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dsl2u

join:2012-05-16
CANADA
Reviews:
·FreePhoneLine

Apartment buildings: Why don't they convert to VOIP?

I can get a phone number for nothing from places like Voxox, Freephoneline, Dellvoice, Fongo and probably several others and many offer unlimited outgoing calling (or 3000 minutes but I'm sure most people won't exceed that). I'm wondering why some apartment buildings don't set up their entire building with IP phones and perhaps bundle internet with it as well. Think of the money they could save the tenants or just charge a flat fee (say $10-20 a month) per line and they'd make almost all of that in profit. They could buy older handsets for pennies on the dollar off liquidation places and use the existing phone wiring to connect them. 100 suites could translate into $12000-24000 annual profit. Surely that has got to be worth the setup work.

conwaytwt
Premium
join:2004-04-09
Conway, AR
Reviews:
·Conway Corp.
It does sound like a marketing opportunity. HOWEVER I personally have never lived in an apartment building that managed their own phones. The lines were installed and maintained by the local telephone company, and all the customer accounts were with the individuals in the apartments so the apartment management wasn't involved.

Nowadays fewer and fewer folks sign up for POTS phones except in those places DSL is their best shot at broadband Internet. And technically you don't HAVE to sign up for POTS in order to get it.

(POTS = Plain Old Telephone Service)

Mango
What router are you using?
Premium
join:2008-12-25
www.toao.net
kudos:13
Reviews:
·AcroVoice
·Callcentric
·Anveo
reply to dsl2u
Sounds like a good marketing opportunity for a service provider. Even if the building wasn't wired with cat5e, you could set up a dedicated internet connection with ATAs and provide traditional phone service. With a little planning, you could achieve very acceptable service quality and reliability.


ekster
Hi there
Premium
join:2010-07-16
Lachine, QC
kudos:3
Reviews:
·FreePhoneLine
reply to dsl2u
Too much liability if Internet fails, or anything else for that matter.
Especially with e911. If someone doesn't know about it, and has to get transferred while calling 911, there will be hell about it. And if they know about it in advance, most people will get scared off and say no.


WhyADuck
Premium
join:2003-03-05
kudos:1
reply to dsl2u
Yes, there is the potential liability issue, but there are also other considerations. For example, in some states (maybe all of them) you'd have to register with the state as a telephone company and pay various taxes and fees. But the biggest problem is that most apartment owners and tenants gave no idea of what VoIP is, and many of them (particularly the older ones that still want or need landline-type service) would be resistant to change. One thing I have discovered in life is that you can talk until you are blue in the face about how changing the way someone does things would benefit them (financially or otherwise) but if it's not what they are used to they won't even hear of it. You'd have about as much luck getting them to change their religion as you would in convincing them that VoIP is a good thing.

Also keep in mind that some apartment owners have sweetheart deals with the local phone company. I have a friend that lives in an apartment complex for senior citizens and he would love to get high speed broadband from the local cable company, but he can only get crappy DSL service (and Dish Network for his TV service) - somehow the local cable company has been completely locked out of the building, and this is a fairly new building (I'd guess built in the late '90's). Worse yet was that when he was considering moving in they lied to him about being able to get cable internet and he didn't find out the truth until after he'd signed the papers and moved in (and of course had no way to prove what they had told him verbally). He's halfway through a one-year lease and when that runs out he's packing up and moving on (or so he says) but I'm sure they will find someone else to take his place, and if it's some old guy that's never used anything more modern than a typewriter he probably won't care anyway.

