Community Phone Cures Cable Chaos

September 16, 2021

Probing with a spade along the edge of a Hollywood alley, a workman for a major telecom company was trying to locate a customer’s cable. As he probed, he cut the cable of a competitor’s customer. Replacing the victim’s cable and restoring his service took three days.

Then the victim’s grass couldn’t be mowed for two more weeks while the cable sat exposed in the back yard, waiting for another crew to come and bury it.

That couldn’t happen to customers of Community Phone, a four-year-old alternative phone company that already has hundreds of customers in south Florida and thousands nationwide. They aren’t connected to a cable. Instead, they receive a landline base – a box measuring about six inches by six inches that fits on a countertop or window sill and plugs into an electrical outlet. Then landline phones plug into the base.

“It’s like a modem, but it doesn’t use the internet or Wi-Fi,” explains James Graham, Community Phone’s founder and chief executive officer. “It connects you to a cell phone tower, with a stronger and more stable connection, and it’s not tied to any specific location. You can unplug it from one outlet and use it somewhere else. You can even take it with you on vacation and use it anywhere our system connects with a tower.”

Community Phone is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), which means it doesn’t have a physical network. Instead, Graham says, “We have a wholesale agreement with all of the carriers everybody is using. We commit with major companies to buy massive quantities of data. We get them at much lower rates, so we can pass some of the savings on to our customers and still make a profit.”

Unlike the Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology that the major telecom companies use, the Community Phone technology still works if the electric power fails. A battery backup provides six to eight hours of emergency operation.

Becoming a phone company
Graham is a self-taught software engineer. He grew up in rural Wisconsin. After high-school graduation from a Vermont boarding school, he was rejected by all of the colleges he wanted to attend.

“It was a rude awakening,” he says. “I was homeless and had no money, but I’m very lucky. As we all grow up, the problems are already defined, as they would be if you’re given a test as a student. In reality the world is not nearly as organized as a university. It’s up to the individual to define. If you’re attentive, you can solve very important problems because people have a false sense of a precision that doesn’t exist.”

Graham moved to Boston and – with like-minded friends – began looking for tech problems to solve. What they landed on was not what they expected; a “tech” solution to traditional landline phone service.

Graham and his team saw a trend that traditional telecom providers were shutting down their landline service city-by-city, and in the areas they still offer service, often require you to “bundle” your home phone with expensive internet and cable services.

And maybe most importantly, their customer service is notoriously bad. Graham elaborates, “The major telecom providers will throw in hidden service fees, activation fees, cancellation fees, lock you out of your account, put you on hold for hours, hang up on you, never call you back, yell at you, lie to you, and force you to pay them thousands of dollars for services you don’t need.”

For most people, the alternative is VoIP - phone service that requires a reliable internet connection.

“The landline phone isn’t going away,” says Graham, “and the two main options to keep your landline phone just don’t work for a lot of people. We realized there was a huge opportunity to provide a more reliable, and more customer-focused, landline phone service company.”

For simplicity seekers
Although business customers include Wells Fargo, several municipalities, and the State of Maryland, Consumer Phone’s tagline – A Friendly Phone Company -- targets individuals with a desire for telecom simplicity and a tenuous grasp of complex technologies.

Community Phone’s basic landline service costs $39 a month, and includes unlimited long-distance calling. Customers who already have a landline phone can keep it; Community Phone will transfer the number from their previous provider. Available options include cell phone service and picking a custom local or toll-free number.

The system provides unlimited calling within the United States, voicemail, call forwarding, and call waiting. And setup takes about 30 seconds: just plug the landline base into a power outlet, and plug your phone into a jack on the base. No installation fees, no technicians.

In sharp distinction from traditional providers, there are no contracts, no hidden fees, and no hoops to jump through to connect with a real person when you have a question. And for customers who try the service and decide it’s not a fit, there’s a no-questions-asked 30-day money back guarantee.

“If you would have told me 5 years ago that the big tech company I would start would be in the landline phone industry, I wouldn’t have believed you.” says Graham. “But for so many people, their landline phone is their primary tool for connecting to friends and loved ones. It’s truly a privilege to build something that makes those connections possible.”

For more information, call Community Phone’s toll-free landline, 866-950-0391. A friendly staff of customer support people will be happy to answer your phone-related questions from 10 am to 6:30 pm eastern time, Monday through Saturday. You can also visit the https://www.communityphone.org website’s chat section, or email help@communityphone.org