Instead of paying long-distance rates for daytime calls or even paying less for night and weekend calls, some students are choosing to connect to family and friends through their computers.

Paul Wong
LSA freshman Alexis Fabrikant talks on her Web phone from her residence hall. Like many students, Fabrikant finds Web phones more economical than calling on conventional phones. <br><br>BRETT MOUNTAIN

Services like Netphone and Dialpad allow people to call around the nation for free. Using a headset or a microphone and speakers, they can talk throughout the United States at no charge, and some of the providers also offer worldwide calling at reduced prices.

“We started and 12 million people around the world have signed up for it. In the first year of service we did a billion minutes of phone calls. It”s a very popular service,” Dialpad Marketing Manager Mark Barthelemy said.

Barthelemy said college students are one of Dialpad”s biggest audiences, and that the service is a good option for college students interested in saving money.

“It just enables people to do things they couldn”t have done before,” he said. “And if you have a computer all you have to do is sign up and invest in a headset.”

LSA freshman Alexis Fabrikant uses Netphone to talk to her boyfriend in California. “When it works, I use it for probably two or three hours a week,” Fabrikant said. “Why wait for night rates to call long-distance when you can just use a free phone anytime?”

Fabrikant said despite lags in response time and other slowdowns, she has found the internet a better way to keep in touch with people.

“I use long distance a lot more now that I can talk for free. My phone bill was so expensive before that it was hard to call everyone I wanted to,” she said.

Engineering senior Melissa Simpson used to use the Internet to make calls, and said she would recommend it to other people. “Sometimes the call would be dropped or it”d be hard to hear, but even though there”s a delay, it”s free,” she said.

As far as technology is concerned, Andy Palms, associate director of the University”s Internet Technology Communications, said the voice technology does not create a problem for the University network.

“You can use this all you want in terms of network capacity it”s a non issue,” Palms said. “Even if all of campus was using it, it”d be just such a small amount of traffic. It”d probably be about 3 or 4 percent of the total traffic on campus.”

LSA freshman Josh Zimmerman has used an Internet telephone service but prefers talking on the phone. He said he”s had problems with the conversations being jumbled and hard to understand.

“If I had absolutely no way other way of making a long distance call or if I felt really broke, then I”d call that way, but I”d rather use my regular phone,” Zimmerman said. “Or if it was a fairly unimportant and quick call I”d use it. But if it were going to be important, I”d rather spend the extra money to have a clear conversation.”

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