UPDATED: How Can You Tell if You Have VoIP Home Phone Service?

Maureen Mahoney
Public Policy Fellow

Monday, January 25th, 2016

In the past year that we’ve been working on our End Robocalls campaign, we’ve learned that consumers typically have a lot more options for robocall-blocking services if they have a modern, Internet-based phone line, called “VoIP” (for Voice over Internet Protocol).

For example, only consumers with VoIP service can sign up for Nomorobo, the call-blocking service that won the Federal Trade Commission (FTC’s) 2013 contest for the best robocall-blocker. Nomorobo piggybacks on a feature that is already available to many VoIP users, known as simultaneous ring. Thus, many VoIP customers can sign up for Nomorobo through the Nomorobo website.

But how do you know if you have a traditional landline (copper) phone service or a VoIP service? It can be difficult to tell, since many companies offer both. For example, in many areas, customers can get traditional copper service through AT&T. But AT&T also offers VoIP service through AT&T U-verse, their VoIP brand.

In addition, many customers use a regular phone plugged into the wall to access VoIP service, so their Internet-based service may not appear to be very different from traditional copper landline.

There are a few ways to determine your type of service. If you answer YES to any of these questions, you probably have VoIP service.

Has your phone service gone out during a power outage? Unless you have an in-home battery backup, your VoIP phone service will probably go out during a power outage. But traditional copper landline users will continue to have a dial tone despite loss of power.

Is your phone service offered by a cable provider, not a phone company? For example, Time Warner Cable and Comcast are primarily cable companies – not phone companies. They don’t have any traditional copper landline holdings. But, they provide voice service through VoIP technology.

Is your phone service part of a Voice-Internet-Cable bundle? Typically traditional landlines aren’t able to transmit that much data, and these types of bundles are often only possible through VoIP.

Are you able to add a lot of features to your home phone service for free? Basic copper landline service customers are typically charged to add features like Caller ID and Anonymous Call Block. But VoIP customers usually can add 10 or even 20 services to their phone service at no extra charge.

Is your phone service compatible with Nomorobo? Nomorobo is currently only supported by VoIP service. Here are many of the compatible providers: Ooma Premier, Time Warner Cable, Vonage, Wave, Verizon FiOS, Optimum, AT&T U-verse, Comcast Xfinity, Broadvoice Phone Power, VoIP.ms, VOIPO, and Sonic.

We’re also pushing the phone companies to offer technology to protect your cell phones from unwanted robocalls – especially as many of you have ditched your home phones and rely exclusively on your cell! If you receive robocalls on your cell phone, please click our survey here so we can better address your needs.

Whether you have traditional landline, VoIP, or wireless service, we think your phone provider should offer you advanced call-blocking tools, for free. Please sign our petition to call for an end to robocalls!

View all Campaign Updates

46 responses to “UPDATED: How Can You Tell if You Have VoIP Home Phone Service?”

  1. Karen says:

    We get our “landline” (as opposed to cell–it’s wall mounted) telephone service bundled with our cable service. No internet service on that account. Although the calls go through cable, I don’t see any difference between this and traditional copper wire.

    For example, I would have no idea how to sign up for Nomorobo. Goodness knows we need it, as between 90% – 95% of the calls we receive are violations of DNC, and probably half of that (at least!) are outright scams.

    In addition, I’m not sure I would be satisfied with merely blocking robocalls. Is there a service that will automatically report them to DNC? Right now I report virtually all of the calls I actually answer (as opposed to those I ignore based on caller ID) for violations. It doesn’t stop some of them from calling back several times.

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Hi Karen, Feel free to reach out to me directly at mmahoney at consumer dot org if you would like to discuss how to sign up for Nomorobo or another call-blocking service. Thanks, Maureen

  2. Susan Grant says:

    WE have ATT-Uverse with internet, phone & TV. When power goes out, out phones quit working. WE get much too much Scam artists phone calls. Recently someone keeps calling asking us to connect him with our computer so he can get rid of all the scam mail. Some want our SS# so they can help us with our Income Tax. The nerve of these scam artists.
    WE would like for these calls to stop. Put a block button on these phones or something.

