Monday, April 11, 2011

How I Kept My Home Phone Number and Stopped Paying for a Landline

I had my home phone number for 11 years. It was actually my great-grandmother’s number for 30 years before that. I have a bit of an emotional attachment to that number, strange as that may sound. I didn’t want to surrender that number and let it disappear into the fiberoptic ether.

On the other hand, I rarely use my home phone. I stripped all the extras (caller ID and the like) long ago to minimize the cost, and even then I didn’t get any value out of it. The vast majority of calls I receive are from my parents (who immediately call my cell if I don’t answer) and people I don’t want to talk to. Also, I have an established cell phone number that I don't want to surrender either.

My solution (and yours, potentially)? Port my number.

I first looked at Google Voice. They will port your existing number for a one-time $20 fee, which is about the same as what I was paying one month of phone service. After that, it’s free—any call to my Google Voice number can be forwarded to the number(s) of my choosing.

The problem is that they only port wireless numbers – not landlines.

I looked at other internet-based services, some of which allowed landline porting. However, they also came with a monthly fee attached (usually $4-$10 per month) and/or forwarding and per minute charges.


Then, it hit me. I would port my number to a prepaid wireless account, then to Google Voice.


Here’s how I did it:

1. I checked my number on AT&T’s website to make sure it could be ported.

2. I went to Best Buy and bought the cheapest AT&T GoPhone I could find ($15).

3. I called Customer Service to activate the account, and let them know I wanted to port my number. They helped me get that rolling, though I had to put a minimum amount on the phone to allow porting (another $15). NOTE: you will need your existing home phone account number and billing info. It’s easiest if you have a statement handy.

4. They contacted my landline provider. I waited.

5. I monitored the status at the AT&T website. Once they contact your current carrier, they give you an anticipated porting date. Mine took just under a week.

6. Once it said my porting was complete, my prepaid still wasn’t ringing. I had to call AT&T to finalize it. They took care of it in about 10 minutes.

7. I immediately went to Google Voice and set up an account. Just pick a number. Any number. You won’t have it for long.

8. After establishing my account, I clicked on “edit/change number” and entered my prepaid account number info. It costs $20 to port your wireless number to Google Voice.

9. I got a message saying my prepaid account number wasn’t right. I figured my phone number was the same as my AT&T account number. Turns out it wasn’t.

10. I called AT&T and got my account number. He asked me why I needed it. I was honest. He still gave it to me.

11. Finished the porting process; I was told my number would be ported within 24 hours. It was.

12. I set up my voicemail, forwarding preferences, etc. Now any call to my home number rings to my cell, with caller ID. I also get transcripts of voicemails sent via text or email to the number I choose. It’s a slick setup, and once you get ported over it costs nothing.

Altogether, it cost me $15 for a new phone, $15 worth of prepaid service, and $20 to port to Google Voice. That’s $50, which in my book is a small price for being able to maintain my longtime number in perpetuity. For free.

Here are a couple additional tips:

1. Do not call your current landline provider. Your service will be cancelled automatically once your number is ported.

2. In retrospect, it would have been easier to do all the AT&T stuff online. Verify your number can be ported, then order the cheapest phone and the no-cost package (you’ll still need to put $15 of funds on the account). During the checkout process, you can select whether you want a new phone number or whether you want to bring an existing number over.

3. When you check out, make sure you write down your account number. You’ll need it when you move to Google Voice (you can always call and get it if you forget).


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