But first . . .

INCOMING CALLS

Mel: ‘In a few weeks, cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies. Call 888-382-1222 from your cell phone. It is the national Do Not Call list. It blocks your number for 5 years.’

☞ This turns out to be an urban legend. Apparently, the cell phone companies do expect to have a directory, but only for those who want to be included, and not until late 2005, and not to be sold to or shared with telemarketers. But hey: there’s zero harm in registering your cell phone anyway, along with all your other phones.

And now . . .

OUTGOING CALLS

I’d love you to use 2speak.com for your international calls, as described Monday, because I own part of it. Calling the Czech Republic for a dime is pretty great, especially if you’re calling from Chile or the China.

. . . but in case you live in the United States, as many of you do, it looks to me as if this may be an even better deal (China for 2.2¢ a minute, Cleveland for 2.5¢):

Ernie Cornford: “I use a long distance service that has been terrific – OneSuite.com. If you live in a city that has a local phone access number, you pay only 2.5¢ per minute. If you have to use their 800 number, it is 2.9¢ per minute. The local phone number will allow you to call China for 2.2¢ per minute, Chad for 56¢, Chile for 2.9¢, and the Czech Republic for 3.5¢ per minute. The most expensive long distance rate they have is to Inmarsat-Atlantic, West. It’s $12.79 per minute if you have a local number and $13.50 if you have to use the 800 number. (Hopefully, my wife [for 35 years] won’t send me that far away, but if she does, I doubt she’ll call!) I have used OneSuite for about a year and have been very satisfied. It’s not perfect. On rare occasions I have been unable to make an immediate connection or the line has some static, but it is rare. One good feature is that they can give you separate accounts. I use one for my business calls that permits me to print a list with the cost for each call that I can submit for reimbursement. I recommend them highly.”

☞ I just signed up and made my first call. You can set it up to recognize your phone number(s) so that you don’t need to enter a PIN when you call. Just speed-dial your local access number (with some handsets, that can be as simple as a single key press) . . . then use OneSuite’s own speed-dial to call one of your 50 most frequently-called numbers. You could be talking to Chappaqua or China by touching three keys on your telephone handset. Cheap and easy. There are no bills to pay because you pre-load your account with a whopping $10 of credit (or more, if you choose) . . . enough to keep you on the phone to Hong Kong for about seven and a half hours.

One nice thing about OneSuite is the minimal commitment involved. Ten bucks. And your habits needn’t change much, just the way you dial and what you pay.

An increasingly popular alternative that’s a bit more of a decision is vonage.com.

Bob Fyfe: “For $14.99/month you can make 500 minutes of outgoing calls. All incoming calls are free. International rates are outstanding. For example, Czech Republic is 6¢ a minute; China, too (and just 3¢ in Hong Kong). Chad is $0.28 or $0.32 (vs. your $0.75). Again, there is a monthly fee so it’s not apples to apples. For $24.99 you get unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada.”

☞ I know folks who are happy with Vonage. It’s amazing the way you can take your phone number with you when you travel. But you need a broadband connection wherever you use it. And puzzling through all its – very neat – features and options requires more thought than just using OneSuite to make your calls.

Meanwhile, especially for those of you in Malaysia, but perhaps even for those of you in Maine, expect some great new features from 2speak shortly.

(One of you sent me information on a company that, for $999, offers “free calling for life.” I’m not posting it here because I worry that your life could be longer than the company’s.)

Tomorrow (which you should feel free to read today): sobering words for anyone who owns real estate – or is thinking of making an offer on some.

 

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