If I were running an apartment, I'd put in an Asterisk box to route my door/gate phones through, and maybe at least give tenants apartment-to-apartment calling and maybe the option to get service from one or more commercial VoIP providers, but that's just me. Most apartment owners would have no idea what you are talking about.

dsl2u

join:2012-05-16
CANADA
Reviews:
·FreePhoneLine
reply to ekster
> Too much liability if Internet fails

Solution. Buy blocked cell phones that still work on 911. Give them to the tenants and have them sign for them so you're absolved. I'd much rather dial 911 from a cell and have that mobility then a landline anyway.

dsl2u

join:2012-05-16
CANADA
Reviews:
·FreePhoneLine
reply to dsl2u
You're right about people being resistant to change. So you just give them the phone and let them try it for a few days. Go with a company that can also port their old number as that can be a problem if not available. Or you just include it in the rent so there are no billing issues. Most people would let their phone line go if it proved itself over time I think. That's how I converted to VOIP. I just started using it more and more and found I wasn't using the old landline as much as before. Sure the landline sounded better but the communication possibilities with the digital version were so much better I sacrificed a bit there. And with QoS improvements I should be able to close the gap considerably. Anyway, so often you're talking to people on crappy cell phone lines so what's the difference?


Trev
IP Telephony Addict
Premium
join:2009-06-29
Victoria, BC
kudos:6

1 recommendation

reply to dsl2u
said by dsl2u:

Solution. Buy blocked cell phones that still work on 911. Give them to the tenants and have them sign for them so you're absolved. I'd much rather dial 911 from a cell and have that mobility then a landline anyway.

That's not a solution; that is against the rules and will put the operator in hot water if something goes wrong.

With fixed VoIP it's possible for the operator to offer true E911, despite the rest of the system being VoIP. If the apartment building is big enough, the costs would easily be covered by the number of subscribers.

In fact, with this sort of arrangement it would be an excellent idea to bundle Internet and phone service together so you can ensure building-wide QoS to keep the phone calls clear.

The problem is you'll need to spend some serious money on lawyers to get the incumbents to back off and allow you to hold a monopoly on the building. I have briefly explored this avenue and decided it wasn't worth it and likely to cause more headaches and legal drama than good customers.
--
I represent AcroVoice, a full service Canadian VoIP Provider.
Buy your Obihai ATA shipped from within Canada.

Mango
What router are you using?
Premium
join:2008-12-25
www.toao.net
kudos:13
Would it be necessary to hold a monopoly on the building? If my apartment manager had said to me, "Hey, we can give you phone service for $5 less than the incumbent's basic line with all of the features," I'd have done it voluntarily.


Trev
IP Telephony Addict
Premium
join:2009-06-29
Victoria, BC
kudos:6

1 recommendation

If you want to be able to afford higher end equipment (such as a high quality channel bank for all the analog lines running to each customer), you'll need enough customers to afford the hardware, thus the need for a monopoly.

This is how others are doing it with new developments, and probably why a lot of buildings are DSL-only or cable-only.
--
I represent AcroVoice, a full service Canadian VoIP Provider.
Buy your Obihai ATA shipped from within Canada.

dsl2u

join:2012-05-16
CANADA
Reviews:
·FreePhoneLine
reply to dsl2u
> that is against the rules and will put the operator in hot water if something goes wrong.

Rules of what? Is there a rule that stipulates everybody has to have 911 access? What if people don't have a phone line at all? I'm in Canada but I presume the laws are similar here as the US.

I see 911 is a big issue so you have to definitely isolate yourself from that completely so the tenant understands this is not a phone in the traditional sense of the word. A cell phone is far more effective for 911 than a land line. Also a deactivated cell phone with no number is untraceable which is often what people yearn for when reporting suspicious activity to the police in your neighborhood. The police can be so sloppy in keeping your information private; many couldn't care less. Your only protection is when they have no way of identifying you (besides the sound of your voice) through caller ID/address linkage.

Regarding registering as a phone company, I wonder what makes something a phone company? You could offer it as simply an internet package of some sort to separate yourself further from phone issues.

> In fact, with this sort of arrangement it would be an excellent idea to bundle Internet and phone service together so you can ensure building-wide QoS to keep the phone calls clear.

Yes, that's exactly what I was thinking as well. One affects the other; they are utterly intertwined.

