has pretty much decimated the wired phone business. That is, telephone calls
transmitted digitally over the internet - Voice Over Internet Protocol.
The Lingo ATA box arrived three days after I ordered it. It has two ethernet ports - one connects to the internet; the other is a pass-thru port to connect other devices. Lingo recommends connecting the ATA directly to the cable modem, and other devices to the pass-thru port. Instead, I connect a wireless/wired router to the cable modem. The ATA plugs into the router alongside several computers, some connected wirelessly. All are protected from the dangers of the wild internet by the router's firewall. Nothing is connected to the pass-thru ethernet port. This arrangement works perfectly.
There are three phone ports, but only one is activated for residential service. For business accounts the other ports are used for a second phone number and a fax line. The first port provides the phone service - multiple phones can be connected to that single port. My house, like most, is wired with multiple phone jacks wired in parallel - 9 of them, altogether. The wiring emanates from the phone company's Customer Interface box outside the house. It was simple to unplug the "test plug", which isolates the house wiring from the service wire from the street. Then I connected the Lingo phone port to one of the house jacks which distributed Lingo service to all the other jacks. It is supremely important to make sure the phone company wire is disconnected before connecting the Lingo box. The 47 volts DC on that line will surely destroy the ATA.
I had read reports that fax transmission over VOIP is unreliable, so was apprehensive when I needed to send a fax to Lingo to transfer my BellSo number. Based on that single test case, I can say that faxes transmit perfectly over VOIP. I use hylafax, the preeminent fax software for Linux, with a Zoom modem to send and receive faxes. I had paid BellSo an extra fee for "distinctive ring" which provides a separate number for incoming fax calls, and programmed the modem to answer only that special ring cadence. However, in five years I've only sent maybe two faxes but received dozens of junk fax ads, so losing that special number is no loss.
Pros and Cons
Lingo service has been exemplary. The voice quality is indistinguishable from wired service. The extra features are very useful and it's nice to be able to call anywhere, anytime, and talk as long as you like without additional cost.
Reliability is a potential problem in the event of a power failure. The phone company sends power over the phone line, and their reliability is legendary. It is common to report a power outage by picking up the phone to call for help. No one thinks twice about this anomaly. With VOIP, service depends on the cable service, the cable modem and the ATA box. If any of these fail - no more phone service.
I have a 825 VA UPS (uninterruptable power supply) for the computer systems. During a power outage computing is pretty low on my needs list, so I've programmed the computers to shutdown after only two minutes, leaving only the cable modem, router and ATA box running for as long as possible. I don't know how long the UPS will support this light load, but I expect it will be several hours. The cable company assures me that their distributed amplifiers are powered over the cable, so will function without local power.
Since switching to VOIP in March 2005 Lingo service has been exemplary. The cable service from Mediacom has been anything but. Mediacom internet service reliability has been abyssmal - amateurish and incompetent. Since I started keeping a record, there have been 362 service interruptions between Mar. 10, 2006 and Sept 19, 2006, some for a few minutes, others for a few days. There's been only one in October, so there may be signs of improvement since I vigorously complained. A cellphone backup is mandatory.
Mediacom has been bought by Morris Broadband; service has improved somewhat.
PostScript 2I've noticed my monthly bill increasing - it's hit $42.44 instead of the $21.95 quoted above. So, in Oct. '17 I checked and found that amount consisted of 26.95 plus 15.49 in assorted taxes and fees. That's worse than the airline fares! But on the lingo web page I see advertised $19.95/mo for "Lingo World". When I called to complain, Kelli said my plan was called "Unlimited West Europe". Only the name and the price were different. She switched me to the cheaper newer plan and gave me a small refund. BEWARE!