After almost two months of fine-tuning, long-distance service is finally ready to launch. This means folks in the town will be able to call out of the coverage area (only around 5-10km) to any phone, anywhere. Likewise we purchased a few DID numbers which allow people to call a Mexico City, Los Angeles or Seattle number and connect right to the village. Unfortunately, a Oaxaca number was not available from our VoIP provider, nor does it seem to be from any others. For now if you are in Mexico you call a Mexico City number and if you are in the USA, you have the option to make a local call if you are in either LA or Seattle. These two locations were chosen because they are the two primary destinations for emigrants from the village. So instead of paying the exorbitant long distance charges normally associated with calling the village, it is now a free call. The village itself pays $3 USD per month for each of the two DID numbers. As for calling out of the village, we have set up a pre-paid system (thanks Tele!) that allows people to buy as many pesos as they want of credit. This money is collected by the municipal government and then paid out to the VoIP provider in bulk. The rates are incredibly low compared to what currently exists. For example it costs 15 pesos per minute to call the US from a phone cabin, but with our system it costs only 20 centavos per minute.
Things are coming along nicely so far. Over 300 people are signed up for local service and we are testing out the simple pay-as-you-go billing software that we developed as a precursor to getting “long-distance” calls up and running.