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Vonage Allowed to Sign New Customers

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the at-least-for-now dept.

Communications 47

terrymr writes "The Court of Appeals for the federal circuit has stayed the injunction against Vonage pending their appeal." The appeals judge agreed with Vonage's argument that the amount of consumer churn that Vonage or any telco suffers from would surely mean disaster for their bottom line, were they denied an influx of new customers.

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Problem (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18645853)

I've got a lot of sperm caked in my keyboard and can't lick it out. Suggestions ?

Re:Problem (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18645933)

I've got a lot of sperm caked in my keyboard and can't lick it out. Suggestions ?


      Ask your doctor for a bilateral orquiectomy and never suffer from this problem again!

Re:Problem (0, Offtopic)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646251)

Wait, are you the guy in this story [slashdot.org] by any chance?

Haven't you learned your lesson yet?

Of course, it STILL depends on your net connection (2, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18645859)

Got a lousy ISP?

Can you hear me?

Can you hear me now?

Bad lines - not just for cell phones anymore!

Re:Of course, it STILL depends on your net connect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18652827)

I gotta say I don't understand all these complaints about Vonage customer service (although I am not a shareholder, I can imagine they are hugely unhappy). I've been reasonably bleeding edge telecom wise, was in Verizon's DSL trial, was an early Vonage user and then went to Australia and used it from there. Do you know how hard it is to make VoIP work with Telstra? And you have huge latency on top of that. The Vonage tech guys were very patient and very persistent in getting it to work. And it did work very well. Nothing like having a 212 number that rings in Sydney. Now it may have gotten worse with growth, I will grant that. But early on the service was very good.

Re:Of course, it STILL depends on your net connect (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18655325)

Every once in a while someone will call into a radio talk show using a really crappy VoIP connection (Sympathetico base service, in most cases, with really lousy upload speed). They sound like they're talking from the bottom of a well with their head in a metal garbage can. Of course, their download speed is good enough that they can hear you, so they go "Must be your phone - I can hear you fine!"

Is someone working reconfiguring Vonage hardware (1)

SockPuppet_9_5 (645235) | more than 7 years ago | (#18645901)

Just in case Vonage goes under, I've got this Vtech modem for Vonage that works with a couple of those portable phones.

How much rocket science will it take to make this work with other VoIP setups... uh, before Verizon's lawyers go after them, too?

Re:Is someone working reconfiguring Vonage hardwar (1)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 7 years ago | (#18647349)

How much rocket science will it take to make this work with other VoIP setups... uh, before Verizon's lawyers go after them, too?
What's the point of using your existing VoIP box? Those things were made cheap enough to be throwaways. If you switch to another provider it's very likely you'll get one of their devices included free with your service.

Re:Is someone working reconfiguring Vonage hardwar (1)

SockPuppet_9_5 (645235) | more than 7 years ago | (#18647707)

What's the point of using your existing VoIP box?
Because the little VoIP box from Vtech works fairly well with the two portable phones that work with it. Here's the version I have. [engadget.com] It's a dedicated system, so I'd like to reuse them (instead of buying 2 new portable phones) instead of tossing them out when Vonage gets gutted by Verizon.

Woo hoo (4, Funny)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18645957)

Woo hoo hoo

Let them sign up all the new customers they want, as long as they reveal how I can expunge that damned jingle from my brain.

Re:Woo hoo (3, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18645991)

as long as they reveal how I can expunge that damned jingle from my brain.

      It's not a jingle, it's actually a song by a japanese girl band called the "5 6 7 8's", and it existed long before the commercials. You can also hear it in the movie "Kill Bill".

Re:Woo hoo (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646113)

It's not a jingle, it's actually a song by a japanese girl band called the "5 6 7 8's", and it existed long before the commercials. You can also hear it in the movie "Kill Bill".

And that's a cover of the song performed in the 50's by the Rock-A-Teens - no relation to a later band of the same name.

Zestfully clean (4, Funny)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646565)

Zestfully clean, you're not fully clean unless you're Zest-fully clean.

