Thursday, December 25, 2014

Using TruFon to create a local Canada number that forwards to US Google Voice

My 93yo father is a resident of a long term care facility in Montreal. It’s been working well for him, but it’s not easy to reach him. He hasn’t wanted a phone in his room, their landline phones are ridiculously expensive anyway, and he can’t manage a cell phone.

This wasn’t a terrible problem until yesterday. For most of the past few months he’s used a local-only phone to call my my mother. When she died last week we were all local, so it was easy to reach Dad. Now, however, the 3 kids are all back home.

That’s when I realized there was no way to reach him, and no way, short of an emergency, for him to reach us. Too bad I was back in Minnesota when this occurred to me. Not to mention it’s, you know, Christmas.

Obviously he needs to get a phone in his room (like it or not, alas) - but that would still be expensive to use long distance and it will take weeks to install. So I went looking for a local number he could use. 

Not surprisingly, given the Comcast-like state of all Canadian telecoms, you can’t get a Skype number in Canada. You can, however, use any one of about a dozen VOIP / DID Service Providers (DIDSP) to create a local Montreal number that forwards to a US Skype account or to any phone.

After a quick scan I divided the Canadian DIDSP market into short lifespan bottom feeders ($2-3/month), business market vendors ($20-$40/mo) and a few in the middle. Based largely on the plausible pricing, cancellation policy [1], and web site quality I chose VirtuFon and signed up for a $11/month Montreal number with 1,000 metered minutes and a 10 day “trial period” (can cancel without fee). [2]

I had to provide a credit card number, so I used my AMEX card — largely because of their fraud tracking and customer support. With most online vendors one has to assume credentials will be stolen — I doubt VirtuFon can withstand a modern hack.

It took only a few minutes to create a local Montreal number that forwards to my Minnesota Google Voice number. The number was immediately active with quite decent sound quality and latency. I was able to pass it on the nursing station at my father’s facility; about two hours later my cell rang. His call went from my Montreal VirtuFon DIDSP number to my Minneapolis Google Voice number to my Saint Paul iPhone.

It was a good conversation.

- fn -

[1] "Service is provided on a month-to-month basis. You are not obligated to a multi-month contract. To cancel service, simply click on the [Add / Cancel Services] link in the account management area of this website.” 

[2] VirtuFon’s marketing emphasizes using them as a gateway to Skype, which costs only $6/m. For various reasons I wanted to use my GV number instead.

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