Citynet telecom starts Internet phone service
Telecommunications company Citynet has started selling an Internet-based phone service that it says will slash many West Virginians’ phone bills. The company’s Digital Phone plan provides unlimited local and long-distance calls for $24.95 a month, but users must have high-speed Internet access. The only hardware required is an adapter provided for free by Citynet that connects users’ phones to their computers. “This type of phone service has been widely available in other parts of the United States and other nations, but until now its availability in West Virginia has been limited,” said Jim Martin, president of Bridgeport-based Citynet. “Citynet is out to change that.” Just a few other companies sell Internet phone service — known as voice over Internet protocol, or VOIP — in West Virginia. Charleston-based FiberNet has said it has several hundred VOIP customers. Nationwide, the industry leader is Vonage Marketing Inc. of Holmdel, N.J. But West Virginians who subscribe to Vonage will have out-of-state phone numbers. Only about 200,000 people in West Virginia have broadband Internet service, according to the state Public Service Commission. Another limitation for Digital Phone is that phone customers in the few population pockets in the state now served by Citizens Communications Co. — such as Seneca Rocks and Marlinton — would have to have phone numbers from outside their local calling area, Martin said. But the service represents a bargain compared to conventional phone service, Martin said. He estimates that West Virginians pay about $50 on average monthly for phone service. Digital Phone users won’t lose 911 emergency access, Martin said. Calls made on Digital Phone are tagged with the name, address and callers’ origination point through technology known as “enhanced 911,” he said.