These things run through my consciousness without my permission. They've invaded my brain via the commercial mass-media during my childhood and adolescence. They are inescapable and pernicious. I'd like to buy the world a Coke.

Go ahead, tell me you've been raised in America and you don't have a corporate media advertising slogan running through the back of your mind now and then. Ancient Chinese secret, huh?

Re:Zestfully clean (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18650189)

They've invaded my brain via the commercial mass-media during my childhood and adolescence. They are inescapable and pernicious. I'd like to buy the world a Coke.

      The damned song I can't get out of my head is "conjuction-junction, what's your function....hookin' up words..."... ARRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHH.

      I mostly watched tv on Saturday mornings. Boarding school 'n all that. Still it was really educational as a Canadian finding out how US laws got made. Funnily enough I couldn't see any lobbyists in the cartoons...

Still, Have It Your Way... at Burger King...Have It Your Way... at...McDonalds, we do it all for You?

Tough 'Call' (1)

Livius (318358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18645967)

On the one hand, Verizon with an idiot patent.

On the other, Vonage thinks customers just naturally leave at random and not because they might be unhappy with their service.

Re:Tough 'Call' (1)

Name Anonymous (850635) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646067)

On the one hand, Verizon with an idiot patent.
I am not sure if "idiot" is the correct word, but I can't think of a better one.

On the other, Vonage thinks customers just naturally leave at random and not because they might be unhappy with their service.
Quite true.
On one hand, the patent situation is out of hand. On the other hand, well, I have a tough time saying who I would want to win this lawsuit. (Although I am leaning towards Verizon.)

Re:Tough 'Call' (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 7 years ago | (#18656379)

Any telco really does lose customers and signs up new customers continually the same way ISPs do. The reason why for a VOIP provider is that your internet connection really is the largest part of how good the service will be. If your upload bandwidth is under 128kbps, then pretty much any VOIP service will seem like garbage when it comes to quality.

So, people with poor internet service will try Vonage and leave, others will try it and find it to be very good. You also have cases where people would leave because of frequent power outages and didn't understand that if their cable/DSL service goes down, so does their phone.

How many people leave from Cingular and switch to Verizon or Sprint/Nextel, or to Cingular from the other cell phone companies? Do you really think people switching is due to problems with these companies that the other companies don't as well? Cell phone service is generally the same when you are in their coverage area, but for any area in the country, there will be places that are better for one or the other. It doesn't mean any of them are particularly better or worse overall, it's all about how service is for your location and where you travel to.

Ain't Gonna Help (4, Insightful)

The Dobber (576407) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646077)

How many people are going to sign up knowing there is a possibility that Vonage will go tits up in the near future?

They're toast.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18646103)

How many people know that Vonage is in trouble? A handful of internet tech news readers only, I would wager...

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

alanshot (541117) | more than 7 years ago | (#18652153)

True enough. Vonage will be OK in the short term provided the nightly news-es dont pick up the story and start hyping it.

Brian Williams and his ilk start blabbing about it and it could very well go back from cutting off O2 to a bullet to the head as scared consumers start bailing like rats off an sinking ship.

Personally I PRAY it survives. I love the $15 I pay for phone service. I dont call many ppl, but those I call most are L/d. And to make matters worse I am in a virtual black hole of cell service so I cant rely strictly on my cell. It would cost over 2x for a pots line in my area, with no L/D (so realistically its over 2x).

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646151)

I'm a Vonage subscriber. If they go (and nothing replaces them), big deal. So I lose VoIP phone service. I might not bother to renew it anyway, as little as I use it.

Now losing 'Net connectivity? THAT would be bad.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646387)

Well, personally I do care. I dropped my landline for Vonage a couple years ago, and I'm happy enough. I couldn't speak to their customer service as I've never tried to use it, but the actual phone service seems fine enough to me. Granted, Vonage hasn't been very dynamic about introducing new features to keep people excited (why can't I set up separate voice mail boxes for family members?) but I do think it's saving me money. Mostly I just dread the hassle of finding a new provider and transferring my telephone number, what a pain.

Fundamentally, I don't even see why I'm still stuck paying a phone bill at all. I don't pay an email bill or a filesharing bill.

