NEARLY FREE CONFERENCE CALLS

There’s a new service at ConferenceCalls.com that lets you connect group phone calls anywhere in the world for charges ranging from 2.7 to 16 cents a minute. We tried it, and the sound quality was excellent.

In operation it seems like an old-fashioned switchboard: You enter your number through the computer keyboard, then the number you want to call, and click “connect.” If you want to connect by telephone instead of through theConference CallsWeb site there is a small increase in the charges. Calls are billed by the minute, regardless of day or night. You can buy however many minutes you want in advance and add to them if necessary while on the call. First-time users can try ConferenceCalls.com for free for 100 minutes.

There is a similar service offered by Skype (Skype.com), which is free to Skype users. This allows up to five people to teleconference on an Internet call.

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