Last year, I took the plunge and switched from a big local telephony provider to a web-based VoIP provider: Phone Power.
Their features set is quite something: free second line, voicemails to email, some free international minutes, etc.
But, when it comes to routing local calls, they are so-so.
I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Many local agencies & companies have 1-800 numbers that are geolocation-locked; you can’t call those numbers from outside Canada, or outside Quebec (depending). How they detect the origin of the call is not based on the caller ID (the caller’s phone number); it has to do with how the call is routed, i.e. where it’s coming from for real.
Now, the problem is not that Phone Power isn’t technically capable of routing those calls correctly, since I have been able to call those numbers on multiple occasions. The problem is that they are unable to keep routing consistent. The result is that those calls will only work sometimes, and will sometimes fail. And, when it’s not working, and you call/chat support to fix it, they don’t know how to resolve the situation. Sometimes, after 20-30 minutes of back and forth, they are able to make those calls go through. Other times, they can’t fix it, and answer that they’ll investigate further, and contact me later when they found something.
Here’s a timeline of my (10+) contacts with support regarding this:
Me: I can’t connect to the following number: 1-800-361-3977 Would it help if my voip phone number was a canadian phone number maybe ?
Support: Possibly. Likely. Though you’d need to speak with billing for the logistics of that.
Me: Trying to dial [a 1-866 number], it’s telling me that number can’t be reached from my calling area.
Support: Basically i tried forcing the call through all of the providers i have available to me and i get the same message from them all. Call the bank and see if they allow inbound calls from outside canada.
Me: Michael called me today regarding a problem I’m having with 1-866 numbers.
Support (after 1+ hour of back and forth): Can you dial one more time plaese?
Me: yes, it’s ringing! Bingo!!
Support We will be calling you back because we do not want this issue to happen to you or an other customer. I will currently leave it on for now. They might be changing it to test it on our end.
Support: This is a follow up email regarding the ticket you recently opened with us about dialing toll free numbers in Canada. While we do bill calls to Canada at a domestic rate, the call features recognize Canadian numbers as International in nature (as we are an American based company). So with International dialing blocked, it would not permit you to call such numbers.
Me: [...] it seems like it only partially block Canadian numbers… Because I can call local Canadian numbers without a problem with the setting On. It only prevents me from being able to call some Canadian 1-800 numbers…
Me: Returning the call from Dude. He asked to call back if my 1-866 calls failed again. They do. it worked fine at the end of the chat session on the 27th, but now they are failing again.
Support: Please try calling again and let me know what happens now.
Me: It’s working. All of them seems to work again now.
Support: We are still going to need to work on this issue to get it fully resolved. We will contact you once we have an update.
Me: “The number you have dial has not been recognized.”; different error message than earlier today.
Support: [We need to trace the call; can you dial the number again?]
Me: [No, my wife needs the phone now. I'll call back again when the phone if unused.]
Me: Some 1-866 local numbers can’t be reached again.
Support: Ok, lets go again.
Me: working now.
Support: We tried to reach you in regards to the problem or service issue you reported on your Phone Power account, but had no success. If you are still experiencing the problem or issue, please reply to this email, or contact us at 888-607-6937 (option 3) in the next 24 hours.
Me: It’s working fine at this time.
Me: Since I last wrote to you about this on November 16, 2011, when all was working fine, some 1-800 number are not working again.
Me: if you can’t fix it like that, just make it so all my calls are routed like they were on Nov. 16 and leave it at that.
Support: I have already tested that and it did not work either. I will look into this more and contact you later.
Me: What’s the update on this ? Last contact was on December 5: “I will look into this more and contact you later.”
Me: (7 hours later) Official complain email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, with instructions to forward to the appropriate person, since there is no other contact information on their website.
No response whatsoever.
Support: This is a follow up email regarding the ticket you recently opened with us about your outbound calls to toll free numbers, we attempted to reach you however were not successful. We have removed the test route, please re-test and let us know if problem still exist.
Me: 1-800 / 1-866 calls are failing again.
Update: Someone from PP called last week. He sounded like someone who cares about the image of the company; maybe he was the director of operations or something. Anyway, he told me that my problem should now be resolved for good, and that he was really sorry about the time it took them to resolve this issue. Things are working fine right now. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Update 2: I switched to voip.ms since my contract with PhonePower expired. Pretty happy so far. It probably costs me a few more cents a month, but I’m happy with it so far.