Internet telephony isn't the only technology to come out of the 1990s that snaps the telephone out of its 100-year-old voice-only analog slumber. Another alternative telephony technology originated from television cable companies. Because of FCC deregulation in the mid-1990s, cable operators can intermingle television and telephone data on the same cable, so now TV companies can offer a new telephone service to their users. Cable companies such as Cox Cable and Time Warner Communications are starting to roll out these services.

In some areas, local regulations and competition might prevent this service. However, cable telephony is a growing trend. The service usually takes one of two forms. The traditional cable telephony service employs a technology that uses a sophisticated splitter to input a telephone signal into a cable at the exterior of the house. A new technology called Voice over Broadband (VoB) lets you plug a telephone into a cable modem, converting an analog telephone signal into an Internet telephony signal. To use this service, you plug your phone into your cable set-top box or your cable modem. You use the phone to make and receive calls, and the bill comes from your cable provider. For more information about VoB, visit the OpenVoB Consortium's Web site at http://www.openvob.org.