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#368617 - 14/04/2017 21:29 Faxing by internet
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5280
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
I am way over my head here.

Until six weeks ago, my health insurance company let me send health claims as email attachments. This was only possible because I had as a "personal concierge" in the company a man who was a supervisor of the concierge system, and was allowed to accept emails with attachments. If you call the company's concierge system, you only get to talk to the "boiler room" people who can't accept emails, much less emails with attachments.

That supervisory position has been eliminated, and I am hung out to dry.

Sending the claims by regular mail is not practical. I'm in Mexico, the company is in Connecticut, mail takes literally weeks to get there (if it gets there at all) and is quite expensive.

However... the company will accept the claims if they are faxed. So, just get a fax machine and send them, right? Not over a VOIP phone line, as near as I can tell.

How about the eFax services? Send them the email with attachments and they'll fax it to the insurance company. But I end up paying a monthly fee of anywhere from $6.00 to upwards of $20 in order to send out one fax per month. That fax might contain anything from three pages to more than 100 pages, depending on how many and how complex the claims are.

But wait! I can get a USB Fax Modem for my computer that will show up as another printer, I send the files to that and somehow they magically get sent to the recipient's fax machine. But doesn't that Fax Modem have to send it through my VOIP phone line? Will that work? And looking at the Amazon reviews of the various Fax Modems, there is a high degree of unhappiness with them, frequently running 15% one-star, because many of them are incompatible with various operating systems (especially Windows 10) and even some motherboards, and seem to have an unusually high failure rate when they are compatible.

My VOIP service is OOMA. My computer is Windows 10. What should I do?

tanstaafl.
_________________________
"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

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#368618 - 14/04/2017 23:00 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: tanstaafl.]
Shonky
pooh-bah

Registered: 12/01/2002
Posts: 1911
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
USB (or any kind of PC fax modem) will have the same issues with VOIP lines as a regular fax. PC based faxes use the same methods as standalone units.

I'd be surprised if you could not get one to work with Windows 10. Drivers maybe an issue only. A serial fax modem would work though.

Surely there are services that will do this for a more reasonable fee?

100 pages is a lot of faxing though. Is that realistic as it seems per page is the rate.

$1.50 / page so ok for 2 or 3 but not for 100 pages:
https://www.onetimefax.com/send-a-fax-inside-the-u-s-a.php

What about $3.29 / month for 25 pages and $0.10/page after that?
https://www.srfax.com/pricing/home-fax-to-email-plans/

Free (not sure how) for only a few pages, but also 30 pages for $3 or you can buy credits e.g. 300 pages for $20 making a 100 page fax cost ~$6.60 which I think is reasonable and a 5 pager would be ~$0.30.:
http://www.gotfreefax.com/

Free for short faxes or $1.99 for a 25 page fax.
https://faxzero.com/

So the going rate is a few dollars for a one off 20-30 page fax. I think that's not unreasonable. If you really have to send a 100 page fax, break it down to 3 or 4 groups mark it appropriately as "1 of 4" etc. I know I'd prefer not to have to do that for something like an insurance claim so I'd look for something like that GotFreeFax mob with a non expiring credit.

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-online-fax,review-2124-9.html
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Christian
#40104192 120Gb (no longer in my E36 M3, won't fit the E46 M3)

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#368619 - 15/04/2017 06:29 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: tanstaafl.]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 30548
Loc: Seattle, WA
I haven't looked at faxing things from windows in a long while, but what is the "Fax" thing I see already existing in the Windows printer drivers?

https://faxauthority.com/windows-8-fax/

So yeah, based on that, it looks like Windows 8+ comes with a built-in fax printer driver.

Whether or not your VOIP line is compatible with faxes would be something you should be able to look up. Faxes operate at low speed with pretty old technology, so I could envision a world where VOIP lines, at least some of them, should be able to handle faxes. Indeed, this page seems to think it might work if you configure it to slow down the transmission rate:

https://www.voipmechanic.com/faxingissuesandotherdevices.htm

This page says that you can fax over VOIP as long as your VOIP service and your fax device support something called "T38":

https://www.3cx.com/pbx/t38/

Oh hey, I just looked up Ooma directly and they seem to say that they do support faxing over an Ooma line, so that looks like it should be expected to work:

http://support.ooma.com/home/faxing-with-ooma

So I think that you should be OK if you just have a faxmodem of some kind. If you've got a serial port working on your windows PC that works well enough to communicate with the Empeg Car serial port, then it should work for any old faxmodem if you have an old one gathering dust in storage somewhere. Surely you've got a USRobotics modem buried in a box somewhere, back from the olden days? :-)

If not, I think it sounds like it'd be worth it to find some kind of USB fax modem and give it a try.
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Tony Fabris

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#368623 - 15/04/2017 11:56 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: tanstaafl.]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 13491
Loc: Canada
Here, we can successfully fax over VoIP most of the time, to most destinations, using the G.711 codec (64kbs GSM codec). Apparently, with a newer ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter box, aka. "VoIP adapter"), it would be even more reliable, as the old PAP2T-NA we use doesn't have the "fax" protocol feature (T.38).