Call me, and I'll explain it. (3, Informative)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18647809)

Fundamentally, I don't even see why I'm still stuck paying a phone bill at all. I don't pay an email bill or a filesharing bill.

So, you were hoping that people would know how to reach you by dialing your IP address, perhaps? Who do you think maintains the ability to route calls, from both VoIP and 'analog' networks/carriers, to the number that's assigned to you? Should they be doing that as charity? Do you pay for the IP address you're using? A phone number is pretty much the same thing, only static. I'm guessing your home IP address is probably dynamic, as far as that goes.

Ever use your VoIP service to call a local business that's on POTS? Who do you think bridges that connection, the tooth fairy? And if you've got a technical solution for that process that doesn't cost anything or use any infrastructure, why aren't you sharing that with the rest of the billions of people with hard phone numbers?

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

drjzzz (150299) | more than 7 years ago | (#18648367)

My experience with Vonage, about 2 years, has been good. Call quality is very good and availability seems more a question of my ISP than Vonage. I keep a POTS 2nd line but I use Vonage (and an out-of-state business number) for all long distance. The main advantage over Skype is the ability to use regular phones, so you don't have to keep a computer going, buy a special phone, or drag the laptop around the house just to use the telephone. Their no-extra-cost voicemail and caller ID are nice and their call forwarding (to my cell when away from home) is actually very useful.

No wonder Verizon (nee NYNEX) wants them gone - most of the baby Bells have been losers in the competitive market. I did some quick research this morning and I don't think there is an attractive alternative if Vonage is forced to close. (*I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' Asterisk*). Also, it will probably be tricky to transfer telephone numbers. Any opinions on options?

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

EdwinFreed (1084059) | more than 7 years ago | (#18650001)

I've had a Vonage box for several years, and I've used a bunch more for phone banking activities. Service has been excellent, especially compared with my Verizon POTS experience.

I've also had occasion to call Vonage service twice, once to inquire about how many Vonage boxes could be placed on a single cable modem connection and another time when my Vonage box stopped working with a strange sort of ARP resolution failure. In the first case I received surprisingly precise and helpful information with minimal fuss. The second time was even more interesting: The technician told me that this was something they had seen before and their best guess was some sort of block based on ethernet address range. He advised either inserting some kind of router to obscure the ethernet address of the Vonage box or to upgrade to a newer model Vonage box which he offered to send me for free. I opted to insert a router - something I planned to do anyway and would be quicker - and the problem disappeared.

Vonage has definitely saved me money as well. I will be very sorry if this action by Verizon ends up forcing them out of business.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

gwiner (685297) | more than 7 years ago | (#18654907)

Also a Vonage customer here - I've recently decided to drop them over ongoing voice quality issues. As others have pointed out, the problem is likely my cable provider ISP and not Vonage, however the two go hand-in-hand. Without another cable ISP, I need to use DSL. As soon as DSL enters the equation, it is cheaper to go with a POTS line. Despite my inquries with AT&T about "unbundled" DSL so I could keep Vonage, it was less expensive to get a straight metered line with AT&T ($6.00) + DSL ($20-40), then add Vonage on top ($10 for basic IIRC) if I still want all the Vonage goodies.

I've used them for almost two years now, and have finally got sick of people saying "You're breaking up" when I called them. Never had an issue with receiving audio, but got a lot of complaints about people not being able to hear me well. Overall their service offers some outstanding customization which I will sorely miss, but ultimately all the features in the world are no good if your called party can't hear you.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (2, Insightful)

bigpat (158134) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646561)

Sunrocket [sunrocket.com] and Packet8 [packet8.net] look like promising VOIP providers. I'll be switching to one of these shortly. I never liked the idea of Vonage being the 100 Lb gorilla anyway, they seemed to be a good example of the proverb about keeping 'all your eggs in one basket'. And as The big player in independent PSTN VOIP interoperability they also seemed taylor made for Verizon to come along and kill them off as an example to others, so they could keep their market position.

Also seems that if this Verizon patent is valid and actually being used by anyone who routes calls from IP to PSTN, then Verizon could possibly use this to kill off Comcast and RCN phone services depending on how they have architected their systems. Though they would presumably have some alternative to IP routing since they control their own wires.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

drjzzz (150299) | more than 7 years ago | (#18648477)

As you note, Vonage is a (relatively) big player and therefore the biggest target for Verizon. Why wouldn't the 2 alternatives you mention, whose offerings seem very much like Vonage's, be soon driven from the business?

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

bigpat (158134) | more than 7 years ago | (#18652437)

Verizon has to prove its case again in court if it wants to go after other VOIP to PSTN providers. They probably use different technology so they would have to prove that it was also infringing. Really I think the case is absurd to begin with. That a computer can map from one directory to another using a common attribute and route information accordingly should be considered obvious, regardless of how big your revenue is. If the US is any less corrupt than Zimbabwe, then eventually this case should be overturned on appeal.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

p3net (1085343) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646239)

Note that the injunction would just stop the sale of new accounts, not stop them from doing business. According to the end of this article [betanews.com] , they already have a deal with VOIP, Inc. to utilize their network if the Vonage network gets shut down.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

pdhenry (671887) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646987)

Debunked. The VOIP, Inc. deal is just a routine termination agreement. Vonage has 30 or so of these in effect at any time. No effect on the Verizon pickle, unfortunately.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (4, Insightful)

jambarama (784670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646329)

How many people are going to sign up knowing there is a possibility that Vonage will go *** up in the near future?

I can answer that. All of the people who don't know about the patent issues. Like my parents and most of my friends. I took a brief unscientific poll of the dozen people around me. About 3/4ths knew what VOIP was, and of those most knew Vonage. And of everyone, no one had heard of the patent dispute with Verizon.

I think we often overestimate how much the general public knows/cares about this stuff.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18647393)

haha what's wrong with you?
you just had to sensor that word didn't you

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

jambarama (784670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18658099)

Yeah, I have a profanity filter greasemonkey script installed, so I don't even know what the word was.

MOD PARENT UP (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 7 years ago | (#18647529)

I think we often overestimate how much the general public knows/cares about this stuff.
This is very true. Name almost any issue discussed on slashdot, and you'll probably find that people either haven't heard, don't care, or heard only fleeting details. I think we work each other up, and convince ourselves of the importance of these issues in terms of the bigger picture. The reality is different, and a little disheartening.

Me For One (1)

esme (17526) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646597)

I've been thinking about signing up with Vonage for a while now, but just haven't gotten around to it.

When I heard about the injunction, I went right over and signed up, since I figured it would be a few hours until it went into effect, even if it didn't get stayed (which it soon did).

If Vonage goes out of business, it'll take a while. And I can always switch to my cable company's VOIP. I had been dithering b/c my cable's VOIP is twice as expensive, but it's supposed to be better quality (since they use a separate channel for voice instead of competing with the other traffic).

-Esme

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

nevillethedevil (1021497) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646865)

Funny you should say that. My wife mentioned getting vonage about 15 minutes before I read this article. Now.....not so sure.

Can anyone suggest a good alternate voip service?

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

jrobinson5 (974354) | more than 7 years ago | (#18658181)

Sunrocket [sunrocket.com] and Packet8 [packet8.net] are also quite good, or at least that's what I've heard.

Re:Ain't Gonna Help (1)

visualight (468005) | more than 7 years ago | (#18647831)

I did. Not even looking for another phone provider either, not until I no longer have a dial tone. I despise Verizon more than any other company. I'm with anyone against them.

The NeXT level of phone (1)

theatrecade (1080063) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646147)

I'm glad to see that Vonage can start to resell services. It's a shame that the technology behind it gets wrapped up in patents and court cases. I guess I'm too much of an open source, let me fix it kinda guy to understand why certain patents are given to companies in the technology world. I have used Vonage in the past and it's not a bad system. Yea it has kinks. But we are forging forward to the day where there are not hard lines and cellphone. this type of technology should be owned by just one company. ..Maybe companies need to go back to kindergarten and learn how to share.