As for the monopoly, I hadn't thought of that yet our building here is a monopoly and one company has far more control than the other. Guess you can always divest yourself from a monopoly. But how about just going with the internet service of whoever supplies it? Both DSL and cable should be able to supply the necessary bandwith if setup correctly.

I'd like to offer internet service restricting bandwith of torrent and video sites since those 2 things seem to use up almost all of the bandwith in most situations and many people use neither. They'd gladly halve their bill with those restrictions. You could still watch the video - you'd just have to wait a bit for it to load. It would discourage aimless Youtube browsing. And torrent endless downloading. One could accumulate movies on a server for the building (classics from the past for example) so there were no issues with copyright. Then parents wouldn't have to worry about the content. Also documentaries - their content should be safe 99% of the time.

Also people could opt to record different security cameras with their computer around the building for their own curiosity, say if their car was getting vandalized.

gweidenh

join:2002-05-18
Houston, TX
kudos:3
said by dsl2u:

Rules of what? Is there a rule that stipulates everybody has to have 911 access?

Yes, the FCC mandates that a VoIP provider that offers inbound and outbound service must also provide E911 service for a reasonable fee to the customer.


Gershom 1624

@optonline.net
said by gweidenh:

said by dsl2u:

Rules of what? Is there a rule that stipulates everybody has to have 911 access?

Yes, the FCC mandates that a VoIP provider that offers inbound and outbound service must also provide E911 service for a reasonable fee to the customer.

The OP is in Canada, but it is worth mentioning that the Canadian CRTC has similar rules though not identical.

CRTC tries to make a little more accommodation for nomadic VoIP as opposed to fixed VoIP, yet clearly in this situation the phone service would be considered "fixed" and "interconnected" by the officials in both countries.

dsl2u

join:2012-05-16
CANADA
reply to dsl2u
So you have to not classify it has phone service at all. Perhaps it could be classified as a particular type of internet service which it just so happens to be!


ArgMeMatey

join:2001-08-09
Milwaukee, WI
kudos:2
Reviews:
·voip.ms
·AT&T Midwest
·Time Warner Cable
reply to Mango
said by Mango:

Would it be necessary to hold a monopoly on the building? If my apartment manager had said to me, "Hey, we can give you phone service for $5 less than the incumbent's basic line with all of the features," I'd have done it voluntarily.

Back in the post-divestiture, pre-1996 Telecom Act days, when LD was still a cash cow, I looked into this for the property management company I worked for. The proposal was to hire a local telecom contractor who would have assumed responsibility for the inside wiring and paid commissions to the property owner.

A monopoly may not have been required but managing cross-connects between two providers and the house cables would have meant a lot of monthly labor and logistical issues.

At the time we looked at it, there were too many unanswered regulatory questions that would have required a lot of legal time to resolve. We never got to the point of estimating capital costs, operating revenue and commission income.

Also, in HUD- and IRS-regulated properties, it's not advantageous to spend money on bundling cable and phone into the rent, because it can't be included in the reimbursement rate for Section 8 properties or the rent calculation for Section 42 and Section 8 voucher properties.

In higher-income properties, I am guessing POTS and Cable VoIP penetration is ever-dropping as most renters would already have a mobile phone. As the use of wired phones tapers down to a base of survivalists, businesses, people who don't feel lucky and old people, I doubt a landlord would find a profitable economy of scale, and if a contractor could find a business model to make it work, they would do so. Maybe there's a niche to be exploited.
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USNG:
16TDN2870
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leibold
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-09
Sunnyvale, CA
kudos:10
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
reply to dsl2u
said by dsl2u:

A cell phone is far more effective for 911 than a land line.

While there are many real benefits to both VoIP and cell phones, 911 access is one area where POTS still rules for now (and the foreseeable future). Even VoIP and E911 in a home or office are better then mobile phones for 911 calls.

