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October 09, 2005

Bleg

By Ezra

So...broadband phone services. Do they work? Which one's the best? I know of Vonage, are they the way to go?

October 9, 2005 | Permalink

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Haven't used any of them, but Slate had a piece on internet phones a few months ago, they said Vonage was good (though not the best osund quality); AT&T CallVantage got the highest score.

Also, I've heard that 911 service is spotty at times.

Posted by: Matt F | Oct 9, 2005 5:31:48 PM

I often use iConnectHere for PC to Phone service, mostly for calling family in Chicago from Portland OR.

I like this because the called party doesn't have to have anything except a vanilla phone of any kind - including wireless, while I wear a headset and mic connected to my PC - using Comcast broadband service.

The major features are that it is cheap and no monthly minimum charge . The service is UK-based (I think), and uses PC software called "PC Phone" which they provide free as a download.

While the company offers several plans, the most economic is "PC to Phone", using 'pay-as-you-go prepaid minutes' - with no monthly committment. The cost is 2.3 cents per minute for USA to USA connections, and it also works international at varying rates, but still cheap. There is a minimum starting balance of $10, but if you signup with $25 or more, they add $5 for free. They also offer a 'broadband phone' service with a free broadband phone adapter at $16.00/mo, which I haven't investigated.

Voice quality is NOT as good as regular MaBell dialup service or wireless phone, but at nearly free it is good enough. Sometimes I call family and they then they quickly call me back using their unlimited regular long distance calling. When i get a really bad connection, a second or third call almost always is OK.

Worth a look where money is an object - $1.38 per hour is hard to beat.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Oct 9, 2005 6:00:59 PM

Ez - We use Skype to talk to friends and family in Britain, and with a pair of headsets and the program on your PC on both ends, it's free - and a lot clearer than any internet phone service, cell line, or land line. I highly recommend it. It can also be used as an IM tool.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Oct 9, 2005 7:29:56 PM

callvantage gave us a lot of shit when we tried to close our connection so beware.

i dont think there's a problem with any one, although vonage has the best prices for a large service provider. if you have any local ones, go with them of course :)

Posted by: almostinfamous | Oct 9, 2005 9:18:26 PM

We've got Vonage and are fairly happy. If you have wifi at home and a wireless phone, you will want to get a new 5.8Ghz (or an old 900Mhz) wireless phone since you'll most likely end up with the wifi and telephone bases very near eachother and start canceling eachother out.

I say fairly since we also have issues w/ our cable company and occasional outages, which when I'm on the phone really suck, and othertimes have occasional bad connections (and I drop out on the other end).

Posted by: Tom in AZ | Oct 9, 2005 9:49:16 PM

Keep in mind that a good number of internet libertarians keep peddling the no gummint regulation anywhere line, hoping to cripple 911 service for VoIP in the name of saving a nickle a month. When you're stabbed to death during a fire, you'll know who to blame.

Posted by: bunny | Oct 10, 2005 3:18:39 AM

A warning- no power, no phone.

Posted by: Killer | Oct 10, 2005 6:49:10 AM

killer thats what the mobile phone with the cool 50-cent ringtone is for...

Posted by: almostinfamous | Oct 10, 2005 10:33:57 AM

Killer, only if you don't have a UPS. That should last long enough for minor power outages. And one that will run your cable modem/dsl router, phone adapter and anything else you need shouldn't run too much.

But this really does knock down the 'VoIP is cheap' arguement, if you're a bit on the paranoid side and/or have to put your wireless telephone near your wireless router.

Posted by: Tom in AZ | Oct 10, 2005 10:55:57 AM

I can only vouch for Vonage -- I've had it for over a year now (and moved in the interim) and have never had a single problem -- sound quality is just as good as my old landline. All the bells/whistles of my old Verizon service,too -- and then some! The only thing I wish they'd figure out is a way to attach voicemail messages to emails (right now it's just an alert, so you have to check your voicemail manually, either using a phone or going online). Mostly I just love seeing my CHEAP phone bill every month.

Posted by: Lee | Oct 10, 2005 10:56:23 AM

Depends what you want to do with it. Personally, I much prefer having a cell phone as my primary line. If you're looking for cheap long-distance calls to a small number of people, check out Skype, which is free and very high-quality, but doesn't offer E-911 service. If for some reason you have your heart set on a land-line and don't care about the reliability of a real land-line, then Vonage is probably the way to go.

Also, can you please disable the requirement to enter an email address? I'm just going to enter a bogus one. Thanks!

Posted by: Tim | Oct 10, 2005 12:29:03 PM

I've had both Vonage service and my current provider BroadVoice. They're both decent.

Posted by: Greg | Oct 10, 2005 12:41:33 PM

I'll vouch for Vonage too. We've had it since about 6 months ago. We kept our phone number, and then a few months later when we moved across the country, it was still simple to keep the same number in addition to a local number for the new area.

The call forwarding is nice too. You can setup I think 5 numbers at a time to forward to, anywhere in the US or Canada, for free, and change then whenever you want online.

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