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ISDN Rates And My Temperature
Rise: Pulling The Plug For Alternatives
June 18, 2014

By Bobbin Beam
Voice Actress

The full-time voice talent must always be ready to have a broadcast-quality, user-friendly studio connection to studios and producers for remote audio recording of voice over sessions.

For those remote recording sessions, my own studio includes a Telos Zephyr ISDN codec, and connection through an AT&T subscription.

But the tide is turning for singular users of ISDN.

Voice over talents like myself are completely fed up and/or slowly getting priced out of the ISDN marketplace as the telephone companies are actively disbanding this older service technology and infrastructure in favor of economically effective and efficient fiber optics.

Fortunately, Internet-based alternatives are emerging: Source-Connect NOW, ipDTL (I have installed both), and SoundStreak.
Editor's note: See side-by-side comparisons of how each system works.
RAPID ISDN RATE RISE

A few weeks ago I spoke with a rep at AT&T about why my bill went up another $100 per month - following an increase of $100 per month only two months prior.

I was gasping as I added up the additional thousands Iím forking over annually now to AT&T, and fondly remembering the days, not so long ago, when my residential ISDN account in California cost only $48.00 per month.

Yet recently I moved to the Midwest, where I am required to maintain a "business account.Ē Residential accounts are no longer available here.

As the subscription rates go up about $100 every eight weeks or so, it's like being in a pot of water on a heated stove. The temperature keeps rising until you finally scream, "Uncle!Ē or "Iím cooked!"

COMPETITIVE DISADVANTAGE


The most galling thing is the competitive disadvantage that results for small businesses, the one-person studios, the voice  talent, who are being hurt.

We're trying to hang on and are challenged to remain competitive when voice talent in other parts of the country pay far less for the service - although it appears that everyone is receiving increasingly higher bills these days for their ISDN.

And many cannot even get ISDN re-installed if they move!   

Some argue that this is the cost of doing business in voice over. Well, Iím thinking instead that I could give myself a hefty raise by ditching ISDN.

GROWING ALTERNATIVES

And thereís excellent quality coming through with Source-Connect NOW and ipDTL. Plus, there are very reasonable bridging services.

And for voice over gigs that absolutely require ISDN, Iíve made arrangements with a commercial studio about 30 minutes away.

So the bases are pretty much covered. 

CUTTING ISDN CORD


No longer will I pay lip service to the threat of stopping this madness. Iím going to work on cutting the ISDN cord, and soon. Itís out and out highway robbery, and certain reps at AT&T agree.

The rep at AT&T I spoke with said he barely deals with any inquiries regarding ISDN any more. There are so few. Many of the very knowledgeable ISDN installation techs whoíve been with the company for years are retiring into the sunset along with the 40-year-old technology.

Another tidbit from AT&T: Land lines will be a thing of the past very soon, with cellular and fiber optic delivery systems as the new norm. And no more wiring homes with expensive copper. Fiber, baby, fiber!

POINT, CLICK, DONE

So change is here. The writing is on my wall. And Iím swiftly moving in the direction of change.

Now I must inform my agents, studio clients and producer regulars about the pending shift.

I've already updated the studio page on my website to include all the ways a producer can connect with me for a remote voice over recording session.

At the STUDIO tab, for now, is ISDN and my dial-up numbers, followed by the cool and newly embedded connection point for Source-Connect NOW, and a client ipDTL login banner. Point, click, done.

Note to self: Better consider selling my Telos Zephyr before it becomes an expensive door stop. Stick a fork in me, Iím almost done.
-----------------------
ABOUT BOBBIN
Bobbin Beam has worked professionally behind the microphone since she was 18. She has been a full time voice actress for 20+ years, following a number of years in FM rock radio from Milwaukee to San Diego. Her career dreams hatched upon the living room stage at the age of four, performing "Snow WhiteĒ for her family. Before age 12, Bobbin formed an acting troupe with neighborhood kids, and wrote, directed and produced plays in the family barn. Bobbin has now returned to Wisconsin, where her career began, yet her voice is heard all over the world. When not recording, sheís a blogger, learner, cook and volunteer. She also loves singing, swimming, kayaking, reading, writing, cycling, hiking, yoga and life.

