Youth Radio: How NC Teens Text 4 Free

Aug 25, 2014

Jamayah Parrish conducting an interview outside the WUNC Studios in Durham
Credit Carol Jackson

Jamayah Parrish is a rising senior at Northern High School in Durham.  As a part of WUNC's Youth Radio Project, she reports on teens who have found a way to call and text for free over Wi-Fi.

Jose Diaz is a college student. Symone Parker is in high school. Melani Hernandez is a seventh grader. They all have an interesting thing in common: they call and text people, but they don’t pay a carrier for the  service. They simply lie in wait for access to Wi-Fi, and then, using a free app, they are in business.

Symone Parker says, "All we need to do is go to McDonald's, go home, it doesn’t matter. We can be able to text somebody."

And, while Diaz and Parker use smartphones, the technique works on Melani Hernadez' iPod touch as well.

Even though these apps may be accessible across many phones and devices, Jason Harris, a Verizon Wireless employee I interviewed, believes not many people would choose them over a traditional carrier. If there is an emergency, for example, and if there’s no Wi-Fi nearby, you won’t be able to contact anyone.

"As far as domestically, I don’t see it growing, no," says Harris.

Despite the downside, the people I interviewed seem satisfied with their apps.

Apps mentioned in this report include textPlus and Text Free, but there are many, many others.