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Off Topic: Internet Calling and Instant Messenger Service

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I thought free Voice over IP Telephony was dead once large companies like Verizon came onto the market and lowered most of our toll and long distance calling to a low and affordable package. For example, I have a flat rate for my office and home - $45.00 a month that covers unlimited long distance and toll calling within the continental United States. There are also some very low rates for out of country calling that I picked up on from listening to the Clark Howard radio show (or on his web site at


However, I started working as a contract plan checker for a friend of mine who is spending his summer working from his home/office in British Columbia while his lead engineer keeps his local office in Southern California running smoothly. Now that I am on-board, my friend sent me an e-mail recommending that I install software called SKYPE (rhymes with Type) from the website The software contains both an Instant messenger like AOL or MSN and the others, but also has one of the best Internet Telephone software of any I have ever seen and it is absolutely Free.


I installed it on my laptop that accesses the Internet through my Broadband LAN – for those without the know-how; I am simply connected to a DSL service using a wireless (aka WiFi) connection. I made a call to my friend in BC and he was having some trouble with his computer but the connection and clarity of call was surprising. I have contacted his office near my home/office this morning to get some instructions on a project I am checking and the call was tremendous – not a drop out or problem. I would say the call was as clear as my cell phone and probably cleaner as I was using a high quality noise canceling headset today (although I used an inexpensive headset on Saturday when I first installed the software).


SKYPE also allows the users to keep their information private and not share it, but in order to make Internet Calling or Instant Messenger, all parties need to be using the same software. A very nice feature is Conferencing – you simply highlight up to four people you wish to include in your conference and everyone is online together.  There is no Webcam availability at this time nor is it possible to route the call to a conventional telephone. The company has plans to do this, but for now they are focusing on increasing their user base and keeping the quality of the transmission high.


I would highly recommend freeware software. I don’t know what the future holds for it – the company claims it will keep the software free but offer other services that are fee-based. In the mean time, it is a convenient way to keep in touch. I have had a number of questions that I needed some immediate help with. I thought I could add this to our local community of engineers to help one another when it might be easier to Instant Messenger or Internet Telephone while you are in the middle of a design issue rather than to take the time to make a land line connection or wait for an e-mail response.


Dennis S. Wish, PE

California Professional Engineer

Structural Engineering Consultant



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