Email: bobbin@BobbinBeam.com
Web: www.BobbinBeam.com


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Comments (6)
Bruce Barker
7/23/2015 at 4:42 PM
Great post, Bobbin, and we're right with you on the astonishing ISDN rate increases. My wife and I operate a commercial production facility in the LA area, and we're getting hugely squeezed by AT&T. Just this month our bill was about $70 more than last month, and while it's virtually impossible to get a live ISDN expert on the line, I eventually got voicemail from them claiming that was simply a rate hike. No reason given.

I as well remember when our ISDN lines were each just a few bucks more per month than a telephone land line (we've had ISDN for about two decades). We used to have a couple connections, but disconnected one last year due to rising costs. Now our sole remaining line is twice as expensive as BOTH were, and the monthly bill stands just a few bucks under our bill for eight phone lines + internet combined. BTW, one of our cherished Zephyrs was sold a few months ago on ebay, at less than $500 bucks. For the nonce, we'll continue to offer ISDN as a service, but it's been a money loser for quite awhile now.

Like any copper phone line, ISDN can also serve as a backup connection even if you've completely lost power, internet, and/or cell service. Looks like that option will soon be a thing of the past as well.
Bobbin Beam
6/1/2015 at 12:23 PM
Hi Kevin,

Because we've experienced some drop outs with the free version of Source-Connect Now, I've opted to upgrade to Source-Connect standard, which seems more stable, and is critical when you are booked for that always important session. It's just more professional to be offering reliability in my opinion. So even though I can use the "Now" version, and I do feature that connection option in the studio section of my website, at bobbinbeam.com/studio along with ipDtl's logos and links, most sessions are with SC standard, or through the recording studio's ipDTL link that books me.

Another nice thing about SC's upgrade to the Standard version is the accessibility to other users, and is useful for networking. I hope this info helps.

Best, Bobbin Beam
KC Cady
5/28/2015 at 12:47 PM
Thank you for sharing this, Bobbin!
It took me about 30-minutes from the download (free) to getting on SourceConnect NOW Live!

Q: Are you using the logo on your website?
What marketing tactics are you using to advertise you SourceConnect ability?

Thank you,
-KC Cady
www.kccady.com
Hubert Williams
6/21/2014 at 5:09 PM
I have never had ISDN available in areas that I have lived since beginning in voiceover.
Brent Walker
6/18/2014 at 2:35 PM
Bobbin, I went through this ISDN rate-hike problem a couple of years ago, and came out on the other end with my original rates intact.

I discovered that the root of the problem is contracts. AT&T made an internal decision to stop issuing contracts for ISDN, and so we are currently getting the "rack rate." I went to the head of customer service in San Antonio, wrote him a letter detailing the requirement for a solid copper connection versus IP routing, and sent him Dave Immer's list of installed ISDN accounts across the US. He took it to the president, and I got my contract pricing back within a week. They really didn't know how many people still use it.

Whether or not they're still willing to issue a contract remains to be seen, and ISDN will rapidly evaporate as a means of connection as IP gets better & better. But for those of us who still MUST have ISDN, this is the route to take.
Lance Blair
6/18/2014 at 9:22 AM
Thank you for sharing this! Being in Atlanta, I'm glad I've held off on using ISDN. I've lost a few good commercial jobs because of that, but they would have been negated by the ISDN costs anyway. I'm looking forward to Google Fiber soon coming to my town and using all the online audio connectivity solutions. ipDTL, Source-Connect Now, and SoundStreak have all worked great for me - even on WiFi. This week I've been working for a German studio using SessionLinkPro, which has some popularity in Europe and it has been excellent. Online solutions will likely become a bit pricey if we lose Net Neutrality (be sure to protest that, people!) but it can't be as costly as ISDN.
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