Reviewers and customer surveys conclude that cable VoIP has the most reliable connections and best call quality. However, the best cable VoIP providers vary in performance from one service area to another, and many cable companies are regional. Cable VoIP is often bundled with TV and Internet access, making it more affordable. You can call 911 using cable VoIP, and several cable companies even give you battery backup so you can make calls when the electricity is out.
Best call quality. Cable phone services consistently get better reviews for call quality than Internet-based VoIP providers. Cable providers say this is because they can route phone calls over their own broadband networks rather than public connections. Another advantage is that professional technicians can install cable VoIP, and you can bundle it with Internet and TV services.
Four cable VoIP providers earn recommendations in different reviews: Bright House Networks, Cablevision/Optimum Voice, Wide Open West (Wow!) and, most often, Cox Communications. However, users say that a company that provides excellent service in one part of the country could rate much lower in another area. But in general, reviewers say that cable VoIP is usually best for call quality.
Cheaper to bundle. Bundling your phone service with the Internet or TV services offered by your cable company can save money. Within cable companies, Cox is unique, however, in not requiring a subscription to TV or broadband in order to get phone service -- though bundling services is certainly cheaper.
For example, Cox's stand-alone phone service starts at $12 per month and goes up from there, with the costlier plans adding more features to the service. Bundles at Cox require you to purchase TV, Internet and phone services and the cheapest bundle is $140 per month. With Wow!, you can choose any two of Internet, TV and phone services for $60 per month.
Vary with plan. Bundled services at cable companies usually are available at different levels and prices, each of which has its own selection of features. Cox's lowest cost bundle (Est. $140 per month) includes Advanced TV, Essential digital phone and 25 Mbps Internet. While local calling, call waiting and E911 are included at this level, you have to pay extra for voice mail, readable voice mail, call forwarding and selective call rejection.
WOW's basic bundled plan offers more features, including three-way calling, anonymous call rejection, call waiting and forwarding and caller ID. You can call 911 using cable VoIP, and some providers include battery backup for making calls during power outages.
This review compares major cable VoIP companies with other VoIP providers and several landline phone services, based on ratings from a survey of 69,000 readers. Ratings cover value, reliability, support and performance as well as overall satisfaction.
Review: Phone Service Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, May 2011
2. J.D. Power and Associates
This review of telephone services, based on a survey of over 21,000 users, rates cable companies by region. In some cases, cable companies that rate well in one part of the country get lower ratings elsewhere. Cox Communications, WOW! and Bright House Networks all win awards.
Review: 2011 Residential Telephone Customer Satisfaction Study: North Central, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, September 2011
Cablevision Optimum Voice earns a Readers' Choice award here, based on a poll of nearly 20,000 readers. PCMag.com readers also rate Charter and Comcast cable VoIP.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2010: VoIP, Ben Gottesman, Sept. 7, 2010
4. PC World
Probing the fine print, this review reports that Ooma's free calls are actually limited to 3,000 minutes per month (since raised to 5,000). Mitchell also looks at three other VoIP services, checking for monthly caps.
Review: For VoIP , What Part of 'Unlimited' Don't You Understand?, Robert Mitchell, InfoWorld, May 8, 2009
Users here rate their Internet, cable and phone providers on a percent scale from 1 to 100. Each company is rated in six categories: pre-sales information, installation, connection reliability, tech support, services and value. During the past six months, Wow! has earned an overall rating of 79 percent. Of the more than 400 user-written reviews of Wow! on the site, not all use the company's phone service, but those who do generally praise it.
Review: Wow! Internet and Cable, Contributors to DSLReports.com, As of July 2013
The editors of TopTenReviews.com state that they do not consider Comcast's service to be a true VoIP service. Comcast performs poorly in reviews here. Editors criticize Comcast Digital Voice for its price (when unbundled) and lack of features, but note that unlike most VoIP phones, it's usable even when the electricity goes out.
Review: Comcast Review, Editors of TopTenReviews.com, Not dated