services for homeless people?

Discussion in 'VOIP' started by Kyler Laird, Aug 21, 2004.

  1. Kyler Laird

    Kyler Laird Guest

    In looking at lots of PSTN interconnection providers recently it
    strikes me that it might be reasonable to provide VoIP "courtesy
    phones" in public locations for people who need to get in touch
    with far-away family. My first thought was that college
    students would appreciate this. Most of them already have
    mobile phones though, and I expect those who don't are in a
    fairly good position to figure out a reasonable way to make

    OTOH, we (along with most every other community) have a
    population of people who do not have mobile phones, do not have
    home phones, and often do not have the resources to pursue
    efficient calling strategies (VoIP, calling cards, ...). Yet I
    suspect that they would appreciate being able to get in touch
    with their familiies, friends and even conduct some personal
    business over the phone.

    Over the years I've read several stories about "voicemail for
    the homeless." Searching through Google I see that they're
    typically sponsored by big companies (Cisco, Bell, ...). It
    makes a lot of sense to have a carrier involved with providing
    voicemail but what about going beyond that?

    I'm thinking that an outgoing PSTN service could easily be
    shared among some phones located in places that already serve
    homeless clients. Just plopping down some phones with limited
    dialplans might be sufficient but perhaps tracking users would
    be required in order to reduce/identify abuse?

    If users are tracked (authenticated), it would be easy to
    provide voicemail services. Clients could even arrange "meet
    me" incoming service, receiving calls in realtime if they are
    registered with a device.

    This could also be a good way to provide information to the
    community. Fast notification to specific populations about
    resources of interest (jobs, food, education, entertainment,
    ....) might be beneficial. (I have had almost no experience
    working with homeless people so I don't know what's needed.)

    So what would be required? I'm just getting started with using
    Asterisk but I don't see any reason that it wouldn't be a great
    foundation for such a system. There are plenty of PSTN
    interconnection services. Those could be chosen and changed as
    required. Hardware at each client location could be something
    along the lines of a Sipura SPA-1000.

    The real trick would be getting sufficient IP service to client
    locations. This is becoming a lot easier but it's certainly an
    issue. At first, services could be offered at locations
    already served by broadband (like libraries) with very little
    investment. With success (and as broadband prices drop) it
    could be expanded to more locations. Perhaps a community-run
    wireless network could be used?

    Anyway...I mostly wanted to talk through this idea but I
    welcome comments. I'm especially interested in knowing if
    anyone has already deployed such a service with Asterisk.

    Thank you.

    Kyler Laird, Aug 21, 2004
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