The Quick Start Guide to VOIP for the Home
Comparing VOIP Long Distance Plans
When you just compare the price of VOIP long distance plans, you're not getting the whole picture. Look at features, equipment, and scalability—can your VOIP service grow with you as your calling patterns change.
When you compare VOIP long distance plans, you can get caught up finding the best deal by a few dollars and cents. Choose the best plan for your phone needs based on the following criteria:
Cost of the plan per month or per year
One of the lowest cost unlimited long distance plans is from Phone Power: $9.95/month for the first three months, then $19.95/month with a one year contract. If you don't want to be tied into a contract, then pay $22.95/month. On a yearly plan, you pay $199/year and get a second line free.
Number and type of features offered
You don't have to spend a lot of time studying calling features. But by learning about what VOIP features are out there, you'll see which ones work really well for you and which ones you'll never use. Click here for more on features
Enhanced 911 (E911) is network feature developed by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in North America in which the both the calling number and the physical location of the caller is transmitted to the 911 operator. Originally developed by the FCC to allow mobile or cellular phones to process 911 emergency calls and help emergency services locate the geographic position of the caller, E911 is now mandated by the FCC to be provided by broadband phone companies as well.
In June of 2005, the FCC ruled that VOIP service providers that connect to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), must include E911 service in their regular service plans. VOIP providers that offer computer to computer services, such as Skype, do not provide 911 service.
Not all VOIP providers offer E911 so make sure you find out how your current or potential Internet phone company stacks up. The FCC also mandated that VOIP providers clearly spell out the limitations of their 911 service so that you know when 911 is available and when it is not. For example, VOIP 911 service may be in unavailable during a power outage or broadband Internet outage. Or the local public service answering points (PSAPs) are not yet equipped to receive or display E911 address information.
Money Back Guarantee
This is sometimes spinned as "first month free". Basically, you are not charged for the first 30 days of service. If you choose to cancel, you must do so within that time window to avoid paying the termination fee, AND you must return any equipment to the company promptly, usually within 14 days. You pay the return shipping costs.
Important: you should read and reread the company's Terms and Conditions so that you are crystal clear on all their cancellation and return policies.
You should be able to turn features on and off on the fly from both the phone and an online control panel. You should also be able to add new lines, virtual numbers and toll free numbers to expand your personal phone system as needed.
All the plans listed on this page have this ability to do this.
Quite often a phone adaptor and handset is included in your subscription. Sometimes too you have the option to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) which means if you decide to switch providers later, you can re-use the equipment on another network. Review the different types of adaptors, wireless adaptors, cordless or USB handsets the provider offers.
Rates to countries not covered in the plan
Do you call other countries that are not included in an unlimited long distance plan. Check the rates to those countries, like India, Pakistan, and Australia. Some plans have a limited number of included international minutes per month.
Like regular phone companies VOIP providers have to pay state and federal taxes, fees and other charges that are passed along to you.
Other charges to be aware of are shipping charges, network activation fees, directory assistance charges, overage charges (minutes beyond what’s specified in your plan). Some plans waive activation fees and shipping as a sign up incentive.
The bottom line is, read the fine print (also known as the Terms and Conditions). This document is available on their web site and spells out all aspects of using the service, additional charges, and customer and company responsibilities. It's YOUR responsibility to read these, so do it.
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