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I recently moved home after 11 years away, and immediately found myself accepting the job as de facto IT manager for my friends and family. I’ve been troubleshooting, computer shopping, and negotiating for more than a few folks.

This week’s issue has centered on consolidating cable, phone, and Internet services – and I’ve been encouraging my friends to ditch their traditional plans for the more friendly confines of single-billing.

The issue, though, is the phone. Most cable companies now offer VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) as an upgraded service. However, with a system such as Skype, the application that allows you to make free calls using only your computer (and possibly a headset if your PC doesn’t come with a built-in microphone and speaker), you can eliminate the VoIP phone completely, thus reducing the money you spend on your single bill.

Making that leap is a bit intimidating, though, especially for the casual user, and it’s made all the more difficult right now because Internet calls, according to a new study, are not as reliable as traditional phone services (not to mention the fact that it’s good to have a mobile backup in case your computer crashes). I haven’t had a home phone since 2002, and there hasn’t been a day that I’ve missed it (or the bill).

Still, for the technically savvy (or for those with access to the technically savvy), Internet telephony is a great way to save money on your ever-rising home data delivery bills (cable, phone, broadband, cell phone), while staying in touch with the world.

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