Free and Low Cost Telephony Services (Part 1)
There is no such thing as an economic depression or recession to most unless and until they lose their jobs or means of earning a living, then things they used to take for granted such as paying a mortgage/rent, car notes, electricity, gas, cable, cell phone bills (which we will address later), among other things, become a luxury (a necessity really!) they can no longer afford.
It is said that a depression is when your neighbor loses his/her job; a recession when you lose yours, then you fall on bad times (To the optimist, there are no such things as bad times; there are only mismanaged times and missed opportunities.) and come to grips with the ugly fact and reality that you are no longer in a position to meet your financial obligations. You’ve just become a dysfunctional economic unit.
Depression or not, recession or not, joblessness or not, there are a few vital things, beside food, clothing and shelter, you cannot do without in today’s economy: Internet access, cell phone and/or VOIP or internet telephony service (specially for emergencies, and if you are looking for a job, you wanna be reached by potential employers, close friends and family members to avail yourself of any opportunity that presents itself ), access to computer (desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet or iPad).
So, if you are among the privileged many who happen to be jobless, or whose income is less than or falls below the poverty line, don’t despair nor lose hope; for there are a few bright sparks (telecommunications-wise) at the end of that dark economic deprivation tunnel in the form of Free and Low cost Telephony services.
If you are economically deprived, challenged, disadvantaged, suppressed, repressed, oppressed, depressed, or whatever, and cannot afford cell phone service (read How to charge your cell phone for free and $ave money), there are a few companies that offer free or low cost cell phone service, provided certain eligibility requirements (low income, participation in Food Stamps and Medicaid Programs, etc.) are met.
For instance, Safelink Wireless gives you a free phone and 250 free minutes/month. Additional minutes can be purchased.
Another company that provides a similar service, i.e. free phone and 250 free minutes worth of calls, is Assurance Wireless. Additional minutes for texting and international calls can be purchased.
If you can’t afford being locked in a cell phone contract, you ought to explore prepaid cell phones and service. Here are a few companies (non-exhaustive list) that offer prepaid cell phone services:
- metropcs.com, and
As usual, be a smart cell phone service consumer. Compare rates and plans, pick the one that suits best your telephonic needs and financial situation.
Now let us explore the online world of Free and Low Cost Telephony Services. Google Talk◊ Google Talk BETA enables family and friends chats, video chats over the Internet for free. Features:
- Instant messaging
- Free PC-to-PC voice chat
- Send and receive voicemails
- Unlimited file transfers
- Gmail notifications on your desktop
With Google Voice, you can use either your existing number or get a free Google number (by invitation only, see link below) with the following features:
- Transcribed voicemail
- Low cost international calls (check out rates before calling)
- Custom greetings for callers
- One number for all your phones
- SMS messages via email
- Block unwanted callers
- Google voicemail
- Notifications (Voicemail messages reading via email or SMS)
- Record calls
- Conference calls
- Screen callers
- Call switch
- Mobile site
- Manage groups
- Call forward
- GOOG 411 ( no longer available).
- Make and Take calls
- Phone routing
- Listen to voicemail, and much more.
For alternative free 411service:
- 1-800-FREE-411 (1-800-373-3411)
If you have a Gmail Account, you are in for a treat. Now, until 2012, you can make free calls to the US and Canada, and paid international calls at a reasonable rate within Gmail. Check rates before dialing. If you don’t have a Gmail Account, create a free one at:
While at it, don’t forget to download and install Google’s Free Voice and Video Chat software at:
Yahoo! Voice allows free PC-to-PC calls in Yahoo! Messenger. Features:
- Free PC-2-PC calls
- Phone In. Get a paid phone number for your computer to receive land line or mobile calls on your computer
- Phone Out. Make paid PC-to-phone calls to and from countries around the world. Check out rates before initiating calls.
Skype enables free and paid calls to friends and family around the world. Features:
- Free Skype-to-Skype calls
- Free Instant Messaging
- Free Video Calls
- Paid calls to land lines and mobiles, SMS messages, Voicemails and Call Forward
Rebtel has a free calls program. Tell them:
- Which phone number you’re calling from (caller)
- Which number you want to call ( recipient) [a unique local number is issued]
- Call recipient on the local number and ask him/her to call you back on the local number displayed on his/her phone while you wait on the line. Instant call connection will be made and your international call is free. Only the local part of the call is paid to your carrier. Rebtel offers free international calls from iPhone or Windows PC. Download Rebtel’s free apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and PC.
Free calls* can be made to regular phones over the internet. You need to:
- Download the free FreeCall software
- Plug a headset in your PC
- Enter your phone number
- Enter your destination’s phone number, and call. FreeCall can also be used with SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). Read details.
*Check list of free calls countries and rates for non-free-calls countries. Read the fine prints.
You can make free PC-to PC call by downloading Gizmo5 software. Headset needed. Check rates for paid calls before dialing. To lower your phone bills (so claims Gizmo5), get local telephone numbers, use Gizmo5 software from any PC, the following servers can be connected with Gizmo5:
- Freeswitch, and
iCall lets you make free unlimited phone calls to anywhere in the US and Canada, and receive free calls through shared access numbers. Personal phone number is for a low fee.
- Free PC-to-PC calls
- Free phone calls within the US & Canada
- Low cost International Calls (Check Calling Plans and Rates Comparison first.). Download iCall.
Evaphone allows you to make free PC-to-phone calls for a short duration (just a few seconds).
- Free PC-to-phone calls (with advertisements)
- Paid (check rates first) Pc-to-phone calls (without advertisements)
- Evaphone Messaging Service (Chat and Video). You must register.
PC-Telephone allows unlimited free PC-to-PC call by entering in the Phonebar the IP (Internet Provider) address or name of your contact’s party PC. Your IP address is your internet phone number. PC-Telephone offers:
- Free PC-to-PC calls over internet
- Phone/Fax-to-PC for ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network). Check rates before use.
www.pc-telephone.com Phonegnome With Phonegnome, you can make free calls to anyone in any country, provided the following conditions are met:
- Both parties are registered Phonegnome members
- Both Caller and Recipient have the Phonegnome Box (free calls to US and Canada for Phonegnome members without Phonegnome Box). Broadband required. No drivers to install, no software to configure or download. Check rates for paid calls before placing calls.
- No PC required (Unless you want to turn your PC into a regular, full-functioning phone, in which case a software download is called for.). Phonegnome sells an add-on for SIP calls, Mobile Phone Calls, etc.
www.phonegnome.com As you probably gather by now, most of the Free and Low Cost Telephony Services are VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol)- based. Internet access (WiFi, 3G, 4G, Broadband, DSL, FIOS, etc.) is required. To find a HotSpot location around the world:
FTC’s Tips for Using Public Wi-Fi Networks
We hope that this non-exhaustive list of Free and Low Cost Telephony Services will help in lightening your telephonic budgetary burden and slashing your telecommunications bill(s). This article is a first in a series. The balance is soon to follow. Stay tuned for Free and Low Cost Telephony Services (Part 2). Great news! The wait is over. Free and Low Cost Telephony Services (Part 2) has just been published. Please click on the highlighted italicized link (red) to read it right now. Enjoy! Readworthy also: