Telephony

Post image for Ooma VoIP Adds Innovative Feature to Assist in 911 Notifications

Today, I learned that Ooma, a VoIP company who I recently reviewed, has added a pretty interesting feature to their telephony service. In the past, there has always been a bit of a question around the reliability of 911 calls using a phone service that uses an Internet connection for it “digital dialtone”. Advances have been made and now most VoIP services include Enhanced 911 service; the “Enhanced” part means not only is the caller ID sent to emergency services, but also the full address associated with the caller’s phone number, and the call is routed to the nearest Public Safety Answering Point.

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But Ooma’s announcement today is not around Enhanced 911, a service that they have long had, but around adding more value to their customers that do need to call 911. Starting today, you can now add up to 3 email addresses or text numbers to the “My Ooma” online control panel within the 911 section. These addresses or numbers are used to notify key people should 9-1-1 be dialed on the subscriber’s Ooma phone. The configured text numbers or email addresses will be notified automatically when 9-1-1 is called. This is in addition to the call made to emergency responders.

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This service does require you to be on the Ooma Premier plan, something that I definitely recommended in my review. The plan costs $9.99/month and you can pre-pay for a year for an additional discount. Ooma does also offer a “free” service where the only cost that you pay is the tax on the line.

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Talking on the phone has become easier and easier. With unlimited calling now from both land lines as well as cell phones, many people simply don’t worry about talking on a phone for a long period of time. Some people are even completely switching out their home phone with a cell phone. Personally, I’m not quite there yet. Yes, we have a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) line in our home that has unlimited nationwide calling. We also have cell phones for almost all of the members of our family with roll-over minutes which we never use. But recently I was introduced to an interesting service, called Ooma, that made me rethink how telephony within my family works.

For starters, Ooma is a VoIP service. VoIP stands for Voice Over IP which essentially translates to being able to conduct telephone calls via an internet connection only. Your Internet access basically becomes your phone line and your dial-tone travels via the internet as well. There are now plenty of companies that offer VoIP service including most of the major cable and Internet providers. I have used some of these other providers before but it was several years ago when much of the technology was still being fine-tuned. Things have come a long way now – features have evolved – service has gotten better – and competition is driving down the price point.

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But what makes Ooma a bit different, in my opinion, is the feature set. And this is something that I will go into in greater detail a bit later. But first I thought that I would answer some questions about why to go with a VoIP service like Ooma. Well for starters, you can typically get a lot more features for less money. In fact, the basic Ooma service is free, which means that it is great as a secondary phone line (but trust me, you will want to pay the $9.99 / month to get the extra features). But, remember that when you do a cost comparison between a traditional phone line (POTS) and a VoIP line, you need to factor in the cost of your internet connection as well in order to get a true apples to apples comparison. However, you probably would have had internet anyway so it might be just a wash. If you do do a lot of video streaming (e.g., Netflix or Hulu) and plan on using your VoIP line as your primary phone line, you might want to see if you can upgrade your Internet connection to one that is a bit faster. Also remember, if your Internet connection is down, your phone service will be down as well so it is important to think about back up plans when you move to VoIP.

For me, however, having a VoIP service like Ooma’s either as your kids’ main phone number (which they can fight over) or as your home-business line makes a lot of sense (or cents to overuse the cliché). It is cost-effective and often these services come with unlimited calling. I know plenty of families that are switching away from traditional phone lines to use either only cell phones or VoIP services. I, unfortunately, am sort of tied to DSL (at least until AT&T U-Verse is available in my area or I make a change completely to cable). But I digress.

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