In the aftermath of the earthquake, getting calls and messages into or out of Nepal has been one of the greatest challenges facing those searching for loved ones.
In an effort to aid communication, American phone companies like T-Mobile are offering free calls to and from Nepal, and a number of digital services are following suit.
On Sunday, Viber announced it would switch off its Viber Out billing — a service that lets users make international calls at local rates — so free calls would be available to those inside and outside Nepal.
Google Voice announced on Monday that it would offer 1 cent per minute calls to Nepal — down from normal rates of 19 cents per minute.
According to a post on Google’s Asia Pacific blog, the company chose 1 cent calls instead of making them free to prevent spammers from abusing their systems. Google Voice is only available in the United States, but people outside the country can make calls at the 1 cent rate using the Hangouts Dialer on an Android phone, using Google Hangouts or from Google Talk.
In a development — unrelated to the disaster — that the company began to roll out last week,WhatsApp users are able to make free calls within the iOS version of the app, but the service requires a wifi or data connection.
Whether those in Nepal will be able to receive calls and texts remains an open question. Shaheen Chughtai, Oxfam’s deputy head of humanitarian policy and campaigns, said in The Guardian on Monday that phone lines and digital services in the country remained weak or destroyed.