You can also make free Internet calls with software applications that you can download for free. One popular service is Skype, which gets great reviews. You can place calls at no charge over your Internet connection to anyone else who has installed the software. Skype also has add-on plans that let you call regular phones through your computer for less than 2 cents per minute in the U.S., Canada, most of Europe and Australia.
We have a separate report on VoIP, which includes software and services such as Skype that let you make long-distance phone calls using your computer and Internet server. Your cable company may also offer VoIP service with unlimited long distance; with cable VoIP you can use a regular phone.
Ooma isn't quite a VoIP plan, but it isn't a traditional service either. Rather, it's a bit of both. You buy the hardware for about $250 up front, then after that you get free phone calls (local and long distance) that are routed over the Internet. Ooma debuted in 2007, and so far, users are happy with the device. You don't need to have a computer to use it, but you do need a high-speed Internet connection. If you like the idea of paying up front for the service, Ooma can let you skip monthly bills (except for taxes and fees such as the Federal USF, see below) for as long as you own the product. Of course, as with all services that promise many years of service in exchange for up-front cost, there's always a risk that you'll be left in the cold if the company goes under, but so far, Ooma has been stable. See our VoIP report for a full review of Ooma.
Another option is to use your cell phone for long-distance calls, provided you have a national plan and a big bucket of minutes. See our separate report on cell phone plans for more information.