SHCC WYSIWYG Article from January 2006

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the January 2006 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Phone Service Advice 2006

by Don VanSyckel

I have been asked about phones and internet connections quite a lot; local phone company, third party phone companies, internet phone. Choices, choices, choices!! Let's try to categorize some of these choices.

First there is the local phone company. This is the company that actually has wires running down the street that can connect your house to the world. The local phone company here and most places will sell you local and long distance phone service and DSL internet connection. The problem with the local phone company is it will not sell you DSL unless you buy phone service. In my opinion most (if not all) local phone companies suffer from years of monopoly and don't do many things very efficiently. I also will not buy phone service from them just to get DSL as a matter of principle. I detest the business practice of bundling weak overpriced products (like phone service) with a competitively price product (like DSL). Another business practice is the $5-6 charge each month that I don't remember the name of but it's something like Universal Fund or Subscribe Line charge. If you read the information carefully this charge is authorized by the government but pocketed by the local phone company. Also if you use the local phone company to get DSL and have to take their phone then you have eliminated the your options to use internet phone. So the recommendation here is to not get DSL from the local phone company.

Also if you use Sage or Call America for phone you can't get DSL from the local phone company even though you are using their wires for the phone.

Next there is the cable company. They're eager to sell you cable TV, premium channels, and internet phone. Cable internet is faster than DSL can ever hope to be. My provider offers several levels of service and I have one in the middle. I use the web to do other things as opposed to the web being the activity. Email and a few downloads don't really tax my connection. The whole idea of getting an internet connection is to connect you to the world. Once connected you can use an number of different services and products . The products and services do not (or should not) rely on you having a particular vendor connecting you. In other words, the things you do on the web should be independent of what ISP you have connecting you to it.

In general, you can get better pricing and better service by bundling your cable TV and internet connection and getting internet phone from another company. Don't let the cable companies sell you bill of goods without doing some research. It's no harder and possibly easier to use internet phone from a company other than the cable company.

Next, the internet phone companies are not all a like. Most offer many 'phone feature' in the basic package. Features such as voice mail, caller ID, three way calling, call forwarding, and call waiting plus others are included at no additional charge. Anyone who has cable or DSL internet should have a router so I assume everyone does. Internet phone uses a small box about the size of an answering machine and an internet connection. There's two basic ways the internet phone box connects. One is between the cable modem and the router and the other is to the router like your computer connects. The first method has had problems in some installation and is not recommended. The second method keeps things more generic and is the recommended approach. Before signing up check how the phone box connects to the network.

Currently I am familiar with three internet phone services. Vonage which is advertised heavily around here by CompUSA. Packet8, which I use, is $5 a month less than Vonage and offers virtually all the same features. The third is Sun Rocket which offers a yearly rate in addition to the monthly rate. The yearly rate works out to about $5 a month less than Packet8 or $10 a month less than Vonage. All these services have good reports from users. I have not looked for any reviews.

It's impossible to do justice to this topic in a short article but if you get nothing else from this remember to do some research, talk to people using the various services, and do NOT buy bundled packages from the cable company or local phone company.

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