A service from Jeff Pulver that lets you call ordinary PSTN phones for free anywhere in the world if you are willing to share your phone line with others.

This service started out as Bellster but was renamed fwdOUT after trademark objections by the owners of the Bell trademark.



Like any service fwdOUT is not without its risks. The following are issues that have been raised by potential users. Some of them may not apply to you, and there may be risks not listed. Pulver has been running similar services for many years, and many of the risks apply to ordinary phone service as well. (Just ask a company that has had their PBX hacked into)

As with any decision, do your own research and make your own decision.

Possible Risks

  • Potentially a criminal offence in some countries to provide this service, and you could face jail time, while there you would end up meeting a big guy named bubba who wants to be really good friends.
  • Your phone line could be used for credit card fraud or to report bomb threats or death threats, and you will have a lot of explaining to do when the police come and confiscate your equipment and take you down to the station for a little chat. Unlike carriers who are explictly exempt from being responsible for facilitating these kinds of things occuring, home users aren't and you could end up being the one facing court over it. Even if you get off, there will be no doubt a great inconvience for some from having their machines confiscated for any arbitary length of time. Although if you decided to give smart answers to the police you could end up being the next rodney king.
  • Contractually, the phone company could cut you off, or could introduce clauses in your contract to cut you off in future if they feel you are participating in this kind of service. Phone companies can and do monitor call patterns in different countries and people have reportedly been cut off when their call patterns changed legimately, they were still required to sign documents that it was their calls, the calls were valid and even had to pay a reconnection fee.
  • Security, any route your call takes could easily be monitored, recorded or altered, all without your knowledge or consent, even if this is against bellsters terms and conditions you may not know it is happening until it's too late.
  • You could end up with large phone bills, it's one thing to setup asterisk for home use for your own toll by pass but securing asterisk to prevent unwanted calls is a whole other thing and it's your phone bill on the line if someone works out a way round your filtering. Some 1800 numbers in the US offer to bill your phone line like a 1900 number, so this could also increase your phone bill. Some people apparently are listing themselves as +1 area code, what they don't realise is that there is 20+ countries other then just the US listed under +1 which could also give them a nasty surprise if the bellster route filtering is breached. These calls are not blocked by the fwdOUT network (but instructions for blocking them are available). There are other locations that aren't being listed that could cause similar damage to your phone bill/wallet.

Minor points:
  • Only likely to benefit those in cheap call areas, in which case you can use VoIP providers which in general have MUCH better call quality and are bound by privacy regulations regarding your privacy.
  • Call quality, you are relying on the fact that someone else won't suddenly flood their home line with a massive download causing your phone call to be lagged or jittered severely.
  • You could end up receiving calls from people in foreign languages if you don't setup asterisk properly to block out bound caller ID (also you can't always block Caller ID apparently)
  • Bellster has the potential to make it easier for telemarketers to push their sales pitches by leveraging the bellster network.
  • Time to establish a phone call could dramatically increase if you hit a bunch of hosts that only allow calls out of hours, so while the network hunts and trys different routes you either hear local ring back or dead air depending on your local configuration of asterisk, which could potentially miss inform people about the true state of the call.
  • non-geek house hold members, is it likely that most people will want to queue to use their own phone line? try explaining it to non-geeks and see how they react to it.
  • high barrier to entry, as you not only need a linux box running asterisk but also hardware that's capable of interfacing with the PSTN network.

See Also

Sample Asterisk configuration:

Created by: jht2, Last modification: Sat 25 of Aug, 2007 (14:14 UTC) by stefmtl
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