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Vonage Loses Appeal; Verizon Owed $120 Million 160

Posted by Zonk
from the need-to-get-out-of-the-spanking-machine dept.
Billosaur writes "Things do not look good for Vonage. Yesterday, they lost their request for reconsideration of their settlement with Verizon. This means Vonage owes Verizon $120 million to end the patent lawsuit filed against them. The costs associated with defending the case have cut into Vonage's bottom line, and despite attempts to cut costs by laying off 10% of their workforce, they may be unable to make a payment against their debt come December. According to the settlement, Vonage will pay $117.5 million to Verizon and another $2.5 million dollars to charity. Vonage's shares have dropped 87% since their IPO, now hovering around $1.50 per share."
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Vonage Loses Appeal; Verizon Owed $120 Million

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  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday November 16, 2007 @04:46PM (#21384193) Homepage Journal
    So will I be able to buy my Vonage phone#, that they've refused to let me port to my own SIP server, when they have the firesale? Or will they sell me to Verizon to pay for their patent infringement?
    • by Z00L00K (682162)
      The real question is: All those Vonage-locked boxes - can they be unlocked and re-used to some other service or your local Asterisk? Will Linksys/Cisco provide a tool for that, or can it be done by some other means? Maybe all Vonage customers shall write to them to tell them that "In order to protect my assets I request that you provide me with means to unlock my device".

      Anyway - even if Vonage wouldn't be my choice (I'm using Cellip [mysecretary.net]) the whole case looks really bad when it comes to customer advantage. It

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Well, Verizon doesn't exist on a moral plane. It's a corporation, not a person. It's been illegally spying on the entire country, along with its competition (probably including Vonage), and has over a century of other "moral" crimes.

        The ATAs, though, don't belong to the customers. They're free from Vonage. If Vonage dies, those locked ATAs will be a waste, but not a cost to the customer (except maybe recycling, unless Vonage pays for that - as they should, because it's Vonage's property they're discarding).
        • by shakah (78118)

          The phone#, though, is a major cost if lost. Which is exactly why we have the elaborate Local Number Portability system. I bet Vonage is exempt, or will act like it, on their typical scam basis that "we're an info service, not a phone company", which is the basis they used to keep their phone#s, which helped them keep customers. Probably Vonage will sell the phone#s, as several million of them is a substantial asset, especially in popular places like UK, NYC and other large cities with "brand name" area/c

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)
            Actually, I do understand the POTS architecture and the PSTN pretty well - though of course there's always more to learn. Maybe you just don't understand my posts.

            What I'd like to know, since you seem to know more about LNP, is whether Vonage can sell its blocks of termination numbers to another telco, like maybe Verizon. That seems more likely than Vonage just letting such a valuable asset go without cashing in.
            • by shakah (78118)
              My understanding is that Vonage does not own the TNs, so there is no valuable asset for them to "let go" or "cash in".

              AFAIK, the gist of the process is that LECs request blocks of TNs from a regulatory body (NANPA or the FCC?) along with justification of why they need the TNs. Further, on a quarterly basis the LECs have to justify their retention of previously-allocated blocks by reporting on TN usage (e.g. those in service, aging, etc.). Also, as service areas grow TNs are added (through allocation of unus

  • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Friday November 16, 2007 @04:47PM (#21384203)
    as Vonage was going IPO it would come burning down like a flamin' meteorite.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Presumably their TV campaign will dry up?
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Friday November 16, 2007 @04:52PM (#21384255) Journal
    Dibs on patenting the wheel.
    • by Shados (741919)
      OooO, I can patent a way to create an oxygen related reaction to generate high levels of light and heat!!!
      • Not only is their prior art in my patent (an oxygen related reaction used to generate energy), but you're infringing on my patent by breathing. So either pay up or stop.

        • by quanticle (843097)

          I'm sorry, but I've already patented a method of generating oxygen using carbon dioxide and sunlight, so you'll have to pay me for the oxygen that your patent uses.

          • by Shados (741919)
            Lets make a cross-patent agreement, since I've myself already patented a way to use large bodies of hydrogen, helium and other elements in a nuclear fusion reaction out of the earth's orbit to fuel other chemical reactions.

