Cord Cutter Guide pt 3 – Turn Your Landline Into A Free Phone Number

Were you bit by the cord-cutting bug? Why stop at cable and video services? Do you have a landline? What other services do you pay for that are little to no use to you anymore? I don’t know about you, but in my home, we use mostly our cell phones. Our landline was just a leftover from the past. Nobody ever calls us on our home phone.

Ultimate cord cutter guideWe never use our landline. Still, some of our other services use this number. For example, some bank accounts registration, utilities and other services require that you provide a “home number”. In some of these cases it is even difficult to change an open account. You could try telling them you moved. But then some of these services require that you close and reopen a new account (hello Florida Power and Light!). So does this justify that you pay an extra $16 – $45 monthly to your phone company? Most likely not. I’m sure you can find a better use for those $192 – $540 yearly!

Follow these steps to cut your landline costs down to zero. You may have to spend a bit the first month. You can make up this money in the first few months without your phone bill.

The solution in this case is to transition (or “port” in technical terms) your land line into a cellular line. Once you have your number ported to a cellphone, you can port it again into Google Voice. For some reason Google Voice does not allow direct port from land lines into their service.

The steps I will describe here apply for a land line that starts as an AT&T phone. Other phone carriers will have a similar process. If they do not support doing this, you can port from your current phone carrier to AT&T and then follow these steps.

If you are in your 20’s you likely don’t even have a landline to begin with. Read on if you are also in your 30’s or older.

Starting in November 2003, the FCC started the program that allows users to port local numbers. This program is called Wireless Local Number Portability or WLNP for short. Since then, the FCC extended the program into landlines as well. This program states that you have a right to keep the phone number you use and pay for even if you change carriers. This number is not for your carrier to keep unless you give it away.

In my case, we started with an AT&T landline in South Florida. Throughout the process, we kept using AT&T Go Phone as an intermediary because we assumed that staying with AT&T would make things smoother.

The general idea is that you port your land line to a disposable AT&T Go Phone, which is a cell phone. This enables you to port the number into Google Voice. Once in Google Voice, this number can ring on your existing cell phone and you can make calls out from your new “landline” from your cell phone’s Google Voice app. Caller ID will show you are calling from your landline, but you will be using your cell service.

Step #1 – Test Before You Start

You don’t want to find yourself half way through the porting process and find out you cannot do this. The result will be a loss of your number or a forced transfer into a service that may need to be paid. Check before you move on to step #2!

I am not sure what makes a landline eligible. It could be the amount of time you had your landline, or it could be simply your carrier checking if your commitment contract has expired with them. In any case, legally it is your right to be able to port your number. So if you are not showing up as eligible; call your carrier and politely ask for an explanation. The place to check your eligibility with AT&T is the form where you check if you can transfer your number to AT&T here.

Their documentation confirms that this works for non-wireless numbers but it takes a bit longer. Technically speaking you are porting your landline into AT&T for a short while until everything clears and you are able to port it into Google Voice.

Step #2 – Buy The Cheapest Go Phone You Can Find

This is very important to know. The landline number you port replaces that cell number that you will be using. For this same reason you should not use your personal cell phone. If you do, you will lose your own cell phone number. Instead, you will get a Go Phone which comes with a cell phone number. This number will end up being replaced with your own landline number.

The reason why an AT&T Go Phone works, is that it is a “pre-paid” cell phone. This way you purchase enough minutes to last through the porting process into Google Voice.

In our case, we purchased a flip phone for $11, which came with a $30 card as a bonus. You can go to an AT&T store, Target or Wal-Mart for these deals. They always have one available.

Step #3 – If Your Go Phone Didn’t Come With Minutes Buy Some

The AT&T customer support agent on the phone would not port the landline number unless you have minutes tied to the account. I used the $30 that came with the Go Phone as a bonus. If yours didn’t, this is the time to do so. You don’t necessarily need to get a physical card from the store. Go into the Go Phone website, register the phone and purchase at least $15 worth of minutes. Their website is here.

Any purchase you do for these minutes will last only 30 days from the date of purchase. While this whole process will take you only 3-5 days in total, you should plan ahead and do things as fast as possible. If you let your minutes expire you may have to purchase more minutes or you may even lose your landline number. Moving quick does the trick here.

