Embracing New Technology.

Being the gadget freak that I am, I am always eager to embrace new technology. There’s no “keeping up with the Joneses” with me, actually, the Joneses are working their butt off to keep with me when it comes to have the latest, flashiest new gadgets on the block.

Last night was our second attempt to join the whole internet-phone VoIP revolution. Disappointed by the quality of phone service that our traditional land line provides (and the large sum of money that it costs), I decided we would try these services such as Vonage or AT&T CallAdvantage. For those unfamiliar with the term VoIP, here’s a quick explanation. “VoIP” stands for “Voice over IP”, which is essentially making telephone calls over your high speed internet connection. For Earl and I, this means our cable modem. When you sign up for VoIP, you pick get a little call adapter that has a network plug and a phone plug on it. This provides the interface to which your phone can be attached to your network, or internet connection. Many of these interfaces have routers in them so you can basically pull out your router and install the VoIP interface in its place. The interface takes the analog signals of your telephone and converts them to digital data, to be sent out over the internet to a similar device connected to, most likely, a traditional telephone switch, which then routes the call to the proper party via traditional methods. The digital data sent over the internet is nothing but bits and bytes, not differing in any way from streaming audio or video or even browsing a webpage.

At least that’s how I understand it all to work.

Anyways, Earl and I tried out Vonage a couple of months ago, but didn’t like the quality of the service nor the quality of customer service. So we cancelled and stuck with Verizon on our land line. Our land line, by the way, has a lot of “ground hum” on it (it sounds like Janay from AI is humming out of tune on our phones all the time). Verizon claims that it can’t be fixed. So we decided to give VoIP another chance, this time with AT&T Callvantage.

Our little VoIP box arrived yesterday. I connected it to the network, ready for some cheap telephone capabilities, and WHAM! Nothing. I guess it wasn’t ready to let my fingers do the walking.

So I called customer service, which is traditionally a frightening experience.

I reached Tiffany (who sounded more like an Olga) who spent the next 85 minutes trying to troubleshoot the problem. She gave me the administrator username and password for the web interface, which I promptly wrote down and then we worked together to get it working. After 85 minutes, she opened up a trouble ticket and sent it to Tier II support, who would call me back.

After I hung up with Tiffany, I did a little of my own troubleshooting and then everything started talking and all was good. Tier II didn’t call back, because they probably saw that my network connection came up.

So now we’re happy AT&T Callvantage users. There’s a *ton* features on this line that are way cool, including a “Follow Me” type service that rings your home phone and any other phone number you want rung at that same time when there’s a call coming in. So we can route our home phones to our cell phones and not worry about three or four rings before forwarding or forgetting to turn it off and such. Plus, our voice mail messages get e-mailed to us! NICE.

It’s always fun to embrace new technology.