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Cable VoIP takes the lead

For reliable connections and call quality, cable VoIP (Est. $12 to $60 per month) ranks higher, in general, than other VoIP providers. Cable VoIP services cost more, however, and since cable companies divide territories, you can't choose which cable company to use. Wow!, CableVision, BrightHouse Networks and Cox communications all come highly recommended in user surveys.

However, reviewers find that the same cable company can rank at the top in one region, but not in another, so it's a good idea to check with neighbors and take a look at user-written reviews of your local cable company before signing on. You can call 911 from cable VoIP and some companies give you a battery backup in case of power outage. Cable companies offer a variety of plans, each of which has its own basic and add-on features.

Both Vonage (Est. $12 per month and up) and Ooma (Est. $150 for hardware) -- see below-- receive good marks in reviews for decent call quality and reliability. The big difference between them is in how you pay. Vonage is a subscription service with a variety of monthly plans, both domestic and international. The $12 basic plan gives 300 minutes of VoIP time to the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Vonage VoIP is full featured with many free and inexpensive options, including 911, call waiting, caller ID, visual voice mail and even weather alerts. One of the most helpful features is virtual phone numbers. This means you can add a phone number with an area code that's local to the people who call you most. More expensive plans (Est. $25 and up) offer unlimited calls to up to 60 countries.

Hardware-based VoIP has no monthly fee

Ooma Telo offers VoIP service in a different way to most other providers. With Ooma Telo, you buy the adapter, and then U.S. calls are free, except for state taxes and fees. Most reviewers praise Ooma's call quality and reliability, which some say is similar to that of Vonage, but technical support gets mixed reviews.

Users like this service, with an average rating 4.5 out of five stars from over 2,000 user contributors to Amazon.com. The free Ooma plan includes basic features like voice mail, caller ID and call waiting, and supports 911 service, and you get a virtual second line so two people can use the system at once. For additional features, including voice mail transcription, you have to upgrade to the Premier plan (Est. $10 per month) and purchase an Ooma Telo handset (Est. $50) to fully access all the features.

One reviewer says "So if you plan to make Internet phone service permanent, and you don't have a gabby relative in Belgium, Ooma has the edge [over Vonage]."

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Ooma Telo Free Home Phone Service
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