            Man this could go on for a bit.
    • Dibs on patenting the wheel.
      That's fine with me, I call the molecule! I now expect payment of $0.01 for every molecule manufactured, used, sold, or distributed.

      </badjoke>
      • by xENoLocO (773565)
        damnit...
        ... for real?
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        I hereby declare a patent with the following claims:

        1. Negatively charged particles, hereafter referred to as "electrons".
        2. Positively charged particles, hereafter referred to as "protons".
        3. Neutrally charged particles, hereafter referred to as "neutrons".
        4. The agglomeration of (2) and (3) into a cohesive body, hereafter known as a nucleus.
        5. The placement of (1) in a cloud-like orbit around (4).

        I think that sums it up nicely.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by middlemen (765373)
      This was on today's Engrish. [engrish.com] Mixes prior "art" and patents.
    • I've got dibs on the electron. Use it, and you'll only have to pay a low usage fee of $.01. All uses covered, and I believe the gentleman who patented the molecule is infringing upon my patent. You'll be hearing from my lawyer sir!
      • Yeah? Well, I call dibs on the process of changing energy states and levels. What's that your electrons are doing, hrmm? Money, please!
        • Thats not fair! By observing them, you've changed their states! Tampering with evidence in the court of law is a serious offense mister.
    • Dibs on patenting the wheel.
      --


      You are too late..

      However, in that case, an Australian lawyer was able to sneak the wheel patent through a fast-track application system. The US patent went through the full application procedure.

      Refrence;
      http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2178.html [newscientist.com]
      • To be fair the Australian "innovation patent" law is more like a provisional patent in the US - it really has no legal standing until some additional legal work is done.

        • To be fair the Australian "innovation patent" law is more like a provisional patent in the US

          OK to be fair, it shows they put in dibs first.
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Friday November 16, 2007 @04:53PM (#21384261)
    Judge Greene's breakup of AT&T into the RBOCs mean we now have less RBOCs, and if they have patents, they can stifle any competition they want. Is this a new way around the Sherman Anti-Trust Act???

    All that's left are a handful of tiny regionals, and Verizon, AT&T, and QWest. MCI is dead and gone... and buying up patents (or even 'cleanly' filing them) means that these companies can effectively shutout the competition.

    Not good.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Exactly right. The RBOCs have no intention of giving up their monopolies simply because VOIP was developed. Vonage isn't the one who lost - technology lost. The consumer lost. You lost.

      Kick a Verizon representative when you get a chance.
    • I believe the term used to describe this (when there are so many overlapping patents held by a few players that they can effectively raise the barrier of entry so high as to prohibit any new competitors) in legal and policy discussions is "patent thickets".
    • What few people realize is that patent law trumps competition law. This is one reason large technology firms are so pro-patent even when it creates huge risk for them. Collusion between firms that would be considered illegal cartel-forming, and result in 20-year prison sentences, becomes 100% legal when there is a single patent involved.

      What is happening to Vonage is what happens to every aggressive competitor in a market dominated by incumbents and protected by patents. It does not matter how innovate a
      • It's so odd how business has become the new 'war'.

        Strategies that must be millennia old foisted with seeming deadly precision against upstart enemies.

        Peace seems so elusive sometimes, when by rule, those in business must be wary of the competition (in so many forms), supply chain, the ambiguity and vaguery of patent laws and outcomes of litigation, then coupled to a seemingly benign government, employment law, and a the whims of the stock market.

        The reason that pharma patents do so well, is because a result
  • not good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is not good. I've been using Vonage for years. They provide decent service at good rates, specially for international calls, which I use a lot. What is the option now here in North Carolina? Time Warner? Bellsouth? Their service sucks and they are more expensive. Customer support is worse than non-existent. How is the current patent system serving the people? I understand free enterprise and all that, but lately just feel we the people get always screwed. Is this just me?
    • if you just need to save money, you can get POTS and an alternate LD carrier.
      the combined costs should be within a few dollars a month of vonage.
      • Re:not good (Score:4, Informative)

        by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon&gmail,com> on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:49PM (#21384853)

        f you just need to save money, you can get POTS and an alternate LD carrier.

        the combined costs should be within a few dollars a month of vonage.

