Wednesday, September 24, 2003

patrickWeb - Long Distance Feedback

patrickWeb - Long Distance Feedback: "There is a lot of feedback from readers about the last few stories where I discussed 'long distance'. Some are saying, 'yeah verily', others are saying 'not so fast'. This is understandable given that we are beginning to go through a very disruptive period with regard to telephony. We are 5% of the way into what is in store for us. (read more).
One concern was raised by Tony Paulson who pointed out that 911 service is not available via the new SIP services. This is a valid point and there are likely other important services that are not available in the world of VoIP. This is to be expected at this stage. When tcp/ip (the protocols of the Internet) began to get attention in the mid 1990's, people immediately pointed out the shortcomings -- and there were many.
The point that is easy to overlook is about the power of 'grass roots', standards, and the 'community'. Just like the Internet and the Web, VoIP is unstoppable. I can feel the grass roots movement around SIP (the protocol for voice over the Internet) just like what is happening with blogging and WiFi. There is no stopping it. Stay tuned."

SAD: Just recently I signed up with Vonage for their unlimited local/long distance VoIP calling plan (34.99/month). The ordering and installation was simple enough. The sound quality is OK, but there is an ever so slight delay and echo that is frustrating. The issues seem to be more prominent on my end as I've solicited people during and after conversations and they don't seem to have these issues. The delay is more frustrating because it is ever so slight but just enough to cause hesitation during highly interactive calls. That said, it is also helping me be a better listener since it slows me down and forces me wait for the other person to stop talking. It's not just my perception either as my wife, unsolicited, complained of the same two things. I've emailed Vonage to see if there is something that can be done and will update with any resolutions offered.

The bigger issue, highlighted by John, is the challenge baby bells will have responding to these new technologies and delivery mechanisms. I called up Verizon, my local phone company, and asked for their competitive offerings. The representative described their Verizon Freedom plan to me - for a total of 54.99/month (taxes extra) it offers unlimited local/long distance calling. I asked if he could compete with the Vonage offer and said "our pricing is Government regulated and it takes us 4-6 months to adjust pricing" and as a result " we don't have a more competitive rate to offer you at this time." The scary part is that Vonage was the most expensive of the options I investigated. The other providers, Packet8, iConnecthere, etc. were 50 to 75 percent cheaper than Vonage! FYI: Vonage was the only provider that offered me a local exchange for my town that would make it free for others to call me (less of a concern when everyone adopts the VoIP model, but for now it is important).

Per John's comments about 911 - Vonage allows you to enter information into their database so that when you call 911 the information you enter will be used to provide location information to the emergency services. There are issues surrounding this such as out-dated information in the database, etc. I don't know how widespread the support for this capability is but they are addressing the fundamental services as well as cost.

The big concern is: do I trust Comcast (my cable company) to provide reliable broadband service such that I can depend on it like I do my existing copper phone lines? If the past is a predictor of the future, I have a feeling I may not cancel my local Verizon phone!

No comments: