Comcast expands Net calls (1 Viewer)

cablewithaview

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Cable company rolls out Internet phone service in Detroit, challenges AT&T and other providers.

The battle for phone customers heats up today when Comcast Corp. begins offering Detroit residents Internet-based service, an increasingly popular technology that is often cheaper than traditional land lines.

The nation's largest cable company is introducing its "Digital Voice" service to parts of Northwest Detroit beginning today and intends to have the service available in the rest of the city by Oct. 1, according to Comcast officials. The basic package is $39.95 a month but with other Comcast services, the monthly rate can drop to $33, said Jerome Espy, Comcast of Michigan's director of communications.

Comcast Digital Voice uses a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol, commonly referred to as VoIP. It relies on the same broadband Internet connection that brings the Web and e-mail to homes. Users can surf the Web and receive e-mail while making an Internet call. Scores of companies are aggressively marketing VoIP service with cut-rate prices.

According to VoipReview.org, a consumer-oriented Web site devoted to the technology, 37 companies now offer the service in the 313 area code, though it is not clear whether VoIP reaches all parts of Detroit. Based on the monthly price programs listed, Comcast's monthly rate for Digital Voice is among the highest.

Comcast officials contend its VoIP service is superior in sound quality and convenience. Unlike some other services, it can connect 911 emergency calls and in the event the Internet connection is disrupted, phone service can continue up to four hours, said Steve Thomas, Comcast Detroit's Vice President and General Manager.

For consumers, and even business owners, switching to VoIP can cut their phone rates, provide unlimited local and long-distance calling and a score of extra services such as caller ID and call forwarding at no extra cost.

In four years, up to 33 million households and businesses are expected to subscribe to a VoIP service, according to the eMarketer research firm.

Darryl Pearson, an IT manager, was a "beta tester" for Comcast's Digital Voice in Detroit and signed up for the monthly service. By making the switch from AT&T telephone and DSL Internet service, he will pay $99 monthly for Comcast cable television, Internet and Digital Voice.

That is $30 cheaper than what he pays now for phone, Internet and cable, he said.

"I may have had cheaper (VoIP) options with other services but I like the idea of paying one bill for everything," said Pearson, 32.

"The service is working very well so far," he said. He is among 10,000 Comcast customers in Detroit who can subscribe to Digital Voice immediately. The service is now available to Detroit residents in the 7 Mile Road and Livernois area, Thomas said.

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060508/BIZ04/605080319/1013/rss12
 

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