In most urban areas 911 call routing from mobile phones is highly unpredictable. Calls from freeway accidents get routed to local city departments while the emergency calls from homes near that same freeway get routed to a 911 center for the state highway patrol (often just a single location in the state capitol). Obviously the intend is the reverse, but far too often those critical 911 calls from mobile phones get delayed by initial routing errors and the need to forward those calls to the correct agency.

The only redeeming factor for cell phones in emergency situations is that almost everybody has one (no need to search for a phone when in an unfamiliar location). However if you want to ensure the quickest response to the correct location pick up a POTS phone instead (or a VoIP phone with E911).

The POTS phone will be wherever it is physically plugged in (not temporarily misplaced in the panic of an emergency) and will work regardless whether or not you remembered to charge your phone or whether or not your home has electric power (POTS phones are CO powered). Most importantly the 911 operator will know exactly from where you are calling even if you are in some way incapacitated from speaking.
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Got some spare cpu cycles ? Join Team Helix or Team Starfire!

dsl2u

join:2012-05-16
CANADA
Reviews:
·FreePhoneLine
reply to ArgMeMatey
You're so right about the competition with cell phones. Most of the calls that come into me from people I don't know from internet ads are from cells. That is just astounding since the quality is often terrible, they're distracted and can't focus on the call as they're out doing stuff, the phone being always accessible makes them tend to call first, think later...LOL. But they still use that instrument and one can never forget that. Definitely it would be harder sell to younger people who don't even use a landline. But they sure pay dearly for that convenience, especially if they want the "whole package" of voice, text and web access. Still most of them do not have long distance packages, they often don't have unlimited calling during the day and texting on a tiny kaypad is vastly inferior to texting on a computer keyboard. So there is a market but its smaller than it could be.


Trev
IP Telephony Addict
Premium
join:2009-06-29
Victoria, BC
kudos:6
reply to dsl2u
said by dsl2u:

said by Trev:

that is against the rules and will put the operator in hot water if something goes wrong.

Rules of what? Is there a rule that stipulates everybody has to have 911 access? What if people don't have a phone line at all? I'm in Canada but I presume the laws are similar here as the US.

Yes, CRTC and FCC both require that you provide 911 service when selling a service that's functionally equivalent to a land line, as this would be.

said by dsl2u:

Regarding registering as a phone company, I wonder what makes something a phone company? You could offer it as simply an internet package of some sort to separate yourself further from phone issues.

If it looks like a phone and functions like a phone, it's a phone even if you don't call it that.



In regards to the QoS, you have to be really careful with that. Throttling and blocking services are a hot topic with both sides fighting hard and the CRTC making decisions all the time. You have to comply with these rules as you would become an Internet Service Provider as well with such a venture.
--
I represent AcroVoice, a full service Canadian VoIP Provider.
Buy your Obihai ATA shipped from within Canada.

scooper

join:2000-07-11
Youngsville, NC
kudos:2
reply to dsl2u
Honestly - I don't think the money would be there for a building company provided monoply, along with all the other negatives that have been pointed out.

Heck, I'm not even sure "providing" broadband ISP service would be worth it - and while cable and/or telco would like to lock a building into a "monoply" - I think it would be better to provide access to any company that wants to provide service (let them be the one to figure out if they can make money at that location).


cb14

join:2013-02-04
Miami Beach, FL
Reviews:
·callwithus
·T-Mobile US
·localphone.com
·Google Voice
·Callcentric
·AT&T U-Verse
·magicjack.com

1 recommendation

I operated an apartment building in the nineties and there are 3 things you want ; reduce your costs, reduce your liability and reduce your headache. Just the legal costs here would be pretty high, major headaches inevitable, liabilities plenty and the necessary fat letter disclosure in an addendum to the lease would turn off a number of prospective tenants. Thumbs down on this idea, as much as I like VOIP.


