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Free Conference Calls

How do free conference calls work? And why are free conference calls not be the best conference call solution?

call conferencing

Why do people conference call? And why do they want to do it for free?

Although there are free options, a paid conference calling solution has more business benefits.

Conference calls encourage collaboration and save on travel expenses – which is why many businesses around the world use them frequently. Most businesses choose to outsource conference call service to a dedicated conference call provider. It's much cheaper than maintaining a conference call bridge, which can cost more than $1,000 a month to operate.

Even outsourced conference calls can be expensive, even with the right dedicated service provider or a low per minute rate. That's why free conference calls are so attractive.

Free vs. Paid Conference Calls

Free conference calls are free – they do not charge a per minute or per month rate for conference calls. Dedicated conference call providers do charge an up-front fee for their conference calls.

Here's the skinny:

A paid conference call service can save you 50% or more when compared to a free conference call.

Wait, what?

Here's how it works, from the paid conference call end.

Paid Conference Calls

Paid conference call providers charge for the use of their conference bridge and the helpful value-added features that they provide: transcription services, operators, regular billing cycles.

They provide toll-free numbers for your conference employees to call – if someone calls long distance to reach your conference, it doesn't matter. As the host, you will pay one flat rate, per minute.

If you have a flat rate fee, you'll pay a certain amount at the end of the month. With some providers, you can pay for a certain number of minutes for the month. It's a little like loading a pre-paid calling card or cell phone.

You're paying the conference call company money, sure. But at least you know what you're playing at.

call conference via a computer

Free Conference Calls

Free conference calls advertise themselves as free. But they aren't.

Free conference calls do not come with a toll-free number. You, and/or your callers, may shoulder the cost of the meeting - at the end of the month, on your monthly phone bill. Because that free conference call is a special type of long distance call.

"Well, I won't call long distance, then."

That's the problem. Free conference calling companies thrive on a scheme called "traffic pumping."

Traffic Pumping

Here's how traffic pumping works:

  1. You make a free conference call to the advertised "free" conference calling number.
  2. While you are making the conference call, the free conference call is routed to a rural local exchange. The number that you're calling is probably somewhere in South Dakota or Iowa – or another rural state.
  3. Your long distance provider, by law, must pay a hefty access fee to the rural local exchange.
  4. The local rural exchange shares the profits with the "free" conference call company.

"Free" conference calls are legal. But that does mean that your phone service provider will take it lying down.

To prevent suffering the high access fees, some phone providers block calls to free conference call services. Google Voice is an example.

Others may drop your call. Still others may let the call go through, but will publicly complain and threaten to raise rates. AT&T has been trying, unsuccessfully, for many years to stop free conference calling.

Steer clear of ethical gray areas, unexpected long distance rates, and upset service providers. Use a paid conference call service, like one of the ones below.

The last word? Like we said earlier:

A paid conference call service can save you up to 50% off the eventual charge of a "free" conference call.

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