A federal judge basically kicked Vonage in the wind pipe today leaving 2.2 million lines hanging.
The news: Vonage can't accept any new customers while it is still infringing on Verizon's patents. This ruling (see Techmeme discussion) doesn't hit me directly since I'm a customer, but I also realize that Vonage's business model--which is flawed to begin with--depends on adding subscribers at a rapid clip.
On the bright side Vonage got a stay on an injunction. Overall though, I'm uneasy. Courtroom drama is one thing, but folks typically boil things down to microeconomics. How does this ruling affect me ultimately? I'm a Vonage customer and find the service pretty good. It's a handy home office line. But if Vonage disappears--a fate that's looking more possible by the day--I have to find a new VOIP provider.
It's a bit surprising how limited my VOIP options really are. Here's my initial survey of the VOIP landscape and where I could take my home office line.
Add a second line with Verizon. This option isn't much of an option because it's too pricey.
Try Comcast VOIP. I'm sure Comcast, my cable provider, would do a fine job. The rub: I have to depend more on one provider and I'm looking toward the exits on my cable broadband as Verizon lays fiber optic lines in my neighborhood. I'm planning to jump once FiOS and its 30 mbps come to town.
Use another VOIP provider. Skype comes to mind right away. The question: Is it really good enough to be second office line? I don't know as I haven't played with Skype all that much. With SkypeOut it could be. My first impression is that Skype ties me too much to my PC. Another practical issue: I can't tell many sources of mine to meet me on Skype.
What's truly surprising to me is that there aren't a lot of VOIP reviews available--at least from sources I recognize. Consumer Reports did a VOIP evaluation a little more than a year ago, but focused on Vonage, AT&T, Verizon, Cablevision and Comcast.
The mental hurdle I have with that cast of characters--I'd be required to consolidate services. Bundles are nice to a degree, but overall I'm wary. Meanwhile, this ZDNet poll below pushes me to other VOIP providers first.
VOIP Review turns up a few names that sort of ring a bell. Those names: Sunrocket and Packet8 (I left off others because they didn't have more than 50 reviews on VOIPreview.org. Sunrocket has a four star rating out of five and seems to have some momentum. Packet8 has 3 stars, but a few reviews note the service is bad.
The rub with those reviews: I have no clarity on how credible VOIPreview is--I've never heard of it. My own network (CNET) doesn't seem to have reviews of VOIP providers. Other sites are also unknown to me. And I'm not trusting Google keyword buys to point me to a provider.
As this evaluation continues I plan on relying on some word of mouth referals, which means I'm going to email Russell Shaw right about now. The game at this point for me is narrowing my list down to a handful of VOIP providers that will be around for a few years--just in case Vonage isn't.