Phone Claims Cheaper Long Distance Charges
By Jim Bray
businesses who like to reach out and touch distant friends, family, or
offices have a new ally in the long distance phone rate wars.
Compro's Ezfone is
a PC hardware and software solution that lets you use the Internet as
your own, personal long distance carrier. The thing comes with two ISA
cards and a pair of CD-ROM's, along with duplicate documentation and phone
cables, so you and whomever you choose can take full advantage of cyberspace
And it works, though
it should also be mentioned that you can make a lot of long distance phone
calls for the $199US this unit costs!
Still, if you do
a lot of calling to one particular party, especially overseas, Ezfone
can pay for itself over the long run. And it may prove particularly beneficial
for businesses who spend a lot of time communicating between distant branch
the cards is easy, and the software setup is straightforward; and it's
nice to see someone actually making use of the old ISA slots that, while
they may technically be obsolete, are perfectly well suited to a task
such as this.
Once you've configured
the computer, you plug your regular touch tone phone into it and are off
to the races.
Compro's press release
claims that using the Ezfone is as easy as making regular telephone calls,
but that's, well, a little too optimistic a view. Don't get me wrong;
no special skills are required, but you do have to go through a dialup
and connection process. And if the place you're calling isn't online at
the time, you have to phone it first so they can log on and receive the
Once you've done
that you can hang up and use the 'Net, but you still have to make a short
long distance call. It's not a big deal, but it's more complicated than
just grabbing a handset and punching "speed dial".
When you're going
through this "logging on" process, you're prompted (in real
pidgin English!) to hang up your handset while the computers do whatever
they do; then you get another message to pick up the receiver again. I
found this a little clumsy, but it wouldn't be too bad once you're used
Ezfone is full duplex
(so you can interrupt each other), and the overall voice quality is fine.
It doesn't sound as clean as a good local call, but I reckon it's comparable
to an analogue cellular phone - somewhere between being crystal clear
and sounding like you're inside a toilet bowl.
And while Ezfone
is really meant to be used between two stations that have it installed,
you can also bother people who haven't shelled out for the Ezfone. You
do this by subscribing to a "Gateway" service that connects
your Ezfone-initiated call to the regular phone network at the other end.
I didn't try this, but I have no reason to think it won't work.
A $30US software
upgrade, Ezfone Pro, gives you remote access to your Ezfone so cellphone
users can call long distance without paying any more through the nose
than they do for their local airtime.
As mentioned above,
you can buy a lot of long distance for $200US, but if my dad (who lives
a couple of thousand miles from me) had a PC, I'd have this thing plugged
into his computer so fast that the people at Sprint would wonder what
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