4/14/06

VoIP -- Unexpected Benefits

Many are getting the benefits of Voice over IP—using your broadband Internet connection for telephone service. My pal, David Strom, wrote about this way back in December 2003! (For some reason I cannot find this on his new blog site.) I mentioned it recently in VOIP and Vonage. But, I recognized a new reason for some to use VoIP.

There are still places in the world where plain old telephone service (POTS) is terrible. A friend—I'll call him Paul, because that's his name—works in Odessa, Ukraine, at the service of orphanage children and street children in that city. He's been doing that for quite a few years. When he first when to Odessa, there was only a few ways to communicate with folks back home in the US. He could call or be called, but that, of course, was expensive. Also, the phone system was terrible. Much of the telephone infrastructure seemed from the Soviet era (or before). (A friend once called up to my hotel room in a nice hotel in Dniperpetrovsk. It sounded like she was calling from the moon. I really believe in some places, "all phone lines lead to Moscow.") The second communications method, of course, was postal mail. The problem was it was very unreliable, and even more so if it seemed like there might be something of value in the envelope. (And forget about boxes! But FedEx, UPS, and DHS have filled in the gap, stepping up to provide reliable package delivery. But, I digress.)

So, then, the best replacement for postal letters was e-mail. Sure it was very slow, but like a phone call, you could tell if it got through or not (for the most part). So, one could write a multi-page letter, dial-up to your local, slow ISP, and send it. It was a tremendous boon to folks like my friend.

Now, a few years later, broadband Internet has arrived (along with cable TV). So, my friend Paul did exactly what I recently did (and what Renaissance man Srom did, in late 2003). He got a Vonage router and phone number. So, he can call from his Odessa, Ukraine flat with a Maryland area code with usually crystal clear voice quality and without worrying about the cost. The calls are covered in his flat rate. And Vonage-to-Vonage calls are free of charge. So, for example, he and I can chat any time we want, just as if he was local, because he is a local call away.

This sounds like a commercial for Vonage. I don't mean it to be (all though I like the service). My point is really to point out the benefit of reliable and inexpensive overseas phone calls once reliable and fast Internet is in place.

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