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Skype’s the Limit

Those pennies you save on long-distance calls can add up quickly.

I’m thinking of a number between thirty and a hundred. Can you guess what it is? Need a clue?

It’s the number of dollars my business line costs me every month. Anybody care to hazard a guess? Darn. I was hoping someone could tell me, because I have no idea. I dragged in a second phone line into my home a decade ago to handle all my business calls, and I’ve been paying for it ever since.

Looking back over my papers, I can see that the number was never less than $38 a month including and taxes. On months with lots of long-distance calls, that number can almost double.

I’ve not been happy with my phone service for a couple of years now. It hemorrhages money as it is, and to get features I could really use, such as call forwarding and conferencing, it would cost even more. That’s just not good enough.

What I’d really like to do is get a voice-over-IP (VoIP) account that uses my broadband Internet connection to make calls, then and port my business phone number over to it. The drawback to that little scheme, according to my local Verizon office, is that my DSL Internet access is on my business phone line. It’s technically possible to uncouple DSL from my phone number (it’s called “naked DSL” or “dry loop DSL”), but not in my neighborhood, they say. I’m not ready to abandon my DSL account yet, and I’m certainly not going to change my business phone number.

Cheap Calls on a $600 Phone

So I was in the market for a versatile and cheap phone solution I can use for long-distance. The target number here was 4. With my current long-distance plan, I spend 5 cents a minute on my long-distance calls, more when I dial Europe, and I wanted to beat that by at least a cent. I halved my current rate at Skype.com by downloading their software and using my computer as a giant multipurpose phone.

Skype software comes in Windows, Mac, Linux, and Pocket PC flavors and uses whatever microphone or headphone combo you have plugged into it. Alternatively, you could use your notebook’s built-in mic and speakers an ersatz speakerphone.

To make Skype-to-phone calls, you buy blocks of $10 credits that you use up at a rate of 2.1 cents per minute on calls to the 48 contiguous United States, Canada, most of Europe, Hong Kong, China … and a whole mess of

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