Futel is a telephone company and 501(c)(3) organization offering free domestic calls, messaging, human interaction, connections to services, and interactive audio art. Some features are accessed from free payphones which Futel installs in public places, and some are accessed from an incoming phone number.
Futel currently has three public phones in Portland, Oregon, the first of which was installed in 2014. The phones are armored, weatherproof, and low-maintenance, requiring just internet access and a solid place to attach them to. By the end of 2016, over 750 free outgoing calls were initiated per month from Futel phones, and over 50 calls were logged with Futel’s volunteer operators throughout the year. Futel’s Awesome Foundation grant will go towards installing a public free payphone outside Landline Creative Labs at 209 S. Pearl in Ypsilanti.
Futel is founded by Karl Anderson, who splits his time between Portland, Oregon, and Ann Arbor. He is working with Landline Creative Labs founder Mark Maynard to bring Futel to Ypsilanti. Anderson has been involved in several industrial art projects, usually based around making useful, or at least interesting, items out of trash. He thinks the most straightforward thing he’s made may have been a human-powered amphibious jet boat built from dumpstered bikes and house demolition detritus.
The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.