Vonage Phone Service

by Mr. Cheap

I love to save money and phone service is typically one of those big bills none of us like to pay each month. A little over a year ago, I was preparing to move in with my then girlfriend, and thought an excellent idea would be to move my number over to a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone. These are basically phones that operate over the internet instead of being connected to Bell’s network.

There are a number of providers, but at the time Vonage was advertising like crazy. They seemed like the market leader (and I had had problems with Primus, my provider at the time). Although they promised to migrate my phone number, I had to keep on them constantly to actually make this happen (and I was nervous as the move was approaching that Primus would cancel my service at my old address and release my number back into the pool). Apparently number allocation still involves Bell, and they do everything they can to make this process difficult (ideally to embarrass their competition is what I was told).

Pretty well from the start, service quality was spotty. I’d be talking to people and occasionally (like once every hour or two) it would cut out for 3 seconds. Not the end of the world, but I got pretty sick of having to ask people “could you please repeat that, my phone cut out”.

The installation and portability of the phone was nice. You just hook it up to any internet connection, and start talking. In theory, you could be in Taiwan, talking on the phone, and to the rest of the world it would seem that you were in Toronto (your number WOULD be a local Toronto number).

The price seemed great at the start, but after I added unlimited minutes in Canada and the US it got up to about $40 / month, which doesn’t seem like a great deal these days. It *was* nice that ALL the bells and whistles are included with the basic line (you get call answer, call display, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, etc, etc, etc all included). It also was pretty neat that I could check my voice mail through a web browser (all callers would be displayed and you can play the messages as a sound clip).

The guy I talked to to cancel tried his damndest to keep me, offering to get technicians to help me improve my quality (I had already setup a new phone service through Rogers at this point so I wasn’t interested). When I refused that, he offered me one month free along with the promise of improved quality, and when I held firm, he offered me 2 months free before finally cancelling my account. So if you’re a Vonage customer, an easy way to get 2 months of free service would be to call and say you want to cancel :-).

As part of the cancellation, they hit me with a $50 “termination fee”. This was because I had been a customer less than 2 years. Supposedly this was in my service agreement, but I certainly don’t remember ever being warned of this when I was setting up the account. Please factor into your decision, if you ever decide to get VOIP and Vonage specifically, that they’re the type of company that will kick you in the teeth if you ever want to leave.

A man I was talking to at the University laughed at me and said there are a number of VOIP options that are far cheaper than Vonage. If it wasn’t for the sound quality issues I may have inquired further, but I’m basically off of VOIP at this point.

Have you ever used VOIP?  What was your experience like?  Who do you use as your landline phone service provider?

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