Ooma: My White Rabbit Days

One White Rabbit's apparently atypical experience with the slick but flaky VoIP device.

By Jeff Goldman | Posted Aug 24, 2007
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Moving can be stressful. It's not just about packing all those boxes—you have to make sure your utilities are up and running, transfer phone service, set up Internet and cable TV .  .  .

Well, setting up Ooma is kind of like moving.

Despite the fact that the service is intended to make voice over IP accessible to mainstream consumers, getting it up and running is a little more complicated than you might expect.

The concept behind Ooma is simple. You pay $399 for a preconfigured box that uses both PSTN and VoIP to give you unlimited free calling nationwide (forever)—along with some pretty cool additional features like an instant second line and enhanced voicemail with both local and online control of messages.

In advance of the company's commercial launch in September, Ooma is giving away 1,500 boxes under its 'White Rabbit' program in an effort to publicize the product and deploy a nationwide network of boxes. The company gave VoIPplanet.com a set of White Rabbit tokens to give us the chance to test the service and see what it could offer.

Before you read further, please do keep in mind that this was a beta testing experience, and any issues described below may well be fully resolved before the product is launched commercially next month.


The Ooma device
The Ooma device

Ordering and delivery
The ordering process starts when you enter your White Rabbit code at the company's Web site and fill out an online application. It's all pretty straightforward, but one thing stands out. Toward the end of the application, you're required to enter your initials on a Letter of Agency with the following wording:

My digital initials indicate that I authorize Ooma, Inc. ("Ooma"), through its employees, agents, and contractors, to make changes on my behalf to my telephone services account (identified by the telephone number above) with my local telephone company. These changes may include any that are necessary or appropriate to make my telephone services work effectively and economically with my services from Ooma. These changes will include the activation of the "call forward on busy/no answer" feature which will direct calls to an Ooma account when there is a no answer or busy condition on the local telephone service. They may include the removal of unnecessary customer calling services that are redundant with similar services of Ooma. Ooma will not remove any caller ID features that I may have activated and will not change identities of or delete pre-subscribed interexchange (long distance) or intraexchange (local toll) carriers.

My digital initials indicate that I understand that I am selecting Ooma to provide me or my company with local toll telecommunications services. My existing local toll carrier will not be removed.

My digital initials indicate that I understand that I am selecting Ooma to provide me or my company with long distance telecommunications services. My existing long distance carrier will not be removed.

My digital initials indicate that I understand that my 911 service will be provided by my local telephone services provider. As such, my 911 service will be unaffected.

My digital signature below authorizes Ooma to make changes to my local telephone service account on my behalf.

As company CEO Andrew Frame explained to us previously, the purpose of the Letter of Agency is simply to allow Ooma to set up 'Call Forward Busy' service on the line—which is required for Ooma's services to work—and to remove any redundant services like Caller ID or voicemail. But the wording is alarmingly all-encompassing, and as noted below, it can have frustrating implications during the setup process.

Once the order is placed, the box itself is sent by DHL overnight—I placed my order on a Thursday and received my Ooma kit on Friday morning at 9am.

And oh boy, does it look good! The packaging and design are, to put it simply, very Apple-like—a clean, minimalist, attractive look. The hardware itself (see photo) is packaged in a sleek black box with simple white lettering, and in that sense, Ooma very much achieves its objective of making VoIP equipment look user-friendly, non-threatening, and, well, cool.

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