We Will Return

BURLINGAME, Calif. — We get knocked down, but we get up again — so promises Pat Phelan, CEO of, which is offline now but working hard to reappear.

One of the casualties of the legal pressure brought by AT&T against the Iowa-based free-calling operations, is looking for a new U.S.-based provider partner and hopes to be offering free international calls by next week, said Phelan Wednesday at the O’Reilly ETel conference here.

Unlike some other web-based calling application providers like Fonpods or Futurephone — who seem to have gone into the witness protection program, with offline web sites and disconnected phone numbers — the outspoken Phelan (a longtime telecom veteran) says he is committed to advancing lower-cost calling, especially in the international-roaming arena. At ETel Wednesday he announced Allfreecalls in the U.K., which allows customers there to make free or low-cost international calls for the price of a local connection.

Dressed in a rugby jersey and looking ready to rumble, Phelan Wednesday decried the current state of international roaming charges, calling them plans that are often stacked against the people who are less able to find ways around them. Residents of emerging-market nations who may not have credit cards or web access, Phelan said, are the ones who end up paying exorbitant telco rates that more-affluent folks (who know what Skype is) can circumnavigate.

“People who need [low rates] don’t have credit cards,” said Phelan, who says that emerging markets (and not the U.S.) will be his main business target. But that doesn’t mean he plans to knuckle under to AT&T, whose legal case Phelan says won’t stand up in court.

“In a couple months, everyone will forget about it and it will all go away,” Phelan said of the AT&T-Iowa Telcos lawyers brawl. “But in the meantime the Internet guys got squeezed out.” Phelan says will probably find another provider partner outside the borders of Iowa, and the service will probably require some sort of user registration.

“We’ll put it back up, and if they force us down, we’ll put it back up again,” Phelan said, unless AT&T decides to change its international pricing rates. “If AT&T just went to 20 cents a minute everywhere, I’d go away,” Phelan said.


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