Salsa Scoop> FreeConference: So Far, So Good

FreeConference: So Far, So Good

A month ago, we reported on the travails of popular phone conferencing service freeconference, upon which many nonprofits and grassroots organizations depend. I wanted to follow that up, and in particular to climb down from initial concern that freeconference had become crippled as a possible conferencing solution. Without rehashing all the details in the original post, the nub of the matter is that a commercial dispute led a few telcos to begin blocking calls to freeconference. Freeconference has worked this adroitly -- it does help to be in the right -- getting in front with bloggers to generate a hue and cry that's apparently stayed any further damage. After blogging the subject before, I even got a follow-up press release from a PR firm a couple weeks ago that began:
Blocked Conference Calls Cripples Food Programs to the Hungry LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AT&T/Cingular, Sprint and Qwest are blocking access to free conference calling which also is impeding efforts by the California Hunger Action Coalition to stop hunger, according to Frank Tamborello, Executive Director of Hunger Action Los Angeles and Co-Chairperson of the Coalition. The action coalition has depended upon FreeConference for more than four years to connect its volunteers statewide with free conference calling. (etc.)
Though we're interested in this row as a net neutrality-type issue and a manifestation of the ruptures of business models evolving with new technologies, our first concern -- as both a user of the service and a technology provider to many other users -- is squarely in the realm of the pragmatic: can an organization that needs a reliable connection count on freeconference? I'm happy to say that for the time being the answer is yes. From my own experience on about a dozen such calls in the past month, the service's workaround of offering two different dial-in lines with the same password has completely handled the problem, and the telcos have not so far taken any other aggressive steps noticeable from a consumer standpoint. (The alternate call-in lines have even had the same numbers the entire time.) Though the situation bears continued monitoring, there doesn't appear to be any reason at the moment that freeconference users shouldn't continue to stick with the service.


Jason, not to negate any of

Jason, not to negate any of the points you made, but I think the biggest thing is how effectively they fought back and the effect of this on morale. The Good Guys made excellent use of all their resources and the goodwill of their community. And they won! How often does that happen? The Bad Guys make constant use of structurally imposed defunding, sap morale through picayune harassments and have big megaphones through which to cry victim, not to mention the support of Senator Zombie (R-Undead) and Rep. Debtshark (D-Bilker). A victory against them is no small thing, even if it is just maintaining a useful service.

I think that this battle is

I think that this battle is far from over both FreeConference and have a long way to go before they are in the clear.

Shades of Spartacus O'Neal's

Shades of Spartacus O'Neal's great post the other day ... all of that true enough. And time spent waiting for the other shoe to drop is still time gained by users which, if it's left as chum for Rep. Debtshark, might amount to many months.

free is here to stay

The free conferencing services have tremendous staying power that the big guys have really underestimated. Usually they can bully little companies with lawsuits or threat of lawsuits and bleed them to death. But in this case, the little guys have banded together to share the costs of litigation and relied more heavily on the revenues from premium services to offset the illegal moves by the carriers to block calls and deny payments for use of rural LEC networks. There are lots of internet businesses that find a way to make these businesses work with core free services and affordable fees for power users. I suspect that free conferencing will do the same.

News even better than I thought

After posting this, I received from the company's PR joint a press release dated April 13 -- which must have slipped through the filter when it first came out or something -- indicating that all blocking has been abandoned outright by the telcos. ------------------ Announces Sprint Nextel Has Ended Illegal Blocks on Conference Calling Service Numbers Company Joins AT&T/Cingular and Qwest Communications as Last Carrier to Discontinue Illegal Call Blocking Los Angeles, CA, April 13, 2007 — Joining carriers AT&T/Cingular and Qwest Communications, Sprint Nextel has discontinued its actions to illegally block consumer and business calls to free conference calling services, including FreeConference® a service of Global Conference Partners.™ Responding to an outpouring of complaints from consumers, non-profits and businesses which depend on the affordable costs of free conferencing services, the major U.S. telcos have quietly stopped blocking access to numbers used by these services. According to published reports, the Federal Communications Commission said it had received more than 1,000 such complaints. As a result, all the major carriers have agreed not to block any calls for now, said FCC spokeswoman Tamara Lipper.


I even got a follow-up press release from basketball legends


Now that I have the information, I hope to have more information kiss novel

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