If having to make calls from the computer sounds limiting—and it is—paying a little more buys you more freedom. The increasingly popular phone-to-phone VoIP plans don't require a computer at all. You just pick up your telephone and dial normally, secure in the knowledge that you're going to save a lot of money by avoiding the phone company's wiring.
When you sign up for a phone-to-phone plan, you get a little box called an analog telephone adapter (ATA), like the one shown in Figure 18-6. You plug your cable modem or DSL box into one side, and your ordinary telephone into the other side. Then you're ready to make unlimited local and long-distance calls, all for a low fixed monthly fee.
Figure 18-6. An analog telephone adapter, like the D-Link VTA-VR shown here, links your telephones to your broadband network so you can use them with your VoIP service. This particular D-Link box works with the Vonage service (Section 18.2.2).
Pros. Calls may be free to other customers of the same service (depending on which one you've chosen). In general, you get to keep your existing phone number, too.
The monthly fee includes every digital phone feature known to man: voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, and three-way calling. It does not include any motley assortment of tacked-on fees, either; voice-over-Internet service is exempt from FCC line charges, state 911 surcharges, number-portability ...