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Advice for Vonage users: Hold the line, for now

Sat., April 14, 2007

WASHINGTON — Two telecommunications experts answer questions consumers might ask about the future of Vonage.

Q: I use Vonage but am worried that it could go under. Should I start looking for another phone service provider now?

A: Peter Eisenhut, a Columbia, Md.-based consultant and board member of the Society of Telecommunications Consultants, responds:

Do not count Vonage out, yet. Do not panic. In most cases when a telecom company has gone under, there has been ample time to make other arrangements. Often, another company will buy the rights to provide the service.

Joe Webb, president of Webb Consulting Services in Canton, Mass., responds:

The odds are against the company “going under” suddenly and leaving customers stranded. That said, Vonage may have some troubled days ahead based on lack of income, a possible decrease in new subscribers, and new expenses including new marketing aimed at repairing its image. This may not be what you want for a critical part of your business — your phone service.

Q: Will the Vonage box I bought become worthless if the firm goes out of business?

Webb: It depends. Most of the products Vonage offers have been designed for use with Vonage. If you decide to change to another provider of VOIP, or voice over Internet protocol, you may want to ask about reusing your existing equipment. With the possibility of a large number of customers switching from Vonage, other providers may be open to the re-use of your equipment, a trade-in or new equipment at no charge. You should attempt to negotiate one of these options with any new provider.

Q: I make a lot of international calls through Vonage. Should I consider switching to another VOIP provider?

Webb: If you switch to another VOIP provider, make a list of countries you call most frequently and choose a provider that offers the most advantageous international package for your needs. Although Verizon could sue other providers, most say they are not using the same technologies as Vonage.

Q: I don’t want to go back to my traditional carrier. What can I do?

Eisenhut: Verizon and Comcast offer alternative voice services over cable, including VOIP. Skype and Google Talk offer VOIP and can be used to make inexpensive international calls, as well. Cisco has a VOIP product for small business, and Microsoft will have a voice product for your PC. Many people are using their cellphones for everything and have done away with the land-line at home.


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