Not Big Bucks

By Ellen Muraskin  |  Posted 2004-10-01 Print this article Print

The other thing that persuades me to dismiss this suit is SIPphones righteous indignation at the fact that Vonage doesnt say, on the box, that the TA wont work unless you pay the monthly fee. They say Vonage must stop saying "no contracts" on its box. Hello? Does anyone expect a phone or a modem to work without paying some service provider something? Bonforte reminds me that some VOIP services are indeed free between subscribers, and so customers may have reason to expect this purchase to be all they need to use VOIP. But I think thats a very rare and clueless sort of customer, if the box is labeled Vonage. You want free? Download Skype or Free World Dialup. Get a softphone, even SIPphones, but make sure you only call other Skype/FWD/SIPphone subscribers. Otherwise, youre paying someone something.
And Vonages "no contract" claim seems fair to me; Vonage does not hold you to any sort of yearly contract. Neither does BroadVoice or AT&T, or probably most of the VOIP consumer carriers. Vonages Shulz assures me that any month you get tired of Vonage, youre outta there with no penalty. (Although there is one little devilish detail in there ... thats only if you return the adapter. Dont return the adapter, and youre socked with a $39.99 cancellation fee. BroadVoice and AT&T do the same.)
Finally, if youre shocked and horrified to see, once you get it home, that the Vonage-labeled router/adapter only works with Vonage, you can just march right back to Best Buy or Frys and get your money back. VOIP consumers smart enough to avoid commitment to any one provider probably already have routers, and can simply buy a services terminal adapter—for typically $30 or less—and plug it into that. They know and expect it to be limited to the service, and if they want to switch, they can send back the item, pay no penalty and get another $30 adapter with someone elses plan. Or they can go to the router shelf in the store, not the Vonage shelf, and look for a nonlocked, SIP-enabled router. They will pay a little more for having no provider to subsidize the device. They will save that money in a waived startup fee when they sign up for service. Technology Editor Ellen Muraskin can be reached at has been observing and illuminating the murky intersection of computer intelligence and telephony since 1993. She reaches for her VOIP line when the rain makes her POTS line buzz. Check out eWEEK.coms VOIP & Telephony Center at for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.

Ellen Muraskin is editor of's VOIP & Telephony Center. She has worked on the editorial staff at Computer Telephony, since renamed Communications Convergence, including three years as executive editor. Muraskin's work has also appeared in Popular Science magazine and other publications.

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