Step #4 – Make Sure You Can Access Your Google Account

This steps end up with your landline ported to a Google Voice account. If you have an Android smartphone, or if you use Gmail, or even if you use any Google service, you already have a Google account. If you don’t, then you should get one. You can register for a new Google Voice account here.

Step #5 – Execute The Phone Number Port Into Your AT&T Go Phone

This is the point from where you can’t go back. The only risk is the little money you have spent on the Go Phone, and additional minutes if they were not included with the Go Phone. If you execute this step you have to keep going through all remaining steps.

You start the port process by calling AT&T to customer service to their national 800 number. Ask for the Porting Department. You can call directly to the Number Transfer Request Line at (888) 898-7685. You can call from any number for this request.

The rep will try to push back, this is normal. They could even claim that it is not their responsibility to port the numbers or that what you want to do is not technically to port a number. Just politely say that it is your legal right to keep your phone and that it is AT&T’s responsibility to do this for you. Be gentle, after all; you may be stuck without their help. If they still do not help you, just hang up and call again, you will land on another rep who may be more willing to help.

Provide the rep with your landline and your Go Phone number. Make sure that you make clear which is the line you want to port and which one the one that will go away after the port completes. Also remember not to provide with your personal cell phone number as part of this process. You don’t want them porting into your personal cell phone and then losing your cell phone number. All these steps are final, there are no do-overs.

You will also want to ask the rep for the account number on the Go Phone account. They may insist on the Go Phone number being the account number. This may be partially correct on a normal case, but remember that the Go Phone number will go away and you want an account number to be able to recall the service. You will also need the actual account number along with the landline number for a future step in this process. Write down the Go Phone account number next to the Go Phone cell number in a safe place where you will be able to retrieve it from. While the friendlier reps will be very helpful, they may also want to upsell you on services on the Go Phone. Remember that this account is just a temporary step in the process, just politely decline any offers they may have.

Step #6 – Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?

This step involves a connection to the web and a lot of patience… because you will need to check the status of the port process. You can check the status of this port [here]. http://att.com/port In our case, it took 3 business days to complete. Go to this page and check the status of your port about 2 or 3 times a day. Your landline will still work until this the process is completed. You will be able to make and receive calls. As soon as the port is complete, you will see a message listing the process “Complete”. If you have a voicemail service as part of your landline service check one last time before you call AT&T to complete the process.

Step #7 – Call AT&T’s Porting Department

The porting process is final only when you call AT&T’s Porting Department to the same number as above to confirm the completion. Let the rep know that you want to confirm a port because the att.com/port webpage said the port was completed. The rep will execute a manual step at this stage to indicate that you still want to complete the port. Once they do this, they will want to test with a call into your landline which will make the Go Phone ring. You should also test by making a call out to a cell phone where you will be able to confirm the caller ID being your landline. This is one of the steps where having minutes prepaid on your Go Phone account helps. Don’t spend much time on these calls. You still need some of those minutes.

Step #8 – Test Your Landline

Trying to call out from your wired phone (where you had your landline working a few minutes ago) should no longer work. Test this is the case. You may or may not have a dial-tone. Generally speaking, dial-tones are no longer an indicator of service availability. Some digital services over your phone wires (such as AT&T U-Verse internet access) will still work, even if you no longer have phone service on those wires.

Step #9 – You No Longer Have A Landline

For the sake of this guide, we will keep calling what used to be your landline, a “landline”. Technically you do not own a landline any more. Your landline number is now considered a mobile number for all intents and purposes. This means that your landline is now eligible to be ported into Google Voice.

Step #10 – Tick-Tock, The Clock Is Ticking… Get Ready To Port To Google Voice

As I mentioned before, you could stay with your Go Phone as it is and pay for the minutes used. The problem is that you have to keep making monthly payments as the Go Phone minutes expire every 30 days. The minimum you can pay for minutes is about $15, which will likely be a cost reduction. But, why no eliminate this expense altogether?

You may want to setup your voicemail on your Go Phone. It may not be worth it for just a day or two but it may just be if the process takes you more time. Especially if you start this step on a Friday.

