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Vonage to Offer Free Calls for Troops Through 2005

Vonage will continue to offer military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq free phone calls to their families in the United States throughout 2005, the Voice over IP provider said today.

Soldiers have already made more than 200,000 phone calls totaling more than two million minutes through Vonage, with a significant uptick in traffic from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

"We first sent [VoIP adapters] to Afghanistan over the summer and to Iraq last winter," Mitchell Slepian, a Vonage spokesman, told internetnews.com. "We distributed them knowing that the troops were in need."

The phone adapters, which are the same as those sent to Vonage's residential broadband telephony customers, were sent to bases that already had high-speed access, so no additional equipment was needed, Slepian said.

The Edison, N.J., company has employees who are members of the reserves or have family members serving overseas.

Many other telecoms have also made, and continue to make, donations.

For example, AT&T recently donated 10,000 prepaid calling cards to wounded soldiers recuperating at military hospitals in the United States and abroad. The 100-minute cards have a retail value of more than $100,000, AT&T said.

The company said it has donated more than 400,000 cards worth more than $6 million over the last three years, most of them in care packages organized by the USO.

Verizon has run a similar program, donating hundreds of thousands of cards to all branches of the military and their families during the last year.

And Nextel's phone donation program has raised $900,000 for troops since its inception in May 2003, the company said.