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Telecom Companies Offer Holiday Cheer

With the holidays comes all manner of charitable giving and opportunities to reach out and touch someone. As Christmas, Hanukkah and other celebrations approach, a number of telecom companies are providing holiday cheer to children and military families.

For example, United Online Inc., an ISP, is equipping the 155 Ronald McDonald Houses in the United States with its new Internet phone calling service, NetZero Voice. Families of ill children will be able to call loved ones for free.

“We think it’s incredibly important for families, who may be apart due to the illness of a sick child, to be able to stay connected, especially during the upcoming holiday season,” said Matt Wisk, chief marketing officer for United Online. “Our goal is give these families one less thing to worry about during their stay at a Ronald McDonald House their long-distance phone bill.”

Other providers, meanwhile, are connecting children with the North Pole. During the Christmas season, Vonage Marketing, a subsidiary of Vonage Holdings Corp., is letting children dial *101 from a Vonage line to hear a recording from Santa Claus. After listening to the message, callers are able to leave Santa a message and tell him what they want for Christmas. Vonage has set up retail displays at four New Jersey 6th Avenue Electronics stores where children can call Santa.

GlowPoint Inc. is offering a different twist on calling Santa. The IP video conferencing provider is teaming with volunteers to let children talk with Santa from their home computers. Using GlowPoints Instant Video Everywhere (IVE) service, Windows-based PCs become free video and voice phones; later this week, Santa will use IVE to answer live calls.

From 3-10 p.m. EST on Dec. 21 and 22, Santa will videoconference with children. If callers miss Santa, they can leave personal video messages on his IVE Video Call Mailbox. Santa will check those messages and respond with a video greeting. The Video Call Mailbox is available around the clock until Dec. 23. To use IVE, callers need to download the free software from www.sonyive.com.

Santa will be using IVE to make sure that he can see and hear from children and the young at heart from around the world, even though he is so busy at the North Pole just days before Christmas, said Stuart Gold, vice president of marketing at GlowPoint.

Finally, dotPhoto Inc., a Web file-sharing company, is working with the nonprofit organization www.MarineParents.com to help military families send and receive talking holiday cards.

The holidays are a time for reaching out to friends and family, said Glenn Paul, founder and CTO of dotPhoto. And theres nothing more touching than a holiday greeting that speaks in your own voice, with your own picture, professionally printed and framed in holiday graphics. Its a great way to send the message, I love you, during the holidays.

Each card features a photograph and voice chip recorder that plays a personalized message. For each card sent, dotPhoto will donate 50 cents to The United States Wounded Soldiers Foundation (USWSF).

Anyone with a camera phone or digital camera can create talking holiday cards by uploading a digital photo to dotPhotos Web site, choosing a card design and recording a 10-second personal message. Once the card is created, it can be sent via the U.S. Postal Service to any AFO, FPO, or other address around the world, from dotPhotos site.

These personalized talking holiday cards are sure to help families feel closer together this holiday season even if theyre thousands of miles apart, said Teresa Goforth, executive director of The U.S. Wounded Soldiers Foundation.

dotPhoto Inc. www.dotphoto.com
GlowPoint Inc. www.GlowPoint.com
Ronald McDonald House Charities www.rmhc.org
The U.S. Wounded Soldiers Foundation www.USWoundedSoldiers.com
United Online Inc. www.untd.com
Vonage Holdings Corp. www.vonage.com


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