        I seriously hope you're joking. The cost for unlimited local-only POTS service (with Verizon, ha ha) is $5 more than what Vonage charges for their premium residential plan, which includes unlimited calling to anywhere in the US and Canada. If I had to tack on a cheap long distance service, my costs would be an additional $30 per month (all my family lives out of state). Add to that Verizon's nutty ideas of what constitutes a local call, and there'll be an addition $10 per month in "regional toll" charges. That means I'd be paying $45 per month more if I went that route. I'd be better off getting their freedom unlimited plan. Oh, and I spend a couple hours a week on the phone with people in Germany. Vonage is only $.04/minute. How much would that be with Verizon?


        Sorry, but there's no way shape or form that one of the local monopoly POTS services is going to be within a few dollars of what Vonage customers are paying now. Nobody would have ever switched from their regional incumbent monopoly unless they had significant reason to do so. There was an element of risk involved in trying out VoIP that required sufficient financial incentive to overcome.

        • not a joke, i'm paying about $28 total per month for POTS + alt LD (incl regional).
          $6 of that is caller ID so if I skipped that it would be $22.
          this is in a major metro area with a bell system entity.

          more to the topic though, just because vonage is likely to get more expensive or go away doesn't mean all your options are closed. there is still....
          * skype
          * ditching the land line in favor of cell
          * cable modem "triple play" phone service

          the incremental costs here can be very low, possibly less than vonage was
      • by hoggoth (414195)
        > if you just need to save money, you can get POTS and an alternate LD carrier.
        the combined costs should be within a few dollars a month of vonage.

        You've got to be kidding.

        I pay $14.99/month for the lowest Vonage plan. That includes all my local and long distance calls. That includes voice mail, call waiting, call forwarding, etc etc etc. I have ONE phone number that simultaneously rings my home office, my 'real' office, and my cell phone. I have 3 rings to pick up any of those, otherwise it goes to voic
        • agreed, you will not get the flexibility of vonage using POTS.

          if you have the patience, you might consider an asterix box so you can host your own voice mail and do whatever you want with it, without paying a tithe to the telco.

          in fact, since voice mail flexibility was such a big advantage for vonage, it makes you wonder if some of the patents weren't about VOIP at all, but about voice mail over IP, or just some very broad voice mail (period) patents.
    • Re:not good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gatzke (2977) on Friday November 16, 2007 @08:04PM (#21386015) Homepage Journal
      They are really great. Including all those features at a lower cost is awesome.

      I love getting email when I have a message at home.

      I like being able to listen to it online.

      I like having all my incoming and outgoing call information available.

      I like having forwarding for free.

      I like low cost international and free national.

      I would probably pay a good bit more for this quality of service. TimeWarner offered less at a higher cost, so forget them...
    • Just use a different VoIP provider - preferably one that's small enough that they won't get sued any time soon. SIP service is a commodity market (and one that major corporations use, so it's not going anywhere) - there's nothing special about Vonage except their ad budget.

      • Well, I have AT&T's (yeah, I know ... SBC, what can I say) CallVantage service and it works very well. Never had a problem with it, and it has a lot of nifty features (call logging, whitelists, LocateMe, voicemail as email attachments, etc.) Dunno about international calls, however, since I really don't make any. $25/month. And they're big enough that I don't think Verizon is likely to try any lawsuits in the near future.
  • Please add number porting to Grand Central so I don't lose my home number when Vonage goes under.

    K thx bye.
  • I've really only heard that they are infringing on 'some patents' - anyone have a good synopsis of why Vonage is getting successfully sued out of business?
     
    • by westlake (615356)
      anyone have a good synopsis of why Vonage is getting successfully sued out of business?

      Vonage loses every case that goes to trial. Voyage loses every case that goes to an appeal.

      Vonage can't win on the facts and it can't win on the law. It is running out of time and it is running out of money.

