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The average person can tolerate e-mail downtime or cell phone dropouts, but if the regular phone doesn’t work, it’s a whole different story. Tempers quickly flare.

“People get very angry when their phones are down,” said Allen Rappaport, CEO of Associated Communications Resources, a VOIP (voice over IP) service provider in New York.

Rappaport should know, having dealt with enough of this anger when he started offering IP-based phone service. The carrier Rappaport was using experienced downtime far too often for his customers’ tastes.

He got so tired of it that about a year ago he asked one of his hardware vendors, AllWorx for a recommendation to switch carriers, which is how he became one of’s partners., a VOIP services vendor in Cary, N.C., in the past nine months has been aggressively recruiting partners in its efforts to expand the VOIP market. So far the company has enlisted more than 150 partners in its channel program, said CEO Henry Kaestner.

Kaestner’s goal is to make the VOIP provider of choice in the SMB (small and midsize business) space, and he believes this can be accomplished through partnerships with data VARs and integrators looking to get into IP-based voice services.

To aid in reaching that goal, has a partnership with Level 3 Communications. The partnership just got stronger with Level 3’s designation of as one of its two Premier Master Resellers.

The designation brings the prestige of what is essentially an endorsement by Level 3. In addition, said Kaestner, the recognition strengthens’s efforts to expand its VAR base by leveraging a communications network that covers much of the globe.

The partnership with Level 3, Kaestner said, is extremely significant because of the reliability of the company’s communications network. Reliable service, he noted, is a fundamental part of providing VOIP service.

And that goes back to Rappaport’s point about customers expecting their phones to work all the time, not sporadically. Since partnering with, he said, his company has had no problems with the service.

Associated Communications Resources has about 20 SMB customers, such as accountants and mortgage and real estate companies, using VOIP services, said Rappaport, adding that over the past year customers have become far more willing to switch from the analog phone service.

“A year ago it still took a lot of evangelism,” he said. channel partner Harmony IP, of Salt Lake City, signed up with the vendor about six months ago after researching which carrier to use for extending VOIP services to its customers, said owner Robert Larsen.

Harmony IP chose Level 3, but partnering directly with the company was not an option because of the usage volumes it required, Larsen said. So Harmony IP hooked up with instead and was still able to tap its network of choice.

The relationship with has been productive, Larsen said.

“ is very much involved with us in getting orders. We get the leads and then we bring them in as a value partner,” he said.

Kaestner said he firmly believes VARs and integrators are in the vanguard of a telecommunications revolution. Because of their hold on the SMB market, VARs and integrators are better equipped than telcos or other traditional voice services companies to convert customers to IP-based voice.

“Customers are not going to their traditional service provider,” he said. “They’re looking to their VAR. They want one person who steps up to the plate and is trustworthy and reliable.”

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