Keeping in touch during Covid is now more important than ever as the UK enters its third period of lockdown.
Most lodges and chapters are well used to meeting by Zoom but some masons have been excluded as they do not own the technology to join Zoom meetings, which leads to further isolation and distance from the much loved fellowship of their meetings.
Inspired by a scheme promoted by churches in the first national lockdown, which offered cheap mobile phones to listen to recorded services and sermons, the Provincial Communications Team is asking lodges to consider recycling unused mobile phones or purchasing cheap pay as you go mobile phones for members without access to technology.
This is because all Zoom meetings have options for people to join in just by using a phone.
When a Zoom meeting is scheduled, local and national phones numbers are provided alongside the standard joining details. Once the phone number has been dialled when the meeting is about to start, participants are asked for the Meeting ID and password which are input using the phone’s numeric keypad.
Zoom set up this option for users that might not be in an area with little or no WiFi or those that have a technical issue with their computer, tablet or device. Landlines can also be used.
If you can reuse a mobile phone, the cheapest option recommended by the Money Saving Expert website is 1pMobile, currently the cheapest PAYG SIM Card. 1pMobile uses the EE network and costs 1p for each minute, 1p for every text sent 1p for each MB of data used (so don’t download a High Definition film – this could cost up to £40!). Users have to top up at least £10 every four months (£30 per year) in order to keep the phone active,
If EE doesn’t have great coverage in your area, then Three’s PAYG SIM might be better. It’s more expensive than 1pMobile but there’s no minimum top-up requirement as long as you it is used once every six months.
Vodafone’s new Pay As You Go mobile phones start at just £1, but the minimum top up fee is £10 per month (£120 per year). Smarty, Voxi, Asda Mobile, GiffGaff and O2 have similar products with either unlimited calls, data or text messages.
Lebara (owned by Vodafone) has the best Pay As You Go Bundle according to the Money Saving Expert website, which, for £5 per month, offers unlimited calls and texts, and a data limit of 2Gb per month. The total cost for the bundle is £60 per year. There is a special offer at the time of writing (January 2021) for the first three months for £2.50 per month, making the annual cost of the bundle £52.50.