All that said, who the heck only accepts fax in 2017? We can fax, but haven't needed to since perhaps 2003.


Edited by mlord (15/04/2017 11:59)

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#368624 - 15/04/2017 15:25 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: tfabris]
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5280
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Originally Posted By: tfabris
I just looked up Ooma directly and they seem to say that they do support faxing over an Ooma line,

Yes, and no. Even with T38 it requires good quality lines, and from a little village in the mountains of Mexico that is asking a lot. More importantly, it requires the newer OOMA Telo gateway.

Back in 2008 Jean and I were among the first 100 or so OOMA purchasers (we actually went to their office in Palo Alto and spent an hour with the head of OOMA's product development team!) and are still using the first generation OOMA hub. We would have to upgrade the hardware to get T38 capability.

Originally Posted By: OOMA
Ooma is currently looking into new ways to improve the reliability of faxing with the Ooma system, including use of the T.38 FoIP protocol. Note: If you find a need for reliable faxing, we recommend that you keep a Landline for this purpose.

I am exploring a few options, including getting the State of Alaska involved to put pressure on the insurance company to re-enable email attachments. The State has helped me in the past with my everlasting battles with the company.

tanstaafl.
_________________________
"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

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#368625 - 15/04/2017 15:39 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: Shonky]
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5280
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Originally Posted By: Shonky
What about $3.29 / month for 25 pages and $0.10/page after that?
https://www.srfax.com/pricing/home-fax-to-email-plans/

Yes, I had looked at that one. If there were an intermediate plan, i.e., 100 pages per month, it would be a no-brainer.

I will do a spreadsheet looking at the history of pages sent per month and see if the 25 pages per month plus $.10 for additional pages would be more cost effective than the more expensive 200 pages per month plan.

tanstaafl.
_________________________
"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

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#368628 - 15/04/2017 18:45 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: tanstaafl.]
K447
addict

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 571
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I have some domain knowledge here, as I used to (identity unmasking potential) be involved in the WinFax product development group. Ancient history now, but a lot of that facsimile via telephony knowledge cruft is still embedded in my head, albeit rather fuzzily.

My advice would be to source out an online fax service that supports email-to-fax or some sort of 'upload document to the service and we fax it out'. There used to be any number of companies in this space, and I suspect some of them still exist as forgotten offerings within a much larger company. Even some of the large US telephone companies offered their own PC-to-FAX delivery services.

Some of them made money on fees for inbound faxes (since you needed to pay for a phone number (not an actual phone line, just the fax number)). They would receive faxes at 'your' number, then email them to your inbox, with per page, per month, or whatever fee structure. The outbound faxes from the customer were sometimes included/free, especially for destination numbers within the US.

Since inbound fax volumes (as routed through these services) for many people have greatly dwindled in recent years the fax service fees have expanded to charge more for outbound. But, the actual cost to dial a fax machine from a computerized server is still tiny, fractions of a cent per minute.

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#368629 - 15/04/2017 18:55 Re: Faxing by VOIP [Re: tanstaafl.]
K447
addict

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 571
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Using a VOIP 'line' for outbound fax delivery (direct from your home to the receiving company) can work, but there are technical requirements and some restrictions. The actual FAX communications protocol is ancient 1970 era tech, with a few modern things added on. Oftentimes none of the modern stuff is actually utilized on a given fax call so the 'old' protocols are 'relied upon'.

The first requirement is that the VOIP service and your actual ISP service to your location be really consistent. No packet dropping, no highly variable packet delays, just a clean IP stream upbound towards your ISP.

You really want to have a modern APA box that can understand a fax connection and provision the VOIP link appropriately for the fax call. This means that the voice compression methods will be bypassed for the duration of the fax call and that the fax link data rate to the far end machine can be faster. The faster data rate reduces the chances of a really long fax (100 pages!) suffering a disconnect part way through the call.

If you are fortunate with your selection of faxing software on the PC you can enable fax Error Correction Mode, which ensures that the fax pages are either delivered with 100% fidelity* or the fax pages are re-sent until correct or something gives up.

* Of course often this setting is buried or unavailable, so you may have no control over ECM. And may not even be able to tell whether it was used or whether errors occurred (and retried).

If using an actual physical fax machine, typically buried in a settings menu somewhere you can select ECM and also select the maximum send data rate. Reducing the maximum send rate will prevent the fax machine from attempting to use likely-to-fail speeds. Decrement the max allowed sending 'baud rate' until you can reliably send test faxes.

