Phone Calls On The Net: Coming Over Loud And Almost Clear

Internet telephony is slowly improving in quality

With just a personal computer, an Internet connection, and some software, the long-distance telephone world can be your oyster--free. That's the promise of Internet telephony: Pay for a local call to hook up to the Net, then chat with your buddies and business partners in far-flung locales. There's just one drawback: The Net wasn't designed for continuous voice transmission, so those who use it have had to put up with half-second delays more reminiscent of low-tech walkie-talkies. "Voice over the Internet," concedes David House, chairman and CEO of Bay Networks Inc., a networking leader, "just hasn't worked very well."

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