P.C. Phone Home

P.C. Phone Home

What is Internet telephony and what does it mean for me? Won’t it leave me tied to the office?—Wayne Marcil, Miami

In a nutshell, Internet telephony (also known as VoIP, Voice over IP, and IP telephony) allows you to make local and long-distance phone calls over your Internet connection; some companies also let you make video calls. Providers such as Verizon (www.verizon .com), Vonage (www.vonage.com), SunRocket (www.sunrocket.com), ViaTalk (www.viatalk.com), and Skype (www.skype.com) offer a variety of competitive services for consumers and entrepreneurs.

The best part? You don’t have to be tethered to your office to enjoy VoIP. When you sign up with Vonage, for example, the company provides a phone adapter that you simply connect to any computer with a broadband connection.

Part of the appeal is the cost. Although most charge a setup fee (typically between $25 and $30), some, such as VoIP Your Life (www.voip yourlife.com), and Skype don’t. Further, plans tend to be inexpensive compared with those of traditional phone companies. The companies also offer international plans that provide low per-minute rates. And although you will need to purchase a VoIP-enabled phone with some of the plans, you do enjoy all the benefits of a land line: caller ID, call waiting, etc. Plus, you can keep your phone number.

Mail your technology questions to Cyberwise, BLACK ENTERPRISE130 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011or send an e-mail to donaldsons@blackenterprise.com.