Net Call waiting

No more missed calls while you're online

Your friends and family know the routine: if they get a busy phone signal for hours, that means you’re surfing the Net, chatting on America Online, or bidding on eBay. Like most dial-up modem users, you’ve probably grown accustomed to missing calls while online.

Well, the answer to your prayers-or important telephone calls-is Internet call-waiting services. In essence, these services redirect incoming phone calls via a toll-free number at a call center and then report to your computer screen the number that just called.

Your only other option has been to pay the phone company another $25 per month for a second phone line, plus $50 to $60 for installation. If broadband has hit your neighborhood, you can talk and surf simultaneously with a DSL (digital subscriber line) or a cable modem. A cable modem costs about $50 to $150 to install and about $40 a month depending on the service provider, while DSL costs $40 to $150 a month.

Internet call-waiting is a much cheaper option for single-line users who are practically unreachable when they are on the Net. Some services are free and others charge around $5 a month. All services require you to pay an additional $1 to $3 per month for call forward busy service from your local phone company.

CallWaves’ Internet Answering Machine (www.callwave.com) is free, but demands that you watch a barrage of advertising. It takes less than five minutes to install and set up the software, which works with your existing ISP dial-up service.

Launched last year, CallWave is a telecommunications service that provides virtual phone lines which occupy a small window on your computer screen while you are online. By registering with CallWave, Internet users can send and receive faxes, as well as hear incoming calls they might otherwise miss.

Instead of a busy signal, callers will hear a brief greeting and can leave a message after the tone. What’s nice about the service is that you can actually hear a caller’s message over your computer speakers. You can then decide whether to log off and call them back or keep on clicking.

Similarly, Pagoo’s Call Catcher (www.pagoo.com) picks up and records callers’ voice messages just like an answering machine. “Say hello to new and better means of communications,” says John “Joc” Jacquay, Pagoo CEO. Thanks to Net call-waiting services such as Pagoo’s, “consumers, for the first time, will be able to dictate how, when, and where they speak with friends, family, and business associates, as well as manage real-time communications, billing, and service preferences,” says Jacquay.

Setting up Call Catcher is easy; simply answer a few questions and download the software directly from the company’s Website. Whenever someone leaves a message, Pagoo turns it into a file, compresses it, and sends it to your computer. No more than 15 seconds after someone calls you, you will get an e-mail or pop-up message telling you that there’s a message in your Pagoo mailbox, which you can open on your desktop. You may also be notified via pager or PCS

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