Sunday, January 08, 2006

VOIP shenanigans (geeky but no gears)

Okay, I've decided to give VOIP service a try. My work is long distance from my house (in fact nearly any number I regularly call is long distance from my house) and let's face it, VOIP is appealingly geeky. I looked at the features and services offered by various providers and decided that one a neighbor uses has the best combination of features and value for me. The service is called Voicepulse, and they sure talk a good game.

They offer cool features like hunt groups, simultaneous ringing of multiple phones, etc. You can access your service via software on your notebook when away from home (for a small extra fee, but still it's a nice option.) My neighbor reports that their service has been reliable. It just seemed like a no-brainer.

Well, as it turns out, Voicepulse is the no-brain entity. I decided to give them a try, and went to their website to sign up. They make it clear via a page on their site and general descriptions of their service that they don't offer 911 emergency services, but I can deal with that since I have a cell phone and intend to keep my co-op land line with minimal services as a backup and to support the alarm system. So, I press on... filling out several pages of info on their site, putting in contact information, service address, credit card info, etc. I select an easily-memorized number from a list of available numbers in the rate center I chose (another tantalizing nice feature) and get to the final step in the process, clicking a box on a page informing me (yet again) that Voicepulse doesn't offer 911 services but will tell me about it when they do. One more button to click and... I get a message saying that Voicepulse won't sell me service because they don't offer 911 services at my service address.

What? Didn't they just make me confirm that I know they're not going to provide 911 services? Maybe I put something wrong in the address info that they can't figure out? Maybe I could choose another address that's in town so I know they could find it with mapping software? I try that... same results. It's starting to smell a bit fishy.

It turns out that Voicepulse isn't selling new service at all right now. Of course it's all the big bad FCC's fault (never mind the fact that many other VOIP providers are selling new service at the moment, and many of them are providing usable 911 service.) I'm sure the FCC is making it hard on these providers, since the old-line phone companies are pulling the strings, but a) other companies are currently selling new service (I proved this to myself, I ordered VOIP service from a known-good provider) and b) many of these other companies are providing 911 and E911 services.

I spoke to a Voicepulse representative who did confirm that they're not selling ANY new service at all, and don't know when they will be again. Of course, he said it would be "soon" and the delay was entirely because they were waiting for replies from the FCC. When I commented that it might be a good idea to announce that BEFORE potential customers spend 20 minutes filling out information on their site only to be told that they couldn't buy anything, he said that "had been discussed in meetings and it was decided to put the message where it is because that's where the 911 disclaimer already was in the ordering process." I suggested that he start looking at the help-wanted ads, because I didn't think an inbound phone sales rep was going to have a job very long at a company that isn't selling anything, and it couldn't be satisfying to answer calls from irritated potential customers all day.

So, I'm going to give Packet8 a try and see if they ever introduce their "coming soon" features that will make them ALMOST as good as Voicepulse WOULD be, if anyone could buy their service.


Anonymous said...

Try AT&T CallVantage. It's $5 more per month than VoicePulse (would have been), but we've had it a year on a comcast cable internet line, and it's beeen flawless. The Web page features are free, if someone leaves you a voicemail it can send you an email as a notification, and (my favorite feature) if you are on a call and decide you don't want call waiting to beep in, while you are on the call you can hop to the web page and hit a "do not disturb" button and all inboound calls will go to vMail until a time you set.

Oh, and they offer 911 service.

housespinner said...

I was thinking of a Vontage type service but then my local phone service offered me $15 a month unlimited calls so I took it. :)