You can dial the 1-800-FREE-411 toll-free directory assistance number, which will then connect you to the party you intend to call.
The service is driven a speech-assisted prompt system, which falls back into a human-operated directory service when all else fails. Very cool, if you ask me.
Your only limitation is that you can only connect to people whose telephone numbers are listed. And some local telcos may have already blocked this toll-free number, with knowledge that users can bypass the usual IDD (read:expensive) route.
I tried calling a relative this morning via Skype. Yes, you can dial 1-800 numbers using SkypeOut–for free! So I key in +18003733411, and I was greeted by these prompts below. I was calling a residential number, so go figure what my responses probably were.
- Please speak the city and state of the person you are calling.
- Are you calling a business, residence or a government office?
- Please speak the last name of the person you are calling.
- I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that … Please speak the last name and spell out the first three letters of the name.
- I only have one listing for that name, and it is [speaks the Filipino name with an American twang]. Is this correct?
Then the computer speaks out the number and tells me I will be connected to the party if I wait a while. All for free.
The service is actually ad-supported, and that’s what makes it free. Sometimes a few seconds’ advert would be played before the call is connected. But if you’re calling from outside of the US, I think it’s well worth it.
Use Skype! It’s clear even thru dialup connections. Beat that, PLDT!