  • They've been averaging $2+change for the past month.
  • Vonage Stockholders? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RobBebop (947356) on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:04PM (#21384391) Homepage Journal

    Vonage's shares have dropped 87% since their IPO, now hovering around $1.50 per share.

    Seriously, anybody who didn't see Vonage's failure coming before the IPO deserves this. They were an unprofitable company in a saturated market with a product (Voice-Over-IP) that doesn't appeal to most folks.

    Sure, $20-25 per month for phone service is a wonderful deal but the major players with rock solid products have similar prices ($30-40 per month). And in effect, they will be de-listed soon and become another ghost in the great halls of technology company who never made it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:17PM (#21384529)

      anybody who didn't see Vonage's failure coming before the IPO deserves this
      Maybe I'm just not as smart as you, but I don't think the demise of Vonage was quite so obvious.

      ...with a product (Voice-Over-IP) that doesn't appeal to most folks. Sure, $20-25 per month for phone service is a wonderful deal but the major players with rock solid products have similar prices ($30-40 per month).
      I don't know about that. Vonage's $25 includes just about everything you can imagine (voicemail with web-access and emailing of messages, caller ID, conference calls, unlimited long-distance, etc.). To get the same services from conventional phone companies costs considerably more (especially if you actually use long-distance). Monthly bills of $60-$100 are not uncommon in those cases.

      And, really, I've seen lots of people interested in the lower prices and better packages that VoIP has to offer. However what seems to be happening are that cable companies are cleaning up in the VoIP space, because they already have the infrastructure, and can offer packages (TV/Internet/phone) that are actually a good deal.

      Vonage, really, was a pretty good business with reasonably satisfied customers. In fact, I imagine they would have stood the test of time were it not for two things: (1) the incumbent monopolies are rich, and (2) patent law gives anyone with enough money the ability to exclude competitors.
      • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:40PM (#21384757) Homepage
        Vonage sold its service to tons of DSL customers. DSL customers who were using the ILEC wires. This pretty much means the ILEC was supplying their competitor so the competitor could beat them over the head.

        Not that this isn't an attractive situation. If the government forced you to rent your car out for 50% less than it cost you to rent it, would you be happy about the deal? Probably not. What could you do about it? Maybe nothing directly. But if you could find a loophole like requiring renters to have a million dollar liability insurance policy, maybe you wouldn't have to rent it out as much.

        Or, if McDonalds had a deal that if you bought 100 hamburgers at a time they would sell them for $0.10 each. So you go there, by 100 hamburgers and set up a stand on the corner reselling them - right in front of McDonalds. And your sign is saying how cheap your "McDonalds" hamburgers are compared to the store behind you. Would McDonalds sell you another 100? Maybe not.

        This is the sort of situation that Verizon found itself in. They do not have to support their competitors, but they had to support Vonage. The government and state regulators won't let them stop supporting Vonage directly. So we dust off an old patent and find it can be used to beat up Vonage. If it wasn't for the patent, there would be something else.

        Best stick with one of the under-the-radar VOIP providers that just resells some bulk service from Sprint. Lingo is one of those. Cheaper than Vonage and a lot less visible.
        • by Belial6 (794905) on Friday November 16, 2007 @06:26PM (#21385195)
          I have heard this argument many times. The problem with it is that the local phone company is not the same company as the ISP with the same name. Take Verizon for example. Verizon ISP and Verizon Telephone are not the same company. Verizon ISP, which is the company that sold the DSL connection, is in no way hurt by Vonage, so no, Vonage is not competing with Verizon ISP.

          Now, if we are going to say that Verizon ISP is not profitable on it's own, and requires the high margin POTS lines to subsidize it, then we have a classic anti-trust case where a monopoly is using it's monopoly position to control a different industry.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Vonage sold its service to tons of DSL customers. DSL customers who were using the ILEC wires. This pretty much means the ILEC was supplying their competitor so the competitor could beat them over the head.

          ILECs that were given monopolies in areas in exchange for precisely the scenario you describe -- opening up their copper to competitors.
        • Vonage sold its service to tons of DSL customers. DSL customers who were using the ILEC wires. This pretty much means the ILEC was supplying their competitor so the competitor could beat them over the head.

