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Till death do you part (from your phone company)

How much would you pay for a lifetime of unlimited phone calling? Try $1,000 on for size, says a New England firm.

How much would you pay for a lifetime of unlimited phone calling? Try $1,000 on for size, says a New England phone company.

The only catch is customers must provide their own broadband connection, which typically runs $20 to $45 a month, according to RNK Telecom Chief Executive Officer Richard Koch.

Customers leery about a lifetime hookup can take solace in the company's refund policy: 100 percent if canceling service within 60 days, and 50 percent if dropping out within five years.

Though only available in a few areas, RNK Telecom's Phone for Life offer is a tantalizing sign of the day when telephone service may be so inexpensive it'll be free. This new breed of much cheaper dialing comes courtesy of VoIP, or voice over Internet Protocol, technology, in which phone calls are packaged in the same protocols used to transport data over the Internet. It's a more efficient means than traditional phone networks, plus VoIP calls avoid expensive federal and state telephone rules and taxes.

To illustrate the savings, Koch estimates RNK Telecom will spend $400 over 10 years to provide Phone for Life to every subscriber if they make an average of 600 minutes of phone calls a month. "We can do this because our costs as a telephone service provider are really low" as a result of using VoIP, Koch said.

Recently, VoIP service provider SunRocket began charging a $200 yearly fee, which works out to $16 a month. Most commercial VoIP carriers charge between $20 and $25 a month.

Phone for Life is only available in parts of southern New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. It'll soon be available in New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania, according to Koch.