It's Thanksgiving, 2004, and I'm grateful for innovation.

I saw an article that said Vonage telephone service over the Internet (VoIP - Voice over Internet Protocol) had lowered its price to $24.95 a month. A day later, I paid our regular telephone bill, which had about $26.00 in long distance charges on it.

*Light Bulb Turns On*

So I ordered up Vonage off their web site and a few days later a Linksys telephone adaptor arrived. I plugged it in and presto, another phone line!

Vonage provides unlimited long distance all over the US and Canada. So our long distance charges should be, well, *ZERO* from now on. (I think it was about $.10 a minute.)

If the new Internet phone works out really well, we'll try to switch our regular home number over to Vonage, since it costs $25.00 a month just to have a "regular" phone line.

Actually, we don't have a "regular" phone line. Our "regular" phone service comes over cable and is provided by Comcast. We get almost all communication services over cable: telephone service, Internet, and TV. Now we are getting additional telephone service over cable, but now using Vonage/VoIP whereas the Comcast digital phone service uses some kind of proprietary protocol. (There is a battery backup in the garage to support the Comcast telephone service.)

The only other communcation service we get is cell phone service, which is from Cingular, which just merged with AT&T, and is GSM-based, and now the biggest cell carrier in the United States. Everyone tells me Verizon has better coverage but I really like our GSM phones - I like that I can buy a new phone and just move my chip over to the new phone and it's up and running. A couple of years ago, I would just pop the chip into my PalmPhone and it was ready to go. I didn't have to tell the cell phone company that I was using a different phone.

(I also like roll-over minutes and free cell-to-cell phone calls if the person you are calling is on Cingular as well, which is now about 46 million people in the United States.)

GSM phones are also handy because if you get a tri-band or quad-band phone you can use it in various places around the world (not everywhere, most notably not in Japan, where they have their own system).

I went to France and wanted to take my then-new tri-band phone. I called up Cingular and said, "I'm going to France, will the phone work?" They said yes.

I get to France and the phone doesn't work. I can't call Cingular because you can't call a US 866 number from France, at least not in any way I could figure out. It's not a big deal, so when I get back, I call Cingular and complain that the phone didn't work. "Oh, you need the international calling plan enabled. It's free." The M-Fs didn't bother to tell me that BEFORE I got on the plane for France.

I read somewhere that telecommunications companies are the most hated companies in the world. They passed up used-car salesmen.

I can understand why these companies are hated so much, but if you ignore the fact that they frequently charge you for things you didn't do, and charge you for taxes that don't exist, and don't bother to tell you to enable international calling before you go to France, then you just have to be amazed at the incredible technology we can use to communicate.

And it's only getting better and better.

So this Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for innovation.

© 2004 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.