MONEY-SAVING MOMENT: There's a phone service that I've been using for years called Ooma.com. You pay as little as $100 to $200 to buy the device, which provides phone service for the life of the Ooma service. (I long ago expected the service to go bust, but it just keeps on going!)
The way Ooma works is that you plug it into your high-speed Internet connection and then you plug your phone into the Ooma unit. You don't even need a computer. Ooma offers all the normal calling features like caller ID, call waiting, etc., and there's no monthly bill. You just pay roughly $11 each year for FCC pass-through charges. (Editor's note: Ooma recently changed its terms of service. Junk fees will now amount to between $36 and $38 annually for most customers beginning in July 2011.)
The question I get that gnaws at people is about the call quality. I've always said that Ooma offers phone calling that is much better and clearer than a traditional monopoly phone company. My understanding is that Ooma has a built-in computer processor that gives outstanding call quality.
But don't just take my word for it. Consumer Reports in its May 2011 issue has rated Ooma as the best phone service you can get for your home. In fact, it's not even close. Ooma gets an 85, which is an extraordinarily high number in the Consumer Reports orbit. By comparison, AT&T gets a 71 and Verizon gets a 71 -- and those are the nation's 2 dominant local monopoly phone companies.
I was not expecting that glowing of a review from Consumer Reports but Ooma earned it. So not only do you save money, you also get the best phone service. Now that is a combo meal deal I can consume any day!
Editor's note: This segment originally aired in April 2011.