Remember when Ma Bell was deregulated in the 1980s? If so, then you may also remember how the resulting competition cut the price of your monthly phone bill. The good news is that we may experience similar price-slashing in the near future, thanks to the Internet. Internet phone service is a rapidly growing technology that may soon be competing with traditional telephone service and benefiting us all in the process!
The technology in question is something known as Voice over Internet Protocol, Voice over IP, or VoIP for short. VoIP takes your voice, converts it into data, and sends it through the Internet, just like an email. The data is then converted back when it reaches its destination, so that the person you're calling hears your voice. To make this happen, all you need is a reliable high speed Internet connection and a telephone adaptor, which is available through your VoIP service provider.
One of the biggest perks of having an Internet phone is the low price. While there are many companies and plans out there, they are all cheaper than traditional phone service. Most of the Internet phone services even come with the same features you have on your home phone; including caller ID, call waiting, and 3-way calling, just to name a few.
An added benefit of VoIP is that you may select your area code regardless of where you're actually located. You can also take your VoIP phone with you when traveling and use it as you would at home, as long as you have access to a high speed Internet connection.
As with anything, there are some downsides. Since your Internet connection relies on a modem, power outages may be a problem. One way to counteract this is to purchase an uninterruptible power supply. This device is reasonably priced, and it will enable your essential VoIP equipment to function normally, even if the power is out for a few hours.
Another issue to consider is 911 service. In the past, some VoIP providers didn't offer 911 service at all. Others offered access to their own basic 911 system, which did not display the caller's address or telephone number. The FCC has since stepped in and is requiring VoIP providers to provide enhanced 911 service so that the caller's contact information will automatically be displayed. Be sure to discuss the particulars of 911 calls with any company you're considering using.
If you're interested in learning more about the various VoIP plans available, PC World is keeping a close eye on this emerging technology. Visit their website at www.pcworld.com to read more about the latest developments.
Internet phone plans may not be for you, at least not yet. But it's important that we explore this type of technology. If it's not already saving you money, chances are it will in the future.
Do you know of any other emerging technologies that save time and money?
If so, please call me. I would love to hear about them!
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