Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Houston CVM Blog Launches

The Houston CVM program just launched a blog with an innovative purpose: to catalog the valuable information being sent via broadcast voice and email messaging to Houston CVM clients and the agencies that serve them. Scot More, the manager of the Houston CVM program, sends daily broadcast email and voice messages to thousands of CVM clients in the Houston area, providing them with information about employment opportunities, events, health care opportunities and other resources. If you're a CVM client, or a case manager at more than 75 social service agencies providing CVM numbers to people who need them, you automatically get these messages in your voice mail box and a text version in your email inbox. With the Houston CVM blog, you now have a place to view this information on the Web, whenever you want. Broadcast messaging is one of the most important features of Community Voice Mail, and this blog makes it easy to provide this information to those seeking services or providing them in the Houston area.

You can learn more about CVM's broadcast messaging capabilities by watching this brief video, created by the manager of Dallas Community Voice Mail. All CVM programs around the country automatically have the ability to send broadcast voice messages to their clients. It's an innovative, efficient want to communicate information to an often hard-to-reach population.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wilco Supports Community Voice Mail

Wilco isn't just a great band, but they also appear to be nice people. In February the band (and its fans!) raised $10,000 for the Chicago Community Voice Mail program through the sale of concert posters and premium "Opera Box" seats. An additional $10,000 went to Inspiration Corporation, the agency that hosts the CVM service in the city. Through Wilco's "Causes" program, they occasionally generate money for great organizations in some of the cities in which they play. Thanks Wilco, and thanks to your fans as well.

Discounted Prepaid Wireless in Florida from TracFone

Last month, we learned that TracFone (a large prepaid wireless provider) had been declared eligible by the FCC to receive subsidies from the Universal Service Fund (USF) to provide their prepaid wireless service at a discount to low-income people via the USF's LifeLine program. Today, some of the details of this plan became available in the state of Florida, one of ten states in which TracFone will be eligible to offer this service with USF funds. Based on the press release from the Florida Public Service Commission, qualifying low-income people will receive access to a free mobile phone and 68 free minutes of use per month, with additional minutes available for $.20/minute in $2, $5 and $10 increments.

This is a good start. Previously, USF funds could only be applied to landline phone subsidies, or to standard wireless service with monthly/annual contracts, etc. Neither of these solutions are always of use to homeless or low-income people who lack a home into which a landline can be installed, or who lack a credit record good enough to qualify for a standard monthly plan. In a recent survey, we found out that about 21% of Community Voice Mail clients own mobile phones, and the vast majority purchase prepaid wireless minutes. TracFone may save these clients money assuming the service is comparable in quality to other offerings.

The TracFone subsidy may eventually become available in D.C., New York, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Apparently, the company must apply for Universal Service Support from each state in which it hopes to provide this service.