Free World Dialup Is No Longer Free

According to various reports after over a decade Free World Dialup is moving to a paid service model. I can’t help but feel that something is being lost in this transition. I’ve had a FWD account for years (54245) but rarely ever used it beyond testing Asterisk servers. I does ring through to my desk phone, passed over IAX2 to my Astlinux box. Someone said that the IAX2 access has been down recently, but I haven’t noticed.

I once spoke to a guy down in Argentina who just happened to answer the intro line. I also left Jeff Pulver a voice message once. His number was really cool and low, like 1001 if I recall. Mostly I just called their echo test to verify connectivity.

FWD was fun. It was truly HAM radio on the internet. It was part of what drew me into VOIP.

Early in 2007 when I was shopping for an ITSP I found that Junction Networks was offering free SIP calling as well as commercial termination. That is, you could sign up for a free account and get issued a SIP URI. Then you could call SIP-to-SIP for free. Calling the PSTN or getting a DID cost real money, but not much.

In their transition to emphasis on the OnSIP hosted PBX it seems that the free accounts have been dropped from their web site. I wonder if they still do that? It was very FWD-like.

Perhaps the greater worry should be for FWD to figure out how to have any relevence at all moving forward? At $30/year they’ll be competing with Majic Jack and their ilk. That’s not good. It’s a race to $0.00/minute that does noone any good. Effectively a race back to free. That’s not progress.

Or maybe FWD is something whose time has simply passed? SIP is not exactly on the edge any more. I’d love to see greater use of ENUM and SIP URIs but it’s unclear how that can be accelerated.

Michael Robertson’s SIPPhone kinda went through a similar sort of transition. SIPPhone spawned Gizmo Project, which evolved into Gizmo5 and has a buncha chargable services now.

The honest truth is I’m not certain where any of this is going. For business use I don’t feel that I can rely upon services that are not bone fide commercial providers with reliable support. Someone I can lean on when things don’t work.

I could be convinced to pay for FWD if there were some particular advantage to it. Perhaps they could be the first ITSP to offer secure SIP calls? There needs to be reason, a differentiator…or why bother?