Whether you are an environmental or health campaigner on local, National or International issues, the cost of phone calls can easily get out of hand as i know to my own cost and seldom more so than during this Credit Crunch when every penny actually saved is a victory. There are some times when a letter or even an email is not immediate enough and if you have CTS as I do, typing can be a real pain.
The Fluoride Campaign is growing daily and occasionally I have to phone people as far away as Canada, the USA and even Australia. This makes Europe look like a local call and even with the various attractive phone packages which we can get nowadays the bills can still grow alarmingly. What follows is some basic advice born of experience on reducing these costs dramatically and making your communications and campaigning easier and more effective. I apologise to those who may already know and use these methods.
A good way of staying in touch with those online without incurring this type of expense is to use alternative media such as MSN Messenger or Skype. Both these give the option of text communication in real time and also voice audio. Skype for example allows several people in widely spaced parts of the world to enjoy a conference call for free with others who have PCs or Macs. Documents and images and even audio or video files can also be exchanged at the same time merely by using drag and drop although Messenger is best and quickest for this. If you also have a cheapo web cams you can even make video calls.
Messenger and Skype are both totally free to use but Skype also has a premium VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocal) Phone Service which enables you to call other people who maybe dont even have a computer, on their ordinary phones for a fraction of the cost of normal landline calls, as also does BT Total Broadband in the UK which has its own "Softphone." Calls using these usually cost no more than one and half pence or two or three cents per minute world wide.
There are of course several other providers which give you some similar facilities, such as Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk or Pal Talk but MSN Messenger and Skype are the most popular and widely used. So, if you have an urgent need to get confirmation of some fact or figure or other overseas or simply want to give someone a thorough bollocking or just want to stay in touch, then these options might be just what you are looking for. They are mostly free and certainly easy to install and use, and even if you are not particularly computer savvy, you can always ask one of the kids and they will have it up and running for you in no time.
All you need is a PC or Mac with a sound card, Speakers or headphones and a computer mic. Some use headsets with attached microphones like they use in call centres but i prefer the mic on the desk and my hi fi speakers as this enables me to walk around the room and stretch my legs. For less than $10 you should have all you need and the world is your oyster. There's plenty of additional help and information available on the net if you have problems or you can call me on UK code, 01282-860985 or look for Brian Jackson, Lancashire, UK, on either Skype or Messenger, I might even be online right now, Good Luck.