In this article I’m going to go very slightly off-topic and cover something that’s not directly about computers, but definitely relates.
I’m going to talk a little about the pros and cons of those unlimited local and long distance phone internet service plans that you see advertised more and more these days — you know the ones, where you see them talking about phone service plans combined with internet services.
These plans come in two “flavors” — the first is usually offered by the phone company where they provide regular phone lines plus a DSL Internet connection with a discount for getting both together, and the second is usually offered by cable companies or another Internet Service Provider (ISP) where they are offering Internet telephone service plus the Internet connection itself.
Before I go on, let me quickly explain what the difference is between regular phone service and Internet phone (also known as VoIP, which is short for Voice over Internet Protocol, or Voice over IP).
VoIP, by the way, is pronounced “voyp”.
The difference between the two types of phone service is pretty simple.
Regular phone service is the traditional type of phone service that’s been around for a hundred years, where your phone is connected to a phone jack in the wall, then out over the telephone lines to the rest of the world.
Internet phone service (or VoIP) is where you have a phone (either a traditional phone with a special adapter, or a special VoIP phone) that hooks into an Internet connection and your phone call goes through the Internet to call any kind of phone — a standard phone, or an Internet phone.
So what are the pros and cons of getting phone service plans combined with Internet services?
Well, in both cases when you have phone service plans combined with internet services (Internet plus the phone service) you usually pay less than if you bought them separately — so no real pro or con in this case, as long as you get it as a package deal.
Traditional phone service is generally going to be more reliable than Internet phone service — it’s an older technology, and older technologies *generally* are more reliable than newer ones because they’ve had time to iron the bugs out.
So in other words, in many cases you’ll get a clearer sound on a traditional phone line, and you won’t ever get the little “dropouts” that you can get with VoIP phones.
By dropouts, I’m talking about something like when you talk to someone on a cell phone and their words sort of break up with lots of very short patches of silence mixed in with what you can hear. If you’re not sure what I mean, imagine a radio that someone is turning on-off, on-off, very rapidly, so you get a very rapid mix of sound, silence, sound.
This is fairly common on Internet phone service, and is caused when the Internet connection has so much activity that it interferes with the phone conversation.
Also, if you send or receive faxes, they often won’t work using Internet phone service.
A so-called disadvantage of using Internet phone service (that I don’t completely agree with) is that if the power goes out, so does the phone service, unlike a traditional phone line, which has its own power.
There’s a kind of funny TV ad I see the local phone company running out here in Hawaii that’s trying to discourage people from using Internet phone service — it has a voice-over that says something like “this is a recording of an actual Internet phone service emergency call during a recent blackout” then you hear absolutely nothing for the next few seconds.
The idea being if your power is out, so is the Internet connection, and so is the VoIP phone service.
Well, that may be true, but think about it for a moment — what percentage of people these days use old-fashioned corded phones still? Not that many people do anymore — most use cordless phones. If the power is out, a cordless phone doesn’t work either.
Of course the solution to that (and a lot of times, the solution to the Internet phone going out) is to use an Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS, which as I’ve mentioned in the past is a sort of battery backup that provides power when the electricity goes out.
Most people who use a UPS (everyone should, in my opinion, to protect their computer and other electronics) use it just for their computer. But it works just as well for cordless phones, cable or DSL modems, and even lights, to keep you going when the power goes out.
I have my cable modem that provides my Roadrunner Internet service hooked up to a UPS, and I’ve found that my cable service (including Internet) still works fine!
The last disadvantage — and this is a clear disadvantage — of using Internet telephone service is that in the case of emergencies, 911 emergency service is not always available, and even if it is available, emergency responders usually can’t figure out where you are, unlike traditional phones or cell phones.
So while it’s not a bad idea to take advantage of a good package deal on unlimited local and long distance phone internet service, for the time being, it might be a little better to stick to an offer that includes traditional phone service since it’s a little more reliable, and the cost is pretty much the same.