Tell me about digital phone service.

I just moved into an apartment and initially thought I’d get along fine with just my cell phone. But since my six year old daughter is with me, I’ve realized that it’s probably a good idea to have a “home” phone as well.

Instead of going with the local Baby Bell I’m thinking of trying the digital phone service offered along with cable and high-speed Internet (AOL/Time-Warner/RoadRunner). Can anybody tell me what experiences they’ve had with this? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Hidden traps to beware of?

I have Vonage and it’s great. It works just like a regular phone for $25/month (total). Plus I get all the calling features you could imagine. You can get service for $15/month if you don’t need unlimited calling.

The only significant difference is 911 support. It varies between providers. Vonage goes through a local emergency center much like your cell phone would. If that’s the case, you need to be prepared to give your address to the dispatcher. It might not automatically show up on their systems.

The Time Warner service in my area does offer traditional 911 service. That is, when you call 911, you are routed to the local 911 center and your name/address pops up on the screen. I think that’s called e911. You would need to check to see what’s offered in your area.

The phone company likes to scare you by telling you that VOIP phone won’t work when the power’s out, but neither will all the cordless phones you have in your house. If you have a cell phone, it’ll be your backup phone.

I have Vonage too, through a cable internet connction. I’m not very happy with the sound quality. It feels like talking on VOX (voice-activated microphone) with a fairly high threshold. There’s also a perceptible delay, like international calls via satellite.

Also, my city’s area code wasn’t available for Vonage. I live in a small city with only one area code, so it’s a pain to have to specify the area code, then explain each time that I do live in the city, it’s just I have a weird phone service.

Same here, but it doesn’t really bother me.

I’m thrilled with Vonage, overall. The sound quality is fine almost all the time, and I’ve never had any service problems. We have the business package, for about $50 a month, which includes a dedicated fax line and a bunch of other stuff. With a traidtional landline, we would spend at least $200 a month on long distance.