I also use vonage and had similiar issues. To fix them we delved into the vonage box and gave it a static IP that wasn't assigned by our router. Next turn on DMZ Host for that specific static IP address. Then we also turned on QOS to highest level for the port it was plugged into or you can do it by IP depending upon your router. QOS, DMZ host, and a static IP like that fixed all of our problems with quality. Now we get excellent call quality even while downloading at 1.5 Mb/s and uploading at 95Mb/s (nearly max for my house's connection).
As a meter reader who actually reads some of these AMR meters, I'd say using the information for burglaries is a stretch. Even if you get the info it only includes meter number and reading. Since the address is not listed I can only see it being useful in rural areas where houses are far enough apart to be able to tell which house it is without physically checking the meter. For reference, I can pick up AMR meters in rural areas from about 1/2 to 3/4 a mile away while driving 50 mph. I see the greater nefarious use would be to send out a slightly stronger signal to send a different reading and hence lower your utility bill. Since this process would be wireless and most likely involve doing nothing to the physical meter itself it would be near impossible to catch it as tampering. Also since in my area AMR meters are almost never physically checked, even a physical modification would likely go unnoticed for years.
I can't think of much you can do with a 486 at least for running any modern program. I also own a 486 but mine is a desktop. I keep it purely for sentimental reasons and for playing a few older games on their native OS and equipment. Granted my currebnt 486 is much better than my original 486 and the specs could even be considered waste. 486 DX2 66, 128 MB EDO RAM, 1 GB HDD, built in 10 Mb Ethernet, 64 MB 3DFX Voodoo 5 PCI for Graphics, and a Soundblaster 16 ISA for Sound. The unit has a 3.5 and 5.25" Floppies and a CD-ROM. It is loaded with Windows 95. Even with these specs the best it can do is run Master of Orion, Heretic, DOOM, Road Rash, and the Original Warcraft. Older versions of Winamp run but wheter local or pulled over network the best the unit can muster for mp3 playback is 1/2 quality mono even while optimized for 486 processors. Again the only reason I keep this machine is to play some of my first games and because my first PC I ever owned was a 486 DX2 66Mhz Machine. Oh it does browse the internet but firefox doesn't like running and the newest version of ie that can run is 5.5 Windows 98 is too much for the unit.