    Thank you

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Hi Susan, thanks for your comment! You may want to check out Nomorobo at nomorobo.com. It’s a free robocall-blocking service that was highly rated by CR’s volunteer testers.

  3. Comment: Labeling of the blanks above on this form is not precise. Does “Mail” mean “email”? Word “email” is used below, but not above.

    We have personal cell phones with Consumer Cellular (rated #1 by CR).
    Our house phones are also via wireless Consumer Cellular. Have had this service for only a few weeks. Wireless receiver sits next to a window, is connected to our house phone system. After purchase ($50) of the wireless receiver, only charge is $10/month for the additional line.
    Had a robo call yesterday from Marriott. No others.

  4. Sarah says:

    I’m a bit confused as my calls come through my IPhone. Verizon is my service provider. No land line or VOIP. Is this campaign only for those phone services? If yes, is there one for cellphones that we can be directed too? Many people, like myself, use their cellphones as their only number. We need help too!

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sarah! We added a link above that you can click on to tell us that you’re getting robocalls to your cell phone.

  5. Barbara Menning says:

    Verizon is the carrier for my cellphone on which I received all my robocalls and messages.

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Thanks for your comment, Barbara! We added a link to the post above that you can click to tell us that you’re getting robocalls to your cell phone. Stopping robocalls to cell phones is definitely a priority for us!

  6. Barbara Menning says:

    All of my robocalls are coming in on my apple 6 cellphone ios.

  7. Karen LoBello says:

    Our landline phone is thru Grande Communication. It goes out when power is out. I want to get rid of the landline but Grande Communication will raise our rates for Internet and cable if we do. They’re the only provider for our town regretfully. They need a good competitor!

  8. Guy Pane says:

    Comcast blocks 25 calls and our Panasonic phone lets me block 30 calls for a total of 55 blocks. Here’s the draw back, you have to block the numbers yourself. I call it a draw back I wished it could be automatic. When I get 2 or 3 calls from the same number I eliminate the oldest block and enter the new one. After two years I have not received a call from the number I unblocked. I write down every number I get which many do not have the time for. They calls have been much less over the pass 6 months or so.
    They say to hang up when these calls come in but I did the opposite to see what happen. I kept the guy on for 35 minutes with so many excuses that I heard his boss ask why he was on the line so long. I finally said I change my mind and I can not print what he called me…I LOL

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Guy! You may want to check out Nomorobo at Nomorobo.com. It’s a free service that automatically blocks unwanted robocalls, and our CR volunteer testers rated it highly.

  9. Victoria Silver says:

    Please get robocalls off my landline. I write at home, and I canot take the phone off the hook with a 95-year-old mother. The interruptions are driving me crazy;

    • L Tilles says:

      See if you can use Nomorobo. They are wonderful, & free. Go to nomorobo.com to sign up. I started using them 9 months ago as part of the Consumer Reports study, & am very happy with the service. They block robocalls that I don’t want, yet allow those that I would be interested in (such as informational calls from my local government) to go through. When a call is blocked the phone rings once. Thus I could answer that call if for some reason I wanted to. The ONE time that a call from my car loan company was blocked, I was able to see this on my Caller ID. I contacted nomorobo, & they told me how to unblock the number. I have had no other calls that were routed the wrong way. I love this service!

  10. k seyfried says:

    I have Nomorobo since I switched from Verizon and I am THRILLED. However, I have Verizon cell and am getting a lot more robo calls through the cell now. (And it is on the do not call list.)

  11. Bill Ray says:

    All of my robocalls are my Verizon cell phone. Apple ios

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Bill! We updated the post above with a link to click if you primarily get robocalls on your cell phone (second to last paragraph).

  12. George says:

    I have Time Warner Cable. I went to VoiceZone but when I tried to activate Nomorobo I just got a message saying it is not responding. Let’s hope this is a temporary problem.

