With competitors nipping at its heels, SaskTel has joined the world of local internet telephone service.

On Friday, the government-run phone company said people in Regina, Prince Albert, and Saskatoon will now be able to get the "basic" version of its VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone service, complete with the 306 area code.

The service costs $16 a month and gives customers unlimited local calls to the three Saskatchewan cities, plus B.C. cities Victoria, Vancouver, Abbotsford, Prince George, Kamloops, and Kelowna, as well Calgary and Edmonton, Alta.

The new service is being sold through a service called WebCall operated by Navigata— SaskTel's B.C.-based subsidiary.

SaskTel said it can offer the service in Saskatchewan thanks to a recent ruling by the federal telephone company regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The CRTC said it decided it wouldn't regulate VOiP phone service over the regular internet. However, regulation remains for internet phone service companies that require customers to use their network.

SaskTel's announcement about an in-province internet phone service follows on the heels of similar announcements by cable companies this week.

Shaw Communications rolled out its digital phone service in Saskatoon on Nov. 21. The same day, Regina-based Access Communications said it plans to launch its digital phone service early in the new year.