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Letters To The Editor
March 2001

In This Month's Mailbag

In response to Letters from January:

Dear Tom Keating:

In your response to a letter from Edward Wollman in the January 2001 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY, you mentioned: "There aren't currently any "free" VoIP long-distance products using just your standard telephone -- at least not that I am aware of."

I want to make you aware of Phonebridge, ( a hardware-only product that connects any standard phone to a sound card. Our customers love using phonebridge with any of the free (or low cost) VoIP services. They particularly like using a cordless phone, and the combination of choice seems to be phonebridge plus cordless phone plus headset. This gives users hands-free and cordless access to VoIP, all at a reasonable cost.

We are currently in discussions with several of the VoIP services [sic], and will soon be announcing details of these relationships.

Keep up the good work.

Mike Leshner

Tom Keating responds:
True, there are many "standalone" VoIP products out on the market today, but the reader was looking specifically for "free" long-distance and not "cheaper" long-distance. When I say "standalone," I mean that the VoIP product does not require a PC whatsoever. You just plug it into an IP network and connect a phone, that's it. I would consider your product a PC-to-Phone VoIP product.

All of the standalone VoIP products I researched at the time charged a per-minute rate for long-distance when going through a third-party ITSP. Fortunately, with the model that Dialpad introduced -- free PC-to-Phone calling in the U.S. -- this has helped push competitors to offer similar pricing plans.

Although, I've still yet to see free "Phone-to-Phone" long-distance across an IP network -- that is, someone offering a VoIP standalone box that you can stick on your broadband network, hook up a phone, and make "free" long-distance call through an ITSP. The ITSP's still need to make their money, so as far as I know, they are charging you to access their network and use their bandwidth. They do offer more competitive rates than a regular PSTN call, but they're not quite free yet! In the future when enhanced services will be the "money-maker," you can look forward to truly free long-distance.

In Response To "A Modest Wireless Proposal", by Mike von Wahlde (1/19/2001) appearing on


I am not sure I follow your lead on this story at all. The cell phone carriers are unfortunately not at all receptive to listening and have never been. Their attitude is: "Push these solutions into the face of consumers because they are too dumb to decide anyway." Just look at how Sprint marketed WAP phones: The Web on your cell phone -- what kind of BS is that? Look at a cell phone screen and compare it to a 17" color monitor and stereo speakers. On top of that they do not provide valuable content on the main menu on the phones (and don't let users customize the menu either). No wonder they are not getting any usage!

The telephone carriers unfortunately do not understand simple marketing: Listening to the customers and giving them what they want. People have complained for years over the poor coverage, lousy roaming service, and so on, to little avail. Just an example: I live in Westport, Connecticut, a fairly preppy and upscale town, and I cannot get cell phone coverage in my house (and I don't even live in the sparsely populated back country). On top of that: Most often when I travel to NYC (and the phone is technically roaming although it is within my home calling area per the service plan) and people try to contact me on my cell they get a recording from AT&T telling them that the number is no longer in service. Note that I have Verizon as a carrier. This really gets me fuming as I use the phone for my business and am really unhappy with my customers getting that kind of message making them wonder if I am out of business or not paying my phone bill. Both problems have been brought to the attention of Verizon numerous times without getting a millimeter closer to a solution. And you are suggesting I stick with the carrier?

Best Regards,
Christian Jensen

Mike von Wahlde responds:
First of all, thanks for reading my columns. It is nice to know that someone other than my relatives are reading them.

My column, in the spirit of irony, sarcasm, and, (as I always hope) wit, was written to satire the current state of service that providers are offering subscribers. While some jumping around is bad, the majority is very well founded. I wrote this particular column in order to show that the jumping is necessitated, far from evil or wrong. I was trying to point out that when we blindly jump from carrier to carrier we are performing as much a disservice as those who stay with their carrier through thick and thin. I feel it is most important that we play the role of active consumer, and if we maintain dialogues with our carriers and they still fail us there is but one thing to do: DUMP THEM.

The title was a direct reference to "A Modest Proposal," the work by Jonathan Swift during a rather dark period in Irish history when kids were being put into indentured servitude by their parents. In his piece, he suggested that money could be made and famines cured by raising babies to serve as food for the rich.

I found this if you would like to read it....

Lastly, I know where you are coming from on the craziness that is cell phone coverage in this area of CT. If only our service providers would spend a little less on marketing and a little more on figuring out how to offer service to one of the most densely populated areas in the States...

Once again, thanks for the letter. I hope to entertain and inform through the coming years.

The Editorial Staff at Internet Telephony welcomes your letters and comments.
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