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The two reasons why MCI is bothering with consumer VoIP

MCI- in all likelihood soon to merge with Verizon- has just rolled out a VoIP service called Neighborhood Broadband. Trials are available in a limited number of cities, with a per-city cap of 5,000 users.

MCI- in all likelihood soon to merge with Verizon- has just rolled out a VoIP service called Neighborhood Broadband. Trials are available in a limited number of cities, with a per-city cap of 5,000 users.

The service costs $29.99 a month for unlimited North American calling, and $19.99 for 500 minutes a month.

"Once the trial is finished, we'll determine if changes need to be made or if we'll move forward with this service," an MCI spokesperson told Reuters.

I've been scratching my head about why MCI is doing this. After all, if everything goes as planned, MCI will at best, soon live as an enterprise-related brand family in the house of Verizon. Verizon, of course, already offers its own VOIP service- Verizon VoiceWing.

So why is MCI- which stopped marketing to consumers awhile back - now starting a consumer-themed VoIP effort.

I'll tell you why. They don't want their legacy consumer base to be wooed by competing VoIP services, but to already be broken in to the virtues of VoIP by the time the merger is consumated.

In other words, MCI's Neighborhood Broadband is a place-holder. But not only that. It is MCI management's way of being taken seriously as a key component of a merged-with Verizon. The more the number of established customer relationships (business and consumer) MCI can bring to the merged entity, the more likely that their various divisions - and people- will survive within the new Verizon hierarchy.