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Net firm offers "free" voice mail

eVoice introduces a home answering service that allows free access to voice mail over the phone or the Internet--with a catch.

Joining a growing number of companies pairing advertising with "free" consumer products, eVoice tomorrow will introduce a home answering service that allows access to voice mail over the phone or the Internet--with a catch.

eVoice subscribers receiving their messages over the Web or through their email in-boxes also will see a regular Web banner ad. When retrieving messages over the phone, subscribers will hear an ad before they review their messages.

The service will compete with voice mail services sold to consumers by phone companies at a cost of around a $100 a year, according to eVoice.

eVoice subscribers will be able to use the Web to retrieve their voice mail messages. By logging on to the company's Web site, subscribers can listen to messages and manage their mailboxes. Subscribers can also choose to have their voice mail messages emailed to a specific email account as an audio attachment, where they can be forwarded and archived as any other email message.

The company plans to launch its service in the San Francisco Bay Area and then to gradually release it in major cities across the United States.

"We're liberating consumers from paying the phone company exorbitant fees for a service that eVoice does better for free," said Bruce Crair, chief operating officer for eVoice. "Our service is well tested and highly reliable, and we offer more features and functionality than the phone company."