It’s not be surprising to hear this coming from the creator of a communications software that is offering free calls to landlines and mobile phones to users based in the USA and recently announced a similar program for its French users for free landline and mobile calls in France. But with cable providers, traditional telephone companies, startups like Vonage and Sun Rocket, and just about every two-bit entrepreneur trying to cash-in on the VoIP craze one might question if Zenstrom’s prediction is realizable given the power behind the legacy of making money off of voice calls.
That being said, the idea of free phone calls is nothing new and I don’t find the prediction particulaly surprising or groundbreaking. What I do find surprising is that it’s making headlines in 2006 years after I first heard of zero cost phone calls as a grad student at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU in a course called Future of the Infrastructure taught by Art Kleiner. One of Art’s guest speakers brought up the idea of free phone calls to our class as we discussed developing infrastructure in the Global South that was leap-frogging older technology in older developed countries. I don’t remembmer the exact scenario he presented but his ideas stuck with me and I remember his argument was very convincing in support of the global free phone call scenario. If memory serves me he didn’t present a utopian view of free phone calls and we discussed the beneifts and prospective drawbacks such as telephone spam.