Actual fax data rates while using VOIP can vary widely. I have seen faxes dribbling through at a measly 2400 baud (or slower), which can take hours to complete sending of a long fax document. Some fax machines will time out at slow data rates and hang up even though the pages were slowly arriving at the far end.

ECM mode will add a little more time to each page sent but at least you will know they got there intact. ECM is worth it when faxing in difficult conditions.

The built-in Windows 'Fax' printer thing was 'workable' back in the day with directly attached PC fax modems and real phone lines. I have not looked at it with any interest in nearly 20 years. No idea what it requires technically nor how well it works, never mind whether using a 'fax modem connected via VOIP' would undermine it.

WinFax is long gone from the market. Have not paid any attention to what became of our former competitors, one of which eventually bought WinFax.


Edited by K447 (15/04/2017 19:07)

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#368630 - 15/04/2017 19:10 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: tanstaafl.]
K447
addict

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 571
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
This article might be of some value.

Since you only want to send faxes, not receive, you may have to dig to find the send-only fax account offerings.

List of fax services, (dated 2017)


Edited by K447 (15/04/2017 19:22)

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#368631 - 15/04/2017 21:36 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: K447]
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5280
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Originally Posted By: K447
Since you only want to send faxes
One of our fellow bbs members has generously offered me the use of his eFax account which he no longer uses. If I cannot persuade my insurance company to resume accepting email attachments, I will probably go that route.

tanstaafl.
_________________________
"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

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#368638 - 16/04/2017 02:03 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: tanstaafl.]
larry818
old hand

Registered: 01/10/2002
Posts: 953
Loc: Fullerton, Calif.
What do you wanna bet that the faxes, when received by the insurance company, are converted to emails and sent to someone?

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#368639 - 16/04/2017 03:14 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: larry818]
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5280
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Originally Posted By: larry818
What do you wanna bet that the faxes, when received by the insurance company, are converted to emails and sent to someone?
I think maybe not.

The claims are digitized in one form or another (PDF or maybe some proprietary format) and stored on the company server where the Claim Denial Department can access them. When I call the company to discuss (read: argue about) a claim, the Claim Denier can quickly find it based on the Date of Service and see on her (it's usually a "her") screen an exact image of my original claim. She cannot accept an email from me and even if she could, the corporate mail server will not accept email with an attachment unless the recipient is far enough up the food chain to have executive privileges. She cannot change the claim in any fashion, but she can add additional annotations to it as clarifications.

I am being too harsh on the Claim Deniers here. Without exception they have been extraordinarily patient, knowledgeable, and truly anxious to help. Unfortunately they are limited by corporate policy to the extent that they are unable to accomplish very much in the client's favor while retaining almost unlimited power to aid the company.

tanstaafl.
_________________________
"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

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#368648 - 17/04/2017 02:33 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: tanstaafl.]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 30548
Loc: Seattle, WA
I totally believe you. I had a similar experience a few years ago when straightening out some property taxes with the California Franchise Tax Board. I needed to prove that a certain set of taxes on a rental property were adequately paid by my ex-wife on her tax return a couple years prior.

Mind-boggling things:

- They could not (would not?) look up her California tax return (the thing which contained the proof) in their own files, even though both she and I would have been perfectly happy to let them look at it.

- They could not accept just the portion of the tax return containing the proof. They required a copy of her whole tax return. Which was many pages because it contained details for several rental properties. It was something between 20-50 pages if I recall correctly.

- They could not accept an email of a PDF of the tax return (which we both already had and could have emailed them in an instant).

- They required that I fax them the entire return, to one specific fax machine in one specific department.

- That fax machine was constantly receiving similar faxes from other people in similar predicaments, so it was constantly a busy signal.

- When I finally got through and started sending, the machine on their end ran out of paper and hung up on me.

- I had tried some online fax services but they couldn't handle the issue with the redials and partial retries and none of them would properly complete the transaction. It's possible that I might have asked the BBS about fax services at that time, but basically none of them were useful for this because of the issues.

- So I had to use my work's physical fax machine after hours. I had to try many times, and carefully babysit the process when it finally got through,

- I could potentially have mailed the thing to them physically via snail mail instead, but they had drained my bank accounts and needed proof before I was allowed to have my money back. So the fax option was the fastest one.

So I understand how some bureaucratic organizations could possibly be strangely tied to fax systems.
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Tony Fabris

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#368649 - 17/04/2017 03:01 Re: Faxing by internet [Re: tfabris]
K447
addict

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 571
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Faxed documents have some legal powers that email, PDF, etc do not.

Similar to Teletype/Telex*, a received fax document can form a binding contract.

A received fax document (perhaps with transmitted signature) has legal status.

Telex/Teletype transmissions have even stronger legal standing.

Finding the canonical references for this is not simple, ITU-T stuff has layers upon layers of references and agreements.

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