Obi is not taking anyone hostage. Can't blame any company for trying to make an extra buck on additional services. The manual firmware upgrade procedure is very simple. I have both a 200 and 202. And if anything, after experimenting a while back with their online interface for configuring the device and all, I eventually turned off the auto-update feature. I hate having anything auto-update without my consent/knowledge. And I am a firm believer on "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I just configure the boxes using the built in local web server-based configuration menus.
If you think this unit is complicated to update, then try buying some Cisco ATA 186/187 units, and have fun getting any updates with a valid service contract, and then even if you get the files, having to setup TFTP servers, and all to push the firmware to them, etc....
My Obi units are configured with Freephoneline, Callcentric, and GV, and have no issues with any of the services.
Sure, it isn't designed for grandma to pick up the device, get a voip account, program it herself, etc..If she can, GREAT... But that is not even the primary intended customer base. For those customers, other services like Ooma, majicjack, and others exist.. They are simple, they work out of the box, but you have a monthly/yearly fee (large or small, but still cheaper than B(h)ell ).
Someone could accuse fongo/freephoneline of being sneaky also... If you check their home page (of freephoneline.ca), you don't see any FREE options quite obvious either.. First thing you see on top is $4.95/month fongo home phone. Doesn't mean they don't have a "no monthly fee option". But it is mostly for people who know what they are doing.. Open an account, get a number, then buy a voip key, program your ATA (some instructions in thier support forum) and then do the porting of your number if you need.
Anyhow, bottom line, is the price posted by the [OP] is a great price for the hardware.