Re:The NeXT level of phone (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646263)

Companies don't do anything that doesn't make them money. They've got a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to make a profit. They won't share unless they'll make money from sharing, or at least not lose money because of sharing.

While corporations may legally be people, they have none of the good attributes that people have, like altruism, empathy or selflessness.

this wouldn't be a problem for them (1, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646167)

The appeals judge agreed with Vonage's argument that the amount of consumer churn that Vonage or any telco suffers from would surely mean disaster for their bottom line, were they denied an influx of new customers.

... if they offered good enough service to actually have some customer loyalty and not spend all their days chasing around the customers from provider to provider, looking for someone that won't give them the shaft. If you have that much turnover with your customers that you are slamming them with like $350 "early termination fees" just to hang onto them, maybe it's time to review your customer satisfaction levels? Use good customer service and a quality product to keep your customers? What a novel concept!

They should have not gotten the stay. It would have been a good lesson for them to actually do something to keep their customers, besides raping their phonebill if they leave. If I were the judge I would have said OK you can sign on new customers again, but for now we are capping your early termination fee at $20. That wouldn't put them out of business but would make them clean up their act, and isn't that what the judge is supposed to be making happen?

Re:this wouldn't be a problem for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18646267)

Are you talking about Verizon or Vonage? Vonage is a great phone company and they have done a lot to win my loyalty. For example since I've been a member (about 3+ years now) they have lowered their prices, TWICE. How many phone companies do that? Verizon is the scum of the earth everytime I've dealt with them. Verizon took 4 months to switch on my DSL at the central office when they offered service in my area and my next door neighbor was signed up. The Verizon broadband service on my mobile phone works at best 10% of the time. Verizon landline service is overpriced and their VOIP service wouldn't even exist if Vonage wasn't draining so many of their customers away. The sad thing is that Verizon isn't the worst of these scum sucking phone companies.

Re:this wouldn't be a problem for them (2, Informative)

sweatyboatman (457800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646443)

You seem to have missed the Vonage or any telco part of that quote. Customer turnover is cause by a lot of things, not just unsatisfactory service. People move, lose their jobs, get a good deal from their Cable company, etc. Yes, Vonage's customer service is mediocre at best and their cancellation policies and procedures are screwy. But Vonage as a whole is not particularly worse than Comcast, Verizon, or any other telephone provider.

The point here is that Vonage offers the same call quality and crappy service that your traditional telephone company offers, but they charge 50%-80% less. You, apparently, had a bad experience with them. But destroying Vonage (and other independent VOIP providers, who have just as much to lose here) would only empower Verizon to sue other competitors and keep their inflated, monopolistic rates.

I can't see how you could be in favor of that.

Re:this wouldn't be a problem for them (1)

webgeek2point0 (1003266) | more than 7 years ago | (#18646591)

You got charged $300 for an ETF by Vonage? You might want to read the ToS. This is from Vonage's web site:

3.6 Disconnection Fee (Does Not Apply to Business Plus Customers). You will be charged a disconnection fee of $39.99 per voice line if your Service is disconnected, subject to applicable state and local laws. However, if your Service was activated on or after February 1, 2007 and is disconnected after two (2) years following your activation date, the disconnection fee is waived. If your Service was activated on or before January 31, 2007, the disconnection fee is waived if your Service is disconnected one (1) year following your activation date.
It looks like there is only a $39 fee - not too bad, really. Now, I know that the wireless companies charge a high ETF, but that is because they subsidize the cell phones so much. It takes about 8 months, on average, for a cell phone carrier to turn a profit on a new customer.

Re:this wouldn't be a problem for them (1)

DietCoke (139072) | more than 7 years ago | (#18653329)

That's like saying that you can't complain about getting anally raped, just because they didn't insert their entire shaft. One way or the other you're still getting fucked.

Perhaps if they'd provided some sort of added value over my cellphone service they would have been able to turn that profit on me. However, they didn't. So - why am *I* the one expected to pay a fee? I'm not the one who sells a subpar service with an annoying-as-fuck jingle.

Does any of this affect other VOIP providers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18649659)

I've been using a different VOIP provider since before Vonage existed. Do I have any reason to care about this at all?
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