Another Reason to Try VOIP:

If the low price were not enough, Mark Kleiman suggests VOIP as an alternative to traditional telephone service for those of who don't live in Qwest territory. (Of course, if the non-Qwest telcos can be held liable for their cooperation with the NSA — a posibility Orin explores here — that would be a reason to reconsider one's investment portfolio as well.

UPDATE: Based on early polling, it doesn't seem too many people will follow Kleiman's advice.

SECOND UPDATE: Then again, these poll numbers suggest something different.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Another Reason to Try VOIP:
  2. I'm switching to Qwest:
llamasex (mail) (www):
VOIP seems to have come to market too late. Landlines are on their way out, most of my friends just have a cell phone and don't even bother getting a home phone.
5.13.2006 9:16am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I disagree that VOIP is really dead in the water. I still find use for land lines, both because most of us don't have unlimited cell plans and such things as FAX lines, etc. are still useful. Besides, you can actually take your VOIP with you when you travel, as long as you can find higher speed Internet service where you end up. Thus, you can be sitting across the country, and have your home phone number ring in your motel room.

That said, I use Qwest DSL, and running VOIP over that would be silly, esp. since DSL+VOIP would be more expensive than the Qwest DSL+Voice(+Cell discount and integration) that I currently have.

But I still compare what Qwest did to its shareholders to what is alleged to have happened here, and come to the opposite conclusion - I have been tempted more than once to move to Cox cable+VOIP just to deprive the company of my revenues. I should add that part of this is that my grandfather started accumulating AT&T stock when he went to work for Western Electric in the 1920s. My mother added some when she worked for U.S. West after WWII. My parents then rolled a lot of their dividends back into the stock over time. When the divestiture hit, they kept U.S. West stock because it paid a good dividend, and they knew the company and a lot of the executives there. Thanks to Nacchio, et al., much of that stock became nearly worthless. So, if you choose to support Nacchio, just remember, you are supporting a crook.
5.13.2006 10:27am
John Jenkins (mail):
I liked the first sentence of the WaPo article linked in the update.

A majority of Americans initially support a controversial National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

If a majority (and a fairly substantial one, at that) supports the plan, that means it's fairly non-controversial. That doesn't mean it's right or good, which are whole separate issues, but the editorializing gave me a chuckle.

I'm guessing "controversial" here means "we don't like it," but for some reason they didn't want to just come out and say that.
5.13.2006 10:43am
Da Da Da:
JJ: I also like the use of the word "initially", as in "people support it initially, but just wait until we run another hundred stories in an attempt to make everyone think like us, because obviously we journalists know what's good for you."
5.13.2006 11:26am
I.I (www):
You have to have an active land line to get DSL anyway, don't you?
5.13.2006 11:35am
The Drill SGT (mail):
I'm a Verizon customer. I've already written to them to thank them for cooperating with the NSA on the call records. If I were a Qwest customer and could switch, I would.
5.13.2006 11:40am
Fishbane (mail):
You have to have an active land line to get DSL anyway, don't you?

Only if you're in a Bell monopoly area that pushes customer unfriendly bundles. There's no technical reason. Call your monopolist and ask about either unbundling it. If they don't, you can make noise, or see if services your area, but that's about it.

Also, those who are asserting that VoIP is "too late" or not worthwhile might be amused to learn that it is likely that the last long distance call they made from a land line was probably VoIP for part of the process. Many of the LD carriers have already switched their backbones over.
5.13.2006 11:46am
Peter Wimsey:
Also, those who are asserting that VoIP is "too late" or not worthwhile might be amused to learn that it is likely that the last long distance call they made from a land line was probably VoIP for part of the process. Many of the LD carriers have already switched their backbones over.

I think the thought is that people looking for an alternative to landlines would be inclined to switch to cell-phone only use. But while this may be true for many individuals - it's true for me - it is not true of many businesses. My workplace recently switched over to VOIP; the sound quality is excellent, the price is about half of what we were paying, and there are other useful features not available on regular landlines.
5.13.2006 11:53am
c.f.w. (mail):

"That said, I use Qwest DSL, and running VOIP over that would be silly, esp. since DSL+VOIP would be more expensive than the Qwest DSL+Voice(+Cell discount and integration) that I currently have."

I have Packet8 VOIP at home - it has worked quite well for 9-12 months. Nice to be out from under taxes and extra charges for voicemail, long distance, features.

Packet8 is now in my office for fax - works fine. This weekend I will change over ("port") main office line to VOIP. Verizon now offers a "dry loop" phone line for the DSL.

Packet8 charges are about $48 per month for 2 lines. Verizon DSL is about $40 for the internet and $20 for the dry loop. I estimate the small office phone bill should go down from about $190 per month to $108 per month (including internet).

Packet8 is lots better than Vonnage, in my view. Better quality transmission, at less cost. Packet8 has great features - one can get voicemail by email (sound file attached to email). Free long distance.

Packet8 does not support fax but Packet8 sales said my G3 fax system would work fine - it does.

Packet8 has experience providing VOIP for Fortune500 companies, I beleive. (Most big companies have gone to VOIP years ago.)

One issue with cell phones and VOIP is getting collect calls. Not sure yet how that is supposed to work. Anyone know?

Not sure the NSA has overlooked VOIP systems in its data gathering.

My problem with the gathering of usage data is archiving - say the NSA saves this info for 20 years, and the FBI merges (de facto) with NSA. Then in every average drug smuggling case (or close politial election) the prosecutor or investigator (or political operative) will want a print out of all calls to and from each witness during the last x years. Potential for abuse is huge, and gets more huge as time passes.

