Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Vonage Issues, Concerns, and Praise

First of all, let me be clear that I generally like Vonage. Their customer service needs significant improvement, and I'd have touble recommending it to someone who doesn't have at least minimal technical skills, but you can't beat the price and the voice quality.

However, if you are interested in signing up for Vonage (or a competitor), you should go in with your eyes wide open. There are concerns about port blocking (the DSL or cable company not letting the traffic through), changes in regulation that could impact the cost, potential hacking of VoIP, and the Vonage business model in general.

A good source of information is the Vonage Forums, which are remarkably open in allowing both praise and derision. Below are a few other sources and resources that I would recommend potential customers give a quick once over.

Again, I like Vonage. I use Vonage. But I have had some real trouble with Vonage, and my wife currently has them on probation (one more problem and it's back to BellSouth and their outrageous rates but better reliability). Before you give up your land line, be sure you know what you're getting.

[Update July 14, 2005] I'm adding a few new links here based on recent developments, announcements, and things that I've run across. I'll keep everything here in this one post for your convenience. New posts have a '*' next to them.

Port blocking claims:
Blocked by Madison River Communications reported in ITworld
Reports of Blocking in Mexico on BroadbandReports
Blocked by a Cable Operator and Wireless Provider reported on CNet
Blocked by a Cable Company as reported in Advanced IP Pipeline

Service complaints:
Damian Katz really, really dislikes Vonage *
Vonage Customer Service at Lockergnome
Vonage Outages reported on Broadband Reports

Regulatory Worries:
Costa Rica may Criminalize VoIP on TechWeb
Potential Kansas Legislation Adding Charges to VoIP in the Wichita Business Journal
Opposition to the FCC Ruling that States Cannot Regulate VoIP in Advanced IP Pipeline
California Opposition to the FCC Ruling in eWeek
More on Vonage Response to the FCC Ruling in Internet News

911 Issues:
E911 is required to be supported by all VoIP companies by the end of 2005, in PC World among others *
Texas Sues Vonage over 911 Calling from the Texas Attorney General
- Commentary on VoIP Blog
Testing 911 with Vonage at Bill's World
USA Today reports on VoIP Providers' 911 Battles with Incumbents

The Business:
CEO Speaks of Customer Retention and Other Issues in Business Week Online
ISP Refers to Vonage as "Parasitic" according to Lightreading
Speculation on Vonage IPO by Om Malik
A Million Users by 2006 as reported in CNet
Vonage raises another $200million, detailed in Business Week Online and criticized by Om Malik *

Worries About VoIP Hacking:
Not Enough VoIP Customers to Make Hacking Attactive in Broadband Reports
Wired News says VoIP Isn't Safe
CallerID Spoofing via ComputerWorld

New Features:
Wif-fi Phones Announced (finally) in TelecomWeb *
Video Phone reported in Gizmodo
Video Phone Service Launch reported in Silicon.Com
Wireless phones at Network World Fusion
WiFi phones in USA Today

The Ridiculous:
AT&T Picks a Name Curiously Close to "Vonage" for VoIP in Internetnews

Vonage Acquisition Rumors *
Rich Tehrani started the BellSouth rumors
Al Bedenberg (same company) is running with it
Om Malik thinks it's all loco

It's Tough to Get TiVo to Work with Vonage
My own link this time *

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