Making Cheaper Phone Calls (Some Assembly Required)

If you have a landline telephone and a cable modem, then you’re in the perfect position to take advantage of cheap (sometimes free) phone calls–provided you’re willing to try one of the many oddball companies reviewed by tech columnist David Pogue in this week’s Circuits section of the New York Times.

The services he reviews offer a widely varying range of solutions, from computer-based dialing that rings on your regular landline (, to Skype-like solutions that force you to sit at your computer (, to a hare-brained scheme that requires you to purchase a $400 “box” and join in what’s basically a peer-to-peer network for telephony. (–but don’t those people remember what happened to Iridium?)

Then there’s still always Skype (we couldn’t resist) and its poor relation GizmoProject, both of which can be disguised to more or less function like old fashioned phone services–provided you’re willing to pay a little more, buy the extra equipment, and roll up your sleeves for some seriously geeky troubleshooting. But if you’re technophobic or just don’t have the time to waste, we recommend Vonage as an affordable alternative (at least until they’re sued out of business), especially if you travel a lot but frequently have access to a cable modem; our friend from Minnesota is temporarily living in Japan, and thanks to her Vonage modem her “local” Minneapolis number rings in her Tokyo apartment, and neither of us pay anything extra for the call.

Butwaitthere’smore! If you happen to have the right mobile phone, there are programs like fring and eqo that will allow you to make free or cheap phone calls–just make sure you have an unlimited data plan or wifi capabilities first.

Get Your Free Net Phone Calls Here [New York Times]

(Photo: geishaboy500)