          DSL service is a general purpose data connection. The customer can use it for whatever they want. If the customer happens to use their data connection so that they no longer need some other service that the DSL provider sells, that sucks for the DSL provider - but you don't get to sell a general purpose

          • by dissy (172727)

            but you don't get to sell a general purpose data service and then complain when your customer uses it./quote.

            You're new here arn't you ;P
        • by Solandri (704621)

          Or, if McDonalds had a deal that if you bought 100 hamburgers at a time they would sell them for $0.10 each. So you go there, by 100 hamburgers and set up a stand on the corner reselling them - right in front of McDonalds. And your sign is saying how cheap your "McDonalds" hamburgers are compared to the store behind you. Would McDonalds sell you another 100? Maybe not.

          If they're able to sell hamburgers for $0.10 at a profit, the fact that they're selling burgers for much more in their retail stores represe

        • by slamb (119285) *

          If the government forced you to rent your car out for 50% less than it cost you to rent it, would you be happy about the deal? Probably not.

          I don't understand your comparison. Vonage customers pay a conventional ISP (say, Verizon) for broadband service (e.g. DSL). Are you saying that the government is forcing phone companies to sell DSL at below cost? Please share details, because I'm not getting that deal. Is it only available to Vonage customers? I'll sign up right now.

          (Moderators, if cdrguru does not

      • This is part of that "social bargain" that government is.

        Let me rephrase, you waive your right to free choice in all things, and in exchange you receive whatever those you voted for feel that they owe you. Generally its mediocre services (such as justice or medicine), or total and complete abuse (such as prohibitionist laws, feel good propaganda and theft of personal property through armed robbery (confiscation) or fraud (taxes for "necessary services")).

        Whenever a company with good service shows up (and V
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:51PM (#21384887) Journal
      Okay...

      1. $25 is not "comparable" to $30-40 per month. The $30-$40 prices represent a 20% to ~60% mark-up over Vonage, and you end up with less features (and according to some, less reliability).
      2. VoIP for the masses was not a "saturated" market when Vonage first hit the scene - at least not to Joe and Jane Sixpack.

      IMHO, this little patent spat was Verizon's way of fucking-over a competitor without actually having to compete on merit to do so. (IIRC, the patent is basically a bogus "On teh Intarwebs!" rig-up of existing tech, folks).

      Also, up until this lawsuit, Vonage was actually beginning to turn a profit. Not anymore.

      That said, I honestly doubt that anyone saw it coming, up until Verizon decided they didn't like the competition anymore.

      /P

      • Not to mention my vonage service is only $17 a month, not $25. (I get 500 minutes, long distance and several other features included, more than I need.)
      • by RobBebop (947356)

        Around that time (2004?) I had looked into a few IPO-worthy companies, with Vonage and Under Armour at the top of the list. Vonage was hated, and I wish I had the time to pull up the old articles from the way-back machine... but I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader.

        Also, up until this lawsuit, Vonage was actually beginning to turn a profit. Not anymore.

        http://finance.yahoo.com/q/is?s=VG&annual

        Now, I don't know how they figure their "Selling General and Administrative" liability, but for the last three years this has cost them more than their "Total Revenue" and even though thei

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by websitebroke (996163)

      As a former Verizon customer who is now a Vonage customer, I can tell you that Vonage is definitely a better deal. POTS service through Verizon cost me about $35-$40 on paper when I first signed up, but the price would always creep up to the $40-$50/month range over the next few years. Then I'd call the bastards up, and we'd be back down to $35-$40. Then the process starts all over again.

      Once I switched to Vonage, that problem went away, I've been with them for 3 years, and no price increase. I can call al

    • Under the terms of the settlement, the $120 million payment would have been cut to $80 million had the appeals court in Washington agreed to review the decision. Holmdel, New Jersey- based Vonage must pay $117.5 million to Verizon and give $2.5 million to charity.

      What's with the $2.5 million to charity? Is this a common thing in such lawsuits? And does anyone know what charity/charities?