Step #11 – Create a Google.com/Voice Account

If you already have a Gmail account, use an Android smartphone or if you use Google services in some form, you already have a Google account. If you don’t; go to http://google.com/voice, register and create your account.

Regardless of having an account or not, once logged into Google.com/voice you will be prompted if you want to port a phone number. Provide the landline number (the number that is now working on your Go Phone) and the AT&T account number for the Go Phone that the AT&T provided you in Step #5.

Step #12 – Pay Google For The Port

The process of porting into Google Voice is a one-time-payment fee of $20 at the time of writing this guide. This covers the porting cost, the routing and other minor setup costs. From this point on, if you wanted to call out from the Google Voice webpage, you would be charged per used minute. However, if you use the Google Voice app on your smartphone (Android or iPhone) you will just use minutes from your cell phone plan even though the call will dial out with the caller ID of your landline. Technically, outgoing calls are not free because you are using your cell phone’s minutes or paying Google directly (when calling from the webpage). Incoming calls can be routed to Google Voice’s voicemail service, or they can be routed to ring on the Google Voice app on your smartphone.

Step #13 – Check, Check, Check Again… Are We There Yet, Again?

After payment, and completion of the steps for porting into Google Voice, the process takes 24 hours (almost exactly 24 hours). Google Voice will list the status of the port and will let you know when the process has completed.

Keep checking by going into your Google Voice account. While the porting is in process, you will still be using the money in the Go Phone’s account. Just beware that you need to keep that account alive until the process completes. If, for some reason, you tool longer to do this, you may have to make an additional minutes purchase for the Go Phone’s account. These are minutes (and money) that you will end up throwing away, hence the urgency to purchase the least amount of minutes on your Go Phone.

At some point your port will be listed as completed. You are now a few steps from completing this ordeal!

Step #14 – Link Your Smartphone Number To Your Google Voice Account

Google Voice allows you to link Google Voice into a single mobile phone number. This means that you can tie what was your landline into an actual cell phone number and one number alone. You cannot link Google Voice numbers to another Google Voice number, it has to be a mobile number. What you can actually do is have the incoming calls ring into multiple lines.

I installed the Google Voice app in both my wife’s iPhone and mine. When someone calls our landline, it can ring on both. Whoever gets to it first, answers the call. In our case, we take it one step further. We don’t route the calls to ring our mobile numbers, instead we route the calls into the voicemail service included (and free) from Google Voice. We then get a text message, or even better, an app notification on our smartphones, which does not use text messages.

Step #15 – Setup Your Google Voice

This step is where you go into the Google Voice webpage and go through the setup process. Create a voicemail message, tie your cell phone to the service. Tell it to ring, or go straight to voicemail. You can even set some rules for only letting calls ring from people in your Google contacts and anything else to go into voicemail, or even to filter calls at certain times of the day. You get to decide whether to do any of this or just let it ring for you to answer. Sending calls into voicemail has one extra feature that is great. The notifications you get when the voicemail comes in includes a transcript of the message. You can get this transcript on your text message, the app voicemail view, or even in a notification email.

In any case, whatever you do now with your old landline is now within your control.

To go to the next part of this cord cutter guide, follow the link into “Cord Cutter Guide pt 4 – Internet Services


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About Diego Samuilov

Editor in Chief/Founder Diego Samuilov is an executive, consultant, IT strategist and book, e-book and web published author. Diego has worked in Microsoft’s environments since 1990. Since then, he has successfully filled many positions related to the Software Development lifecycle. Having worked as a developer, analyst, technical lead, project lead, auditor and, since 1996 a project manager, manager, director and VP in the Software Development, Server, Desktop and Mobile environments. Diego is very passionate about the software development process, which has played a great part in his skills development. Since the introduction of the first ever PDA (the Apple Newton MessagePad) in 1994 and Windows CE in 1998 he has pioneered and pushed the envelope in the field of mobile software development. He has developed many solutions used in mobile markets, desktop and server environments. He participates in public and private developer community events. He actively collaborates with the community at support forums and blogs. Diego is the author of "Windows Phone for Everyone" available [HERE].