Call Me! – Futurephone

David Pogue explains how you can call from the US to overseas, from a regular phone, for free: Free Overseas Phone Calls
There’s an interesting back end to this story as well, which he covered in his e-mail newsletter this week:

From the Desk of David Pogue: The Final Word on Futurephone
//////////////////////////////
By now, you might be sick of hearing about Futurephone, the
company I recently profiled in my blog
http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/10/09/09pogues-posts-4/
because it offers totally free international phone calls to
over 50 countries. No signup, no fees, no surrendering your
name or address.
Man, we’re a cynical bunch these days. Very few of you were
persuaded that Futurephone’s business plan is what its chief
executive says it is: “to build up the company’s brand-name
recognition. Our plan is to offer additional services in the
future.”
Last week, I attempted to shoot down some of the sillier
explanations of Futurephone’s real game — the ones where
readers speculated that the company is going to harvest its
customers’ phone numbers (why? — isn’t the phone book much
more convenient?) or listen in to the calls (wayyyy too
boring to be plausible).
This week, several of you suggested that Futurephone’s actual
business plan is far more complicated — and far more
plausible. If it’s true, it’s incredibly clever.
In his blog
http://saunderslog.com/2006/10/11/whats-with-the-712-area-code/
for example, Alec Saunders explains this game of telecom
arbitrage like this:
“Ever wonder why it is that FuturePhone, Radio Handi,
FreeConferenceCall, and PartyLine Connect all have access
numbers in the 712 area code? These services all provide
‘free’ services to you. There’s ‘no catch.’ You just have to
make a long distance call to get them.
“So how do these services get paid, and why are the access
numbers all in Iowa? The short answer is tax subsidies.”
He goes on to explain that our government gives the states
money to help them with maintenance and improvements to
local telephone plants. There’s also an invisible tariff
involved, amounting to three cents per minute collected by
the *terminating* phone company.
Alec speculates that Futurephone is performing a sort of
tariff arbitrage.
“Let’s take FuturePhone as an example…All you have to do is
call 712 858 8883 (a number provided by the tiny Superior
Telephone Coop in Estherville, Iowa), and then enter the
international call you want to make using the standard 011
prefix.
“So how do they make money? … Say that FuturePhone’s cost
to terminate the call is 1.25 cents. That leaves 1.75 cents
per minute to split with the folks at Superior Telephone
Coop. Give them half, which leaves you 0.875 cents per
minute, and you’ve got a pretty attractive proposition …
Everybody wins! The good citizens of Iowa win (they’ve now
got a fiber network joining up 150 of their independently
owned telcos), FuturePhone has a seemingly profitable
business model, and you win by getting cheap overseas calls.”
Now, Alec goes on to imply that this plan is sneaky and that
somehow you wind up shouldering the burden. Me, I don’t see
anything wrong with it. The Futurephone guy and his fellow
Iowans have stumbled upon a clever scheme, if they are indeed
using this arbitrage ploy. It’s perfectly legal, and does, in
fact, win us free overseas calls. (Alec ignores, for example,
the fact that many people have cellphones or home phones with
unlimited long distance for a fixed price. For us, these
international calls are really, truly free.)
So is that what Futurephone is doing? I asked Futurephone’s
Tom Doolin point-blank this week.
All he’ll say in response is that, “Our company is private
and we do not disclose proprietary or confidential
information.”
But he did note that the company is now “actively pursuing
potential advertising sponsors.” That’s a new bit of
information, which I found explained in more detail on an ABC
News Web article. “They’ll listen to a 10-second commercial
if they can make a free call,” Mr. Doolin told ABC News. “In
the middle of next year you might see something like that.”
(He also, by the way, stressed that, “In response to your
follow-up on personal privacy, let me assure you that
Futurephone.com does not record people’s telephone
conversations.”)
For now, I think a lot of the commenters and bloggers are
being too cynical. My own reaction is much more along the
lines of this reader’s comment:
“It WORKS! I just called a relative in a small town in Greece
from my cell phone and was connected immediately. (I have
never been able to call using my cell phone before.)
“To those who think that Big Brother is monitoring the calls:
if they are the least bit interested in my conversation — in
Greek — with an 86-year-old aunt, so be it; you just saved
me $50-$100 a month!”

Can somebody try this out? Give me a call!
Oh, wait – Nobody has my number! I don’t even have a cellphone yet! I’ll send my number out as soon as I get one… In the meantime, I’d really love to know if this Futurephone thing works or not!

One Reply to “Call Me! – Futurephone”

  1. HI C. Budda,
    Yes there are quite a number of companies out there. However some are falling foul of FCC rules & US law according To AT&T. Such as Futurephone and some others. They are set for a long battle and in the meantime are out of business.
    The one I am presently using is Global1touch. It is offering patent pending VoIP technology well in advance of others and featuring call back on your mobile anywhere and WITHOUT using up your ‘free’ call minutes.
    You can call across the world from free to very low cost.
    It is very mobile to use and you are not restricted to internet connection.
    To learn more go here:
    http://www.global1touch.com/world
    Watch the video – it’s great. and look around at the features. You can register and get all the features free. You just pay a $10.00 for pre – payment of call time.
    Winterwarmer

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