop my 'TV/Phone/Internet' bill to around $65/mon, a savings of close to $150/mon. I hope you can do the same.