Getting a phone number

One of the objectives of this project is to put computers into the hands of people who don’t have them, and help people into electronic communication who don’t yet use it. So we need a way for people to contact us, that doesn’t rely on email, social media or the latest whiz-bang super-encrypted instant messenger whatnot.

Lobster telephones are also available

The obvious solution is to get a phone number. But ordinary PSTN land-line numbers cost money to set up, need new wires to a physical location, and the physical location of the phone is fixed. Or you might think to get a cheap mobile phone and SIM card – but who wants to carry around another phone, keep it charged, top up the account and so on?

I’ve already got a mobile phone and a land-line at home, and between them I’ve got all the minutes I need to make outgoing calls. So what I need is a new number just for incoming calls – so I don’t have to give out my personal number, and also so that other people can take turns at being the contact person, at any physical location.

A few years ago, some cool people showed me how to do VOIP using SIP. Of the many providers out there, I chose sipgate for no other reason than it was the one I was showed how to use. Although I have to admit that the fact they’re a German company does give me a bit of confidence that they’ll respect my privacy more than some others.

It’s easy to set up following the instructions on their website, and it’s gratis if you only want incoming calls. If you wanted to make outgoing calls, you’d have to pay. You get to choose what geographical area your number is in, and as we’re doing this project in Durham, I got a Durham number. This means that people round here can call us at the ‘local rate’, for contracts that still have that concept, but from most phone contracts I’ve seen lately, just the fact that it’s a geographical land-line number should mean that it’ll be included in your ‘bundle’. In other words – cheap and easy for people to call, and it looks like I’m just a guy in a room in Durham although I could be anyone, anywhere there’s a network connection.

I decided I didn’t want to answer calls to this number on my mobile phone, but I’d like to answer calls when I’m using my home PC, and if I’m off line, calls should go to a mailbox. So I’ve installed a SIP client on my PC, and configured the account on sipgate’s portal to get the answering service working how I want.

Is this a good time to announce the contact details? The phone number for the Durham Free Software Skill-Share Project is 0191 303 8968, and the email address is dfs3@riseup.net

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