EarthLink expands VoIP service

Eight more cities will get access to Net phone service that requires no additional customer gear.

EarthLink will announce Tuesday that it is expanding its line-powered Internet-based phone service to eight more cities throughout the United States.

Beginning this month, customers in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego and Washington, D.C., will be able sign up for Home Phone Service, EarthLink's voice over Internet Protocol phone service.

The service is competing in an already crowded market where cable operators, standalone VoIP providers such as Vonage and Skype, and Internet companies such as AOL, Yahoo and Google are all trying to get a piece of the telephony market.

Unlike other Internet telephony services, EarthLink's Home Phone Service converts the analog voice signal to a digital signal after the call leaves the consumer's home. This means no special "box" or equipment is needed in the home to run the service.

EarthLink's service is also available from all existing phone jacks in the home. And like traditional phone services, Home Phone Service will operate during a power outage, and it will support enhanced 911 calling.

Because the service is IP-based, customers will be able to take advantage of several enhanced features they wouldn't otherwise get with traditional phone services, such as call prioritization, click-to-dial, number blocking and Web-based voice mail.

The service is sold along with EarthLink's DSL service, which provides up to 8Mbps of bandwidth for downloads. Pricing for EarthLink DSL and Home Phone Service starts at $49.95 per month. The company is using Covad's DSL infrastructure to deliver the service.

EarthLink began offering this Internet telephony service in Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose in January. The company also said it has expanded the service within these cities.

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