News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Skype Looms


It is interesting that a review of VoIP services by Associated Press writers does not include any mention of Skype. The writers claim that their phone costs have been cut in half by moving to VoIP services such as Vonage, but somehow their excitement rings hollow when Skype is free. $19.95 for unlimited calls anywhere in the United States and Canada versus free unlimited calls to the world? One-time fees to add additional services versus no such fees? 4 cents a minute for long distance calls within the United States versus 2 cents a minute to many countries around the world and only for calls from Skype to their phone (it is always free Skype to Skype)? Perhaps the writers feel their readers are only ready to make the leap from their local telephone lines to VoIP services that emulate traditional telecommunication business models. Maybe they believe Skype is too technical for their readers.

Maybe they just do not take Skype seriously, like the customer service representative I talked to earlier this week when I called to cancel my cell phone service. She kept warning me to “read the fine print!” Something just didn’t sound right to her, despite the fact that I have been closely following the progress of Skype for awhile now and am now saving nearly $50.00 a month.

Skype does not currently offer emergency 911 service, but this and other limitations will quickly vanish as the software becomes more sophisticated, arrangements are made, and third parties jump into the fray. Vonage’s recent talks with Qwest to use their 911 infrastructure promise a day when this service is integrated with VoIP. Soon videoconferencing, 411, social networking, education, radio and video broadcasting, and much more will become available for Skype, taking the service far beyond the limitations of traditional land-based telephone line and other VoIP services.

For now, if I have an emergency, I can call family or friends via Skype, knock on my neighbors’ door, use a calling card at a payphone, or, if I become worried enough, buy one of those disposable cell phones. Oh, but wait. I don’t have to rely on any of those options. Cell phones can reach 911 even when you don’t subscribe to a service package. Good thing I didn’t throw it away like I intended.

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