The following is a response to the article about alternative phone service in the last issue of The Connection.
The service mentioned is from a company called Vonage (http://www.vonage.com). Unfortunately, the CPN newsletter piece was published, perhaps, somewhat prematurely. Here's the story:
Vonage offers phone service using a technology called Voice over IP (VoIP) which essentially means that your telephone conversations are carried for a significant portion of their journey over the Internet rather than over the traditional public telephone network (e.g., Qwest's network.) In order to take advantage of this service you must have some form of high speed "always on" internet access. Depending on where you live your options in this regard are generally DSL from the local phone company or a competitor, Cable modem service from the cable company, or perhaps a wireless option from any one of several companies offering services that way. Here in CPN you may have DSL as an option depending on where exactly you live. My understanding from Comcast is that cable modem service is not yet available here but should be within the next few months. There are at least 2 companies offering wireless internet access in CPN: Mile High Online (MHO) and Suburban Broadband.
The Vonage service uses a small box called an Analog Telephone Adapter (roughly the size of a paperback novel) which plugs into your internet access device (router). You then plug a standard analog telephone, which can be the base station for your cordless phone(s), into this adapter. The adapter converts your voice into packets of digitized voice which are sent across the internet and performs the equivalent conversion in reverse for packets coming in from the other end.
When you sign up for the service you will receive a new phone number (you cannot keep your existing number because of limitations in the Castle Rock Qwest central office out of which our community is served) which can be in the 303 area code or any of a long list of other area codes that Vonage provides service in. For example. my Vonage line has a 714 area code (Orange County, CA) because my in-laws live there and this enables them to call us for free (local call from their end.) The service has a couple of different pricing options but the one for $39.99 gives you unlimited local and long distance within the U.S. and Canada and includes voice mail, caller id, call waiting and a couple of other features. There is, of course, no "distance charge" like we pay to Qwest because the service doesn't use Qwest's central office in Castle Rock. [Editor’s note: see article on Page 1 for the latest on the Distance Charge.]
Now the bad news: if you lose electric power you will lose phone service; you cannot dial 911 from this service (yet--they say they're working on that); if you lose your internet connection you will lose phone service. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have found the quality to be intermittently poor. I use MHO wireless access for internet access (and have for 18 months and have been very pleased with it) and don't know if the Vonage service would work better with an internet connection such as DSL or Cable modem. I continue to use the Vonage service because the quality is usually good (about 80 - 90% of the time) and because I have kept my other 2 lines from Qwest--I basically use the Vonage line just to make outgoing long distance calls in the U.S. and Canada. I have long distance service from a Boulder-based company called C-Com (http://www.c-comld.com) that provides very competitive international rates.
So, I cannot unreservedly recommend the Vonage service but am happy to share this story with you and to discuss this further or answer any other questions that I can. If you decide to get the service and use me as a referral we each (you and I) will get a month's free service in the form of a $40 credit. However, I am most definitely not selling this service. If you want to chat with me about this some more I will be as likely as not to try to talk you out of it!
Please feel free to email or call with any other questions.
Fei Communications Group, LLC