UHF
All static, all day, Forever
Premium,MVM
join:2002-05-24
Reviews:
·Mediacom
·Callcentric
·Dish Network
reply to ArgMeMatey
said by ArgMeMatey:

Back in the post-divestiture, pre-1996 Telecom Act days, when LD was still a cash cow, I looked into this for the property management company I worked for.

Metropolitan Assoc by any chance? Just curious as it seemed like they owned a ton of apartment buildings when I lived there in '93-94.

bandwidthkiw

join:2008-03-12
Cary, NC
There are companies offering triple play into apartment complexes, student housing etc already. They are often selling it as a single choice solution, ie choose this or there is no other solution. A lot of newer apartment developers are going this route - at least in the South


ArgMeMatey

join:2001-08-09
Milwaukee, WI
kudos:2
Reviews:
·voip.ms
·AT&T Midwest
·Time Warner Cable

1 recommendation

reply to UHF
said by UHF:

Metropolitan Assoc by any chance? Just curious as it seemed like they owned a ton of apartment buildings when I lived there in '93-94.

No, I moved here from out of state. But M.A. still does own a lot of stuff in this market.

Landlords are generally not good at providing complicated services; they are much better suited to providing a captive audience to which others can sell, while the landlords take their cut.

For example, cable aggressively pursues contracts that require exclusive use of existing inside coax to keep the barriers to entry high for any competitors. There's your VoIP right there, in a lot of cases. And they do kick back to the landlord: They might offer one free basic cable subscription for every 100 units under contract, and if they achieve specified penetrations, they will pay cash back to the landlord on a sliding scale.

(There are exceptions; laundry is a big business, and a management company with a big enough portfolio can hire an appliance repair person at a reasonable cost who can deal with laundry as well as stoves and refrigerators. The place I worked for had one guy just to maintain laundromat washers and dryers and another guy just for tenant unit appliances. And of course an (honest) trained monkey can collect the money.

One crucial difference between appliances and VoIP is that you can maintain a stock of spare appliances and put O-O-O signs on laundromat machines that don't work, but when somebody's phone is out, they're just going to camp out in the apartment office until their phone is fixed.)
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USNG:
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Find your USNG coordinates:
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VexorgTR

join:2012-08-27
Sheffield Lake, OH
kudos:1
Reviews:
·voip.ms
reply to dsl2u
There's one other piece that is being forgotten about...

Delinquent clients. Most of the low price VOIP's are PayGo, or Pre-Pay. If you as the owner have a delinquent client, you turn off their phone, they want to call 911, the first time they can't they call a lawyer.

If the appartment owner had an in-house phone savvy IT staff, it could be done. If it were to be done, it'd make more sense in a Ritzy place. Think about it. Let's say the building chose CallCentric... October would have been RACKED with complaints. Or VOIP.ms in recent months was Racked with issues. You'd need a very sharp techie, redundant internet providers, power backup, Auto-Failover... so now it's not cheap anymore. It's pretty darn costly to provide that reliably.

I deal with too many people. You give the old lady in appartment C a Voip phone for 15$/mo, and she complains she can't plug her 1954 Wall phone in because she likes the way it fit her hand. Yeah, It does happen.

Issue number #47.... The "cost cutter" who won't order a Dish or Cable is going to be NetFlixing and Huluing you network to kingdom come, and then complaining if you throttle him.... the only reason you throttled him in the first place is so the phones worked and others had a chance to use the newtwork too.

Liability is the #1 concern as was already stated.... if there's a problem, let the phone company deal with the lawyers........ Sigh.

I've been in charge of a few "Free WiFi" at our appartment complexes... The little 2 floor joints worked well. The 7 floor place was SOOOO Saturated, I'd hate to even THINK about running VOIP on there. The ISP's want your soul for enough bandwidth, and then when someone's box in the building picks up and starts sending virii all over the place, you as the IT Guy have to break it to him that you're cutting off his internet until his computer gets fixed... He says it's not broken of course.

It IS plausible. but it's NOT fun... by any means.