This week I lost something I’d had for forty years. In 1974 I contacted United Telephone of Ohio to arrange for a phone in my first post-divorce home. It was a rental unit in a trailer park near Morrow, Ohio. Few things say noncommittal like renting a mobile home. Unlike the big outfits such as Cincinnati Bell, United couldn’t assign me a number when I placed the order. “We’ll have to see what works,” I was told. What worked was (513) 683-4125. I carried the number through another United Telephone served address plus three different addresses in Cincinnati Bell territory. On Thursday, the land line associated with it was switched off and, for the first time in four decades, (513) 683-4152 became available for reassignment. Here’s how it happened.
Sometime after I moved into (really just returned to) Cincinnati Bell territory, mobile phones and the internet were invented. Maybe they weren’t actually invented at the exact same instant but it was close. I got on the internet fairly early and used my Cincinnati Bell telephone to connect to service providers like Prodigy and Compuserve. I was hardly an early adapter of mobile phones but did get in early enough that I started with a clumsy bag phone from Ameritech that plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter. While my home phone stayed with Cincinnati Bell, I sequenced through a small collection of vendors for my internet and mobile needs. Cincinnati Bell got my internet business when they brought DSL to my door around the turn of the century. They got my mobile business toward the end of 2008 with a really attractive bundling deal. With me being too lazy to change on my own, things might have stayed that way forever if Cincinnati Bell hadn’t decided they didn’t want my — or any other — mobile phone business.
Last April, Cincinnati Bell announced that they were selling their mobile phone business to Verizon. In recent years, they had gotten into digital TV, home security, and some sort of energy management. Apparently those products were considered to be the company’s future and the wireless component of the company was no longer wanted. Wireless customers would not automatically be moved to Verizon but we needed to go somewhere by February.
I didn’t rush into anything. I causally quizzed some friends about their own experiences with wireless vendors but I had not made any real plans. Then, on Thursday the 25th, I walked by a nearby Cricket store that I hadn’t even realized was there. A friend who uses Cricket is reasonably happy with the service and it was one of the possibilities I was seriously considering. I stepped inside. I could use my existing phone by buying a $10 SIM card, an appropriately sized service plan was reasonably priced, and there was no long term contract. It would be month-to-month just like that trailer park rental back in ’74.
I left without signing on but by the next afternoon had pretty much decided that was what I wanted to do. That’s when the decision making process got a step input. Maybe something got jammed into it or maybe it just wore out but, whatever the cause, my phone’s USB connector broke. The phone still worked but it could not be plugged into a charger. I own two batteries and an external charger so I technically had the means to keep the phone going but it would hardly be convenient. I considered it for awhile but quickly decided that buying another phone would be a better move. I had no spare time on Saturday so I just made sure my two batteries were charged and continued on with life. By Sunday I had come up with the idea of repairing the phone and had located a repair facility not too far away. On Monday, I stopped in.
Replacing the USB connector would cost about $60. I was leaning toward going for it when the technician asked if the phone had been unlocked. I know next to nothing about unlock codes and had blindly been assuming that the “if available” which Cincinnati Bell appended to every reference to them did not apply to me. It did. I learned that codes were not available from Cincinnati Bell for most phones older than two years and, when I visited the nearby Cincinnati Bell store as suggested, I learned that my nearly three year old phone was among them. For $30, the repair shop could unlock the phone with an electronic lock pick or some other magic.
Without their own wireless service to sell, Cincinnati Bell stores have become agents for Verizon. I had some concerns about Cricket coverage in some spots I’ve been known to visit and, since the cost of moving my existing phone there had just jumped from $10 to $100 ($10+$60+$30), I decided to look into what Verizon had available. I liked it and left the store with a suitably sized and reasonably priced service plan and a new $50 phone. Sensing that this would be a good opportunity to drop my virtually unused home phone, I also made arrangements to do that while in the store but that didn’t take and had to be repeated before the dial tone went away on Thursday.
To my surprise, the standalone internet connection is exactly the same price as it was as part of the “cost saving bundle”. The monthly Verizon charge is less than what I have been paying for a similar plan at Cincinnati Bell and the land line voice charge is simply gone. I’ll be saving about 50 bucks a month and a lot of aggravation checking caller ID to see which marketer or politician I won’t be talking to. All in all, I think I’m going to like being homephoneless.