I’m looking into getting a new phone number for use at home, so of course I’m looking at VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solutions. I’ve found three so far that seem viable. Skype, Gizmo Project, and Vonage.
1. Skype. I’ve had a Skype screen name for about a year, but during a system upgrade the password got lost. Now I can’t log into the account. And the Skype system doesn’t have my email address listed with my account. An email into “customer support” got no response. So, no, I don’t think giving Skype (or Ebay, who just bought Skype) any money is going to happen.
2. Gizmo Project. I signed up for a free account and it works pretty well. I paid $15 for three months of inbound calls, and calls come straight through pretty quickly. The biggest problem is that calls only go into voicemail if the client is connected. So when I am traveling between my home and my office, anyone that calls gets a busy signal. Not acceptable.
3. Vonage. The biggest VoIP provider. It has gotten pretty good reviews from friends who use it. They have several different calling plans. The question I have is why do they need to differentiate between residential users and business users?
An unlimited minutes home plan costs $24.99 per month. An unlimited small business plan costs $49.99 per month. What?!? Does it cost Vonage more money to make a connection to a phone number during the day (when most business calls are made)? Or do “business” calls sound better? Or connect more quickly? So I wrote to Vonage to ask what the difference is:
> What's the difference between a residential plan and a business plan? > Besides the obvious stuff like minutes and things. Is there a > service-level agreement difference? Taxes are different? Or is just > a different name for different levels of minutes to use?
The response was:
> The main difference between our Business and Residential plans is how > you intend to use the service. Our Residential plans are intended for > standard residential use only, and are not intended for home-office > environments. Our Business plans are to be used for businesses in small- > to-medium sized environments. > > For full plan details please visit our website at: www.vonage.com. For > complete details on the usage of Vonage service, please review our > Terms of Service at: www.vonage.com/features_terms_service.php. > > Please note that inappropriate use of the service can result in > immediate termination or an upgrade in plan without notice.
The Terms of Service page (which does limit a lot of your rights) had this to say:
> 2.2 Residential Use of Service and Device. If you subscribe to Vonage's > residential services, the Service and the Device are provided to you > solely for residential use. You shall not resell or transfer the > Service or the Device to another party without our prior written > consent. You are prohibited from using the Service or the Device > for auto-dialing, continuous or extensive call forwarding, > telemarketing (including, without limitation, charitable or > political solicitation or polling), fax or voicemail broadcasting > or fax or voicemail blasting. We reserve the right to immediately > terminate or modify your Service if we determine, in our sole and > absolute discretion, that your use of the Service or the Device is, > or at any time was, inconsistent with normal residential usage > patterns. In addition, you will be required to pay our higher rates > for commercial service for all periods in which your use of the > Service or the Device was inconsistent with normal residential use. > > 2.3 Small Business Use of Service and Device. If you subscribe to > Vonage's Small Business services, the Service and Device are provided > to you as a small business user. You shall not resell or transfer the > Service or the Device to another party without our prior written > consent. You are prohibited from using the Service or the Device for > auto-dialing, continuous or extensive call forwarding, telemarketing > (including, without limitation, charitable or political solicitation > or polling), fax or voicemail broadcasting or fax or voicemail > blasting. We reserve the right to immediately terminate or modify > your Service if we determine, in our sole and absolute discretion, > that you have at any time used the Service or the Device for any of > the aforementioned or similar activities. > > 2.4 Business Plus Use of Service. If you subscribe to Vonage's Business > Plus services, the Service is provided to you as a small business user. > You shall not resell or transfer the Service to another party without > our prior written consent. You are responsible for supplying, operating > and supporting the standard SIP based Customer Premise Equipment for > use with the Service. We reserve the right to immediately terminate or > modify your Service if we determine, in our sole and absolute > discretion, that you have at any time used the Service for any of the > aforementioned or similar activities.
So basically, they have the power to increase your service plan if you use a residential plan inconsistently with “normal residential use.” What?!? As long as I stay under my plan’s minutes what does it matter if I use all 500 minutes the first day? Or if I am on the unlimited minutes plan, why should it matter?
So for now, I’m going to look at new cell phone plans. VoIP for now doesn’t look like the right match for what I want.