Paying Skype users get a week's free VoIP service

As a goodwill gesture, Skype customers' subscriptions will be extended even if they were unaffected by the two-day outage of the VoIP service

Skype is offering a week of free service to paying customers who may have been affected by the two-day outage of its Internet telephony service last week.

The company has sent an e-mail to customers who pay for its premium services informing them of the offer, Skype spokeswoman Imogen Bailey said Thursday.

"As a goodwill gesture to all you faithful Skype Pro, Skype Unlimited, SkypeIn, or Skype Voicemail customers, we're adding an additional seven days to your current subscription free of charge," the e-mail said. "And even if you didn't miss out on using Skype last week, you can still have a week free on Skype, on the house."

The widespread collapse of the peer-to-peer VoIP service last week occurred when millions of Windows users tried to log on to Skype at the same time, after downloading a software update from Microsoft and rebooting their machines. Many people had problems logging on early Thursday morning and were unable to connect until Saturday.

Whether the free week's service will keep paying customers from dropping the peer-to-peer VoIP service remains to be seen. The interruption was a major inconvenience for business users, although some took the service failure in their stride.

Joyce Brecknell, program director at Freeform Dynamics, is a paying Skype customer and a "big user of VoIP service, both professionally and privately."

"I know where Skype works and where it still has some limitations," she said. "My expectation of VoIP is that it's still a backup service. I have multiple communication channels -- like my mobile phone -- just in case."