Chat Linehaul: Canuck drivers dialling up U.S. cell plans

TORONTO — Whoever said talk was cheap never used a Canadian cell phone in the U.S.

Our flat-rate plans aren’t at all competitive with U.S. plans, and God help you if you run over your allotted minutes.

If you’re buying a cell plan over the counter, you’ll not get much better than 2,000 minutes for $365. If you’re part of a group discount plan, you may do a little better, but not much. South of the border, 225 bucks – give or take a few for optional extras you might want – will get you as many as 4,000 minutes, and unlimited calling between mobile phones on the network.

Some service providers’ phones work just fine in Canada, too, with no additional fees, roaming charges, long distance charges, etc. For that kind of dough, you could ditch your home phone, and go totally mobile.

The only downside is friends and neighbors might question why you have a South Texas area code if you live in Halifax.

Drivers who run south of the border have been taking advantage of U.S. cell phone plans for years. It isn’t technically illegal to the best of our knowledge, but it relies on the U.S. service provider’s willingness to overlook certain billing requirements – like having an American address.

(Canadians, frustrated with monopolized TV programming here at home, have been doing something similar with U.S. satellite TV for years).

A post office box will usually do, or a pal who lives there could offer up his or her address, and forward any correspondence to you. Most of the drivers we know provide the address of a friend, and then put the charges on their credit card.

We contacted a shop in Fargo, N.D., on the advice of a driver and were told they do it all the time for Canadian drivers. In fact, the clerk said they have hundreds of Canadian customers – mostly drivers – at that one shop.

"Most of them opt for the high-minute plans because they’re calling home, to customers, and back to the company," he said. "We’ve been told it’s pretty expensive to do that with a Canadian phone."

He’s been told right.

— Jim Park

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