  13. Jerry Good says:

    Charter tech support says they do not support simultaneous ring.
    Sadly no Nomorobo.

  14. Barb says:

    Our cell phones are Android phones using Verizon. Getting very tired of calls telling me they can fix my credit and offering me cruises. I’d listed our numbers in the ‘do not call’ lists, but no luck. Getting tired of telling folks, “Just a minute, I’ve got a call” and then listening to the interruption long enough to hang up! Rude to me and to the person I’m talking to.

    No more landlines…cancelled Century Link due to incredibly poor service and backing out of their agreement on charges with our small business … I figure we’ll be even in 10 months and, then, if I live another 20 years, they’ll be out over $26,000…!

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Barb. We updated the post above so you can click on a link if you primarily get robocalls to your cell phone. (see the second to last paragraph).

  15. Karen says:

    Please do something about political calls. We are entering the time when many calls (and repeats) will be interrupting the day with these extremely obnoxious calls.

  16. Ross Johnson says:

    I had phone service with CenturyTel but disconnected the phone because I would receive 10 or more non solicited calls per day.

  17. Dale says:

    Please address cellphones. Also we definitely need to prevent political ads this year.

    • Carol Jung says:

      Lots of spam calls coming in over my cell service. I just don’t answer any calls that I don’t already have in my phone and assume if it is legitimate, they will leave a message. Maybe whomever provides the phone service should mandate an ID show with the number. It would help put a halt to terrorists, also.

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Thanks, Dale! We added a link above so that you can record that you’re primarily receiving robocalls to your cell phone. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  18. James Robbins says:

    I get calls on my ATT Cell phone as well as my COX Cable home phone.

  19. tracey evans says:

    I also have a home phone that is cellular, so neither one of the voting options works for me. But we are receiving robocalls on that phone too, as well as my cell number.

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Interesting, thanks for pointing out that home phones can be wireless, too! We added a link to the post above so that you can record that you’re getting robocalls to your cell phone.

  20. Phil Jutras says:

    Please halt robo calls on our landline

  21. Lisa says:

    I’m getting robo calls on my cell phone, too. (AT&T) Are cell phones being addressed? Can anything be done about the political robocalls? Unfortunately, those are allowed under the Do Not Call program.

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Thanks, Lisa – increasingly we’re hearing from consumers that they’re getting robocalls to their cell phones. We added a link above that cell phones users can click. We’re fighting to make sure that you can control the calls you receive, no matter what type of phone you have!

  22. Mr. Tyler R. says:

    I have a wireless mobile phone. A cell phone. You didnt give me that option in the survey

  23. Cyril Fedor says:

    I have my phone service through COX communications via my internet modem. I lose this connection during a power outage. I, as well as several of my friends are pulling our hair out with these telephone solicitors. The calls start at 0800 AM and continue to 9 PM. I hope something can be done to stop these annoying and harassing calls. Thank you.

  24. Lee says:

    What about Cell Phones? Almost every week I get some automated crap about cruises.

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Thanks, Lee – cell phones deserve protection too! We added a link to this post that you can click if you primarily get robocalls to your cell.

  25. Nancy Hildebrandt says:

    You asked us in a one-question survey to choose in a survey whether we have landline or VoIP, but I have wireless for both cell and my standard cordless phone, so sorry, can’t vote.

    • Jane says:

      Click one. Then go back to the email and click the other one!

    • Maureen Mahoney says:

      Thanks for pointing this out to us, Nancy! We updated the post and added a link above that you can click if you are getting robocalls to your cell phone. We really appreciate your feedback!

  26. sanjiv garg says:

    I was so sick of robo calls that I cancelled my ATT landline and ported my number to google voice; now I have full control of who can call me and when and which phones ring all for free. I also get voice mails transcription sent to my email. I saved $60 a month; why can’t ATT offer this service? goodbye ATT you lost a loyal customer due to your stubbornness.

  27. joyce reiss says:

    Not certain why type of phone I use. I get my phone service and internet from Uverse.

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