If NSA is gathering usage data for phones, it is probably also gathering it for email and web browsing (or is going there if it can). If the vast majority of Americans think usage databases (unlimited as to time) are fine (or Instapundit thinks so), they need their heads examined.
5.13.2006 11:54am
too lazy to register:
VOIP uses the internet people. It's going to be far easier for anyone to track and trace than phones. Don't follow this advice.
5.13.2006 12:17pm
SenatorX (mail):
I build and troubleshoot LAN and WAN networks for healthcare and I run into VOIP quite a bit. It is very popular these days mostly because of the low cost.

Now one problem is that it can wreck a network! Basically it better be implemented right and as importantly you need bandwidth shaping devices (AND QoS) if you are adding it to an existing network.

Another problem is what "too lazy to register" said. The laws that require phone companies to make it easy for the gov to install monitoring devices are now being used to gain access to network data. It was not supposed to be allowed but since VOIP is now on existing networks the argument is they need access to VOIP so they get full access to the networks as well by default...I guess we will see how that plays out but I figure it's going to happen one way or another.
5.13.2006 12:52pm
Michael Eisenberg (mail):
My concern is that 911 doesn't work as well with Cell phones, or VOIP, which is why I still keep an active landline.
5.13.2006 1:30pm
AppSocRes (mail):
It's interesting to speculate how many of those who so consistently oppose our government as it fights the "War on Terrorism" would exist today, if their fathers and grandfathers had behaved similarly during WW II.
5.13.2006 2:14pm
Gil (mail) (www):
Do we actually know anything about whether VOIP companies would release these records, if asked?

Have any made public statements one way or the other?
5.13.2006 2:40pm
I've made an angry call to Verizon Wireless, whose customer service people told me they didn't hand over any records to the NSA. I haven't found any news reports that clearly state whether the NSA program covers cell phones.

Not that this matters, since Qwest doesn't offer cell service in California.
5.13.2006 3:01pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Aren't all telecom networks on switched protocols now anyway? They may not call it VOIP, but it seems like it's the same thing.
5.13.2006 3:43pm
David B:
Qwest sells my calling records to other companies so they can spam me with targeted advertising, but they won't give up those same records to help protect America from attack. I will be switching away from Qwest. Thanks for the VOIP tip.
5.13.2006 3:59pm
c.f.w. (mail):
I think VOIP with Packet8 at least has the 911 situation resolved - they requie a listing of a physical address for the VOIP number. But, if power is out, and there is no UPS (backup power), one must use the cell phone (or semaphore) to call 911.

Collection of information, incluing text of emails, and phone calls (actual words spoken) is affordable for big brother (or Verizon or AT&T) or soon will be. One cannot fight progress. Moore's Law will be what it is.

I suppose the thing to advocate is control of one's own data (including ability to use it or sell it).

So if my son gets arrested for supposed rape at Duke in 2015, both the DA (with a subpoena) and defense counsel (with no fuss) can bring up all my son's phone calls (including things said), emails (including text), porn sites visited, books checked out from library, card swipes into dorms, things bought at grocery store, etc.

At least we can work on assymetry issues. Make sure it is not just big brother and Fortune 100 companies that have access to archives of the mined info.
5.13.2006 4:45pm
Joe7 (mail):
A better idea; I waive all privacy rights and let ANYONE listen in on my phone conversation and then get a discount on my phone bill. The only downside is all the deaths by boredom it would cause.
5.13.2006 5:52pm
Syd (mail):
Thanks for the second set of poll results. I wonder why the Post's results were so screwy.
5.14.2006 12:48pm
JosephSlater (mail):
John Jenkins:

Re that poll about majority support = not controversial, by your logic, then, it's REALLY not controversial that Bush is doing no better than a fair or poor job as president.

Beyond that, as with all polls, it really matters how the question is asked. I found this nice analysis on another blog site (linked from that makes a good point about this re the NSC poll.

Let's look at the actual question that the poll respondents answered:

It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?

Gee, that seems pretty innocent. I might have said yes to that. But let's rephrase the question so that it reflects what is actually going on.

It's been reported that the U.S. military has been collecting the phone call records of 224 million telephone customers and has the records of virtually every call made in America since 9/11. This data collection process is thought by some legal scholars to be illegal. The military has not revealed what it does with those records or whether it has provided any information relating to terrorist activities. Would you consider this program acceptable or unacceptable?
5.14.2006 1:36pm
JosephSlater (mail):
My, that was a badly worded first sentence. Replace with: Re your point that majority support in a poll = non-controversial ...
5.14.2006 1:37pm
JosephSlater (mail):
And, in case anyone is still reading this, new poll numbers show that this program is quite controversial. Again, cribbed from

A new USA Today/Gallup poll taken over the weekend has 51 percent of Americans disapproving of the NSA program and 62 percent saying that Congress should hold hearings immediately. A Newsweek poll comes up with a similar result; in it, 53 percent of Americans say they think the NSA "goes too far in invading people's privacy."
5.15.2006 12:10pm
The major problem with VOIP(and why I ditched it as soon as the promotional rate ended) is that different companies have radically different services. The company I was purchasing VOIP through(RCN) charged all of the taxes one would expect of a land line, as well as fees one would expect only from stripped down phone service(per call surcharges on all calls made to cell phone, fees for calling a number registered more than five miles from my home, etc) all for a base rate between two and three times as high as standard local service. To further complicate matters, non-local calls simply didn't work(even 800 numbers simply took me to a recording explaining that I needed to purchase a long distance plan to make such calls). VOIP is very much a buyer beware game.
5.15.2006 1:12pm