  • competition (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TI-8477 (1105165) on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:06PM (#21384411)
    The reason all of th big telco's are going after vonage iss because its business model is far better than their's. Simply put, they're afraid of competition.
  • by davidsyes (765062) on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:12PM (#21384473) Homepage Journal
    Von Boyage?
  • Guess this means I shouldn't buy that VonageLinksys router gizmo on clearance at Wal-Mart?

    Or maybe I can flash it into something useful when Vonage dies?
    • by ncc74656 (45571) *

      Guess this means I shouldn't buy that VonageLinksys router gizmo on clearance at Wal-Mart?

      Or maybe I can flash it into something useful when Vonage dies?

      Depends on the price. I recently switched from Packet8 to Gizmo Project; after bricking my DTA310 trying to get it working with Gizmo, I ordered one of these [thevoipconnection.com] earlier this week. I already have a WRT54GL (running OpenWRT Kamikaze), so I don't need router functionality in an ATA. I might try unbricking the DTA310 at some point, but that's a low priorit

      • I just took a look at the vonage deal in the uk and it's got me interested. Especially the concept of taking my vonage box with me to anywhere with a broadband connection.

        Then I had an idea, that must have been explored already. Would it be possible for someone outside my lan to connect to my lan and then use my vonage (other voip) account to make calls? How about routing incoming calls to other IP's perhaps some kind of system that would greet a caller with please select an extension say 1 to 9 and 1 coul
  • This will be a simple one for Vonage customers. What I know Vonage will do is to increase charges for their customers. From their present customer base, a flat 0.1% charge will solve that cash flow issue.
  • How is losing jobs to outsourcing worse than losing jobs to patent law suits? I ask since no one mentions the lost jobs in these kind of cases.
    • because patent lawsuits are not necessary, while outsourcing is necessary. Well not necessary, but rather it is part of normal free market behavior, at least one where jobs have been commoditized.

      To a person who had a job all that really matters is now they don't have a job. Listing on slashdot every company that had to lay people off would quickly become depressing.
    • Re:Question (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SeaFox (739806) on Friday November 16, 2007 @07:15PM (#21385619)

      How is losing jobs to outsourcing worse than losing jobs to patent law suits?

      In one scenario, somebody else gets your job, in the other nobody gets your job.
  • Not *this* December (Score:5, Informative)

    by HunterD (13063) <legolas&evilsoft,org> on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:24PM (#21384599) Homepage
    Read the article, Vonage may default in 13 months (December 2008) not in 1 month (December). Do the editors even *read* what they post?

  • by andyring (100627) on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:30PM (#21384647) Homepage
    Granted, as in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "I'm not dead yet!" but it's sad to see this happen. I was a customer of Vonage almost since they started, and have been quite happy with their service. I only recently canceled on account of simply not needing a home phone and having a company-provided cell phone that I can use for personal calls.
  • Please post your experience with other VoIP companies that compete against Vonage in this thread.
  • Ch 11, but not Ch 7 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bxwatso (1059160)
    Vonage may not have the cash to make debt payments and they may go bankrupt, but they should still operate and not dissolve.

    1. The Vonage name has excellent recognition due to their heavy investment in advertising.

    2. Vonage has a paid up license to use the patents required to implement Voip.

    3. The various patent holders (Verizon, ATT, one other) should probably go after other Voip providers like Packet 8 who don't have nearly the cash on hand to survive the suits. Therefore, the VOIP consumer marketplac

  • It's a damn shame to see a well run business get fucked over by the dickhead kinds of capitalists....

    In capitalist barberica, profit gives way to mediocrity!
  • Like the incumbents were going to just allow a startup take away their bread and butter. Internet? Piss on that. Cable? Same. Phone calls. The Baby Bells make a SHITLOAD of money on old fashioned telephone calls.
  • I fear for Vonage's demise. At least here in eastern Canada, no one can touch the rates they offer. I'm quite happy with the service, more than happy with the features, and love the great price. I dread being forced back to an expensive, featureless Aliant land line, all because of big US telcos beating up on Vonage. Hopefully someone else will step in if they die, but it sounds like some of these patents are so broad (sending packetized voice data, blah blah blah) that without patent reform, nobody wil

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