Quite a few years ago I got involved with Voice Over IP (VOIP) whereby telephone calls are made over the Internet at considerable savings. Long distance was expensive and overseas calls were astronomical. In fact, in the olden days you asked to Operator to place your call and then you waited and waited.
As calls became cheaper and the Internet grew, it was and is possible to be on a call overseas for an hour and pay less than a cheap candy bad for the call. My calls to London are between 1/2 cent and a penny a minute. It can be cheaper to call overseas than across town.
So CallCentric, a VOIP provider used to offer a free New York City inbound telephone number which you could direct to voicemail, their built-in fax receiver, a forwarded phone number like your cell or to a physical adapter with phone attached. If you told them you were in the U.S. you had to pay a fee for 911 service, but many of us bypassed that requirement by saying that we were not in the U.S. especially if all calls went to voicemail and we had no device to make outbound calls anyway. You had to use the number a minute or so a month to keep it. I had my number published in my domain registrations so all spammer/telemarketers would go to voicemail.
CallCentric has now decided to stop this free service and I can keep everything the same if I pay $1 a month. This is not worth it to me, so I will drop that number. However, I can still keep the free account and use another free number offered to me. That is an INUM. INUM is free international number which works the same way as the free New York City one did and in reality many VOIP providers vend them if you ask. Some providers allow you to call INUMs for free, so you can actually have free calling inward from around the world. The neat thing about an INUM is that it has as many digits in it as there are Starbucks (just kidding). My INUMs have 15 digits in them and start with the country code location of +883 5100. So I can just change all domain registrations to this valid international number, knowing that spammers have no idea how they work, but if someone does call it, the calls will go to voicemail.
So if I wanted to pay for a U.S. inboiund phone number, they cost me 40 cents to buy and 80 cents a month to keep (cheaper in the long run than Callcentrics free to buy and $1 a month to keep).
The final change in free service is my loss of 7 or so free inbound telephone numbers in the U.K.. A guy created a free service and offered up to 10 free inbound numbers and I took advantage of them. I had one in London, Torquay, one up in Scotland, another in Ireland and yes, one in Sherwood Forest. He probably made a small fee from calls to those numbers but finally decided to stop the service. People could port the numbers to a VOIP provider but there would have been a cost involved. Even though his service stopped, calls continued to pass through and I just checked and my numbers all seem to have finally stopped working. I can’t really complain because I did get 10 years of free service, not that I really used it much. One plus was that when a friend and his wife traveled to London, he called my London number which was answered by my free GoogleVoice service and allowed him to make calls all over the U.S. for free from London.
I still have my free GoogleVoice numbers and use them for some outbound and inbound calls. I got one in Florida so that my Mom could call a local number and reach me in Hawaii. She and I paid nothing for the call or service. While Google still offers this free phone service (and Amazon Echo products use a similar free calling service) I still have cases where I pay to call people. I guess I can afford a few pennies a call.
If you want to learn a bit about these services, go to http://http://voip.planet-aloha.com/