To follow up on my last post about my VoIP experiences, I wanted to lay out the system I've built so far, and what it gets me.
I put together several of the tools I mentioned in the last post to make a system to allow family members to reach each other more easily. This is essentially already a fall-back system for everyone, since everyone in my family has a cell phone, and, consequently, calling on the evenings and weekends is already “free”.
I built a system where I tell everyone the toll free number of the system, and I give each of them an “extension” based on their names. It's pretty easy to guess how to reach everyone, so the only number that has to get written down is the toll free number, itself.
Once into the system, if you enter someone's name (as numbers - ie, 27926 is Bryan), you get prompted for what means they can be reached by. Normally, 1 for home, 2 for cell, 3 for work. You choose one, and the system puts you through. The called party sees your original caller ID, and you talk just like normal.
Why is this so great? Well, it works not only from home phones, but anywhere. And it's darn cheap. The cost of calling anyone in the Bay Area (me, my girlfriend, my sister, or her fiance) is only the cost of the toll-free leg of the call: $0.02/minute. If you want to reach anyone else, it's still only another $0.013/minute, for a grand total of $0.033/minute. That's with no monthly minimums or maximums, and through a toll-free number.
At those rates, I can give my family calling to each other “as a present”, and pay for it virtually entirely out of the income from the ads for other VoIP services that Google sticks on most of my posts about this.
Speaking of which - if you're not interested in how I do this, why not click on one of the ads and find out about some other service? I should warn you, at this point, most of the other services which show up as ads here charge monthly fees, assuming that something like $20/month unlimited will lure people in. And, it does, because normal phone lines cost just under $20/month without long distance and extra features. Rediculous - anyone I know who wants to can spend $70, buy a Sipura SPA-1001, and I will hook them into this system. The marginal cost per user is nothing. You can buy your own long distance minutes, have your own free incoming number, and dump your home phone line. At $16/month after taxes and fees, it doesn't take that many months to break even. At $0.013/minute for outgoing, free in-system (and various other destinations that are VoIP-enabled) calling, it's hard to imagine why this wouldn't be worth it.
Update: But why get help from me, when you could go it alone with one of the many services finally coming out to assist you in swapping your phone line for others. In particular, I just noticed the Bellster announcement, and there's been a technology called DUNDi for a while.