Don't use this search engine!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Vonage missed the mark

I'm a big fan of Vonage and it's voice over IP.  Several years ago, before we moved into our current home, we had to temporarily live in a 2 bedroom apartment while our home was being built (and with 3 kids that was a tough situation).  I was attempting to move my DSL from my old home to the apartment, and then again to the new home 6 months later.  BellSouth was going to charge me 4 separate times for the move.  One was a connection disconnect at the then current home because I was in the middle of their contract (even though I had already had their service for a couple of years).  The second would be for establishing a connection at the apartment.  The third would be for the disconnect at the apartment because we were going to be there less than a year.  And the fourth for establishing a connection at our new home.  In the first and third cases, I was also to pay for the remaining months left on the contract (4 and 6 months respectively).  In other words, BellSouth was going to have their way with me and it was going to be neither gentle nor pleasant.  I'm not a naturally angry man, but I admit I lost it with the poor woman on the phone that day.  At least she was local to the Atlanta area and not an offshore flunky.  Regardless, I vowed (actually screamed) to her that "BellSouth will never be welcome in my home again!"

When we moved into the apartment a week later, I instead brought in Comcast as my cable provider and purchased their ISP service to go with it.  I had always avoided cable modems because of the bad press that the teleco's had put out concerning them.  I have been happy with Comcast since that point (at least as far as cable is concerned).  But I needed a home phone.  I toyed with the idea of going all cellular and only using the phones that my wife and I already had.  Unfortunately, we were on the bottom floor and reception there was poor at best.  I found out about Vonage then and gave them a shot.  At the time the service wasn't the best in the world, but it was cheap and did give us a stable phone.

Nine months later (yes the contractor took longer than stated!), we moved into our new home.  We were the first of two homes actually sold in this neighborhood, and when our new neighbors moved in a week later, the BellSouth guy paid me a "courtesy call" as he saw that I still had not turned on my phone.  I admit I was all smiles when I saw him at our door.  He politely stated, "Hi, I was just setting up your neighbors and noticed that you still bare cable on the side of your house.  Would you like for me to get you set up while I am here?"

"No", I smiled, "Why would I want to do that?"

He clearly was puzzled when I said that and hesitated a moment before responding.  "Everyone needs a home phone and BellSouth is the only provider in this area.  How else are you going to have a phone?" 

I handed him my wireless hand set and turned it on so that he clearly heard the dial tone.  "Who indeed?  Thanks for your time, but I already have a phone service."  And with that I started to close the door.  He stopped me before it had closed completely and asked, "But who?"

"Vonage", I replied and closed the door.  It really wasn't fair to the poor tech, he was just doing his job.  But I sure felt better.  That was over 5 years ago and I still have Vonage to this day.  The service has been spotty in the past, and when they were going through their lawsuit, I did think about bailing on them.  But somehow, they have always managed to get their act straight and get their service better and better.

That's why I'm so disappointed in them now.  Since those slow beginnings 7 years ago, they have managed to create quite a following even with the teleco's doing everythign they can to crush them.  Additionally, others now have VOIP services (my good friends at Comcast have been trying to get me to switch for several years now) and there are many free services out there that compete with them, although not exactly at the same level.  What intrigues me the most about Vonage is the ability to completely wire my house for phones, with only that single internet connection.  It's very convenient and the cost is right.  But our lives are changing rapidily.  We become more wired (or wireless) by the day and communications with friends and family are no longer restricted to phone singularly.  In fact, I likely keep up with everyone via Facebook much more often than by phone or even email.  So with the internet becoming the true future of communications, a future that Vonage already has a vested interest in, why in the hell would they not pursue Skype?

My second favorite communications medium has been up for sale for some time now.  eBay couldn't figure out what to do with it, and the founders obviously wanted it back.  Why wouldn't Vonage seek to complete its internet offering with free peer to peer voice communications to complement their already stellar POTS access?  And with Skype they would have the added benefit of coupling chat and VIDEO with that.  I had my first video conference using Skype recently and I'm completely sold.  What better opportunity for Vonage to start selling phone units that had both voice and video tied directly into POTS (if wanted).  I can easily envision a small device that hooks up to my television that allows for direct video communication with your loved ones.  Why, Vonage, why?  I can only guess that the FCC or some other outdated governmental body may have frowned on that.  Perhaps Vonage is still short of case from all the lawsuits.  I don't know the reason.  I only know that they missed the boat.  Note to the new owners of Skype:  make it cheaper than Vonage, tie it to my phone system (while keeping the internet capability as well), and give me greater video capability and I'm yours.  In that respect, you could say you had me at hello.

No comments:

Post a Comment