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August 14, 2013

The Saga: Keeping my home phone number.

When we moved last December, we decided to go with a Comcast Triple Play package to consolidate billing on our Internet/Phone/TV.  I've discussed a bit of this previously in my blog.  Since we were moving six miles from our old house, I wanted to keep our home number the same.  Comcast said they would port that number with no problem. 


After a long and in depth back and forth, they were unable to port my home phone number from Vonage to Comcast.  They told me that it was an issue of moving between rate centers and not being able to properly serve 911 service.  The problem with that was that the switch that handled the rate centers for my old residence and the switch that handle my new residence was in the same Central Office, and actually happened to be the same switch.  Their argument was that while it may be technically possible to accomplish the task I requested, the FCC or PUC rules (different depending on who I talked with) would not allow it.

I gave up. 

For the short term I call forwarded my old Vonage number to my new Comcast phone service.  The phone service quality with Comcast is actually excellent and doesn't have any jitter induced noise or compression like I was getting with Vonage.  I had a lot of other things going on, so this went on the back burner (having another child will change your priorities) for a while.  After a few months I got sick of paying full price for Vonage as a glorified call forwarding service.

I researched.

Actually I just Googled a bit and found that Google Voice is probably the best low cost (free) call forwarding service.  The issue is that Google Voice will only port mobile numbers and not landline or VOIP service.  I found a forum post with the best solution:

  • Port Vonage line to a Pre-Paid wireless phone (aka "throwaway phone" aka "burn phone")
  • Port from Pre-Paid phone to Google Voice

I acted.

I negotiated with my Wife a bit for a time frame in which we were not expecting any urgent calls on our listed home phone number.  I picked up the cheapest T-Mobile phone at Target ($29 USD) and a card that had the least amount of funds for minutes ($10 USD).  I activated the phone through the web interface as a pre-paid (by the minute) and funded it with the meager minutes fund.  I went back and forth with T-Mobile and Vonage over the next two days in regards to port requests.  Essentially you have to use the original address and zip code that you used to set up your Vonage account in order to port it.  They don't care if you update your address and billing information in the system, for some reason that original address and zip code is kept in the porting database.  Once the port was successful there was about 36 hours of "dual service" in which incoming calls would get routed to Vonage or T-mobile depending on which carrier the call originated from.  Just a note: Even though the phone I purchased had the ability to do call forwarding, it is disabled on T-mobile's network, at least when I did this port.

After the "dual service" ended, I called Vonage to cancel my service and they seemed to be unaware that my number was ported.  I was told by the customer service rep that my Vonage account would automatically be cancelled upon porting the number.  Even with the confusion with Vonage, I figured I would trudge on with the next step.  I created a Gmail account, then enabled a Google Voice account and started the porting process.  I didn't have a T-mobile account number to use, so I just entered the ten digit phone number as the account number in the porting process.  At the time I am writing this, it costs $20 USD to port a number into their service.  After an hour or so, Google Voice returned an error that they needed the service PIN.  After I entered the PIN for the mobile phone service (remember this, as you'll set this up when you create your pre-paid phone), it reported back that the port request was successful and that it should complete within 24 hours.  23 hours later the number was fully ported and the prepaid phone went out of service.  Within an hour of that I received an email from Vonage saying that my account was cancelled.    

I am happy.

At this point I am able to keep my number that I had for a decade.  I'm out $59 USD for all the service charges, but I have the flexibility to switch my broadband and television providers without impacting how various people keep in contact with us via phone.  I am sure this could be accomplished in various other elegant ways, but this is what worked for me.