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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Telecommunications: Phone

We had the opportunity to change our phone (local and long-distance), cable, and Internet service to one cable carrier (Time Warner) in our area this fall, and took it. It has been a mixed bag.

Our phone service last year I had ordered from some other carrier, and the bill always seemed terribly high. So Carol contacted Verizon for another package, and it became even higher.

We both have Masters degrees, but for the life of us, we couldn’t figure out why our phone bill ran nearly $100 per month, especially when we made few or no long distance calls. True, we had a second line for our Internet connection, but that was only about $8 before taxes.

One of the things we were promised with the new service was a clear signal. Well, it’s clear enough, except when it isn’t. And it isn't when it gets close to the computer, for some reason.

Still, there is a clear cost savings.

Now I am inclined to make as many long-distance calls as I can. Give me you number; maybe I’ll call you.

A recent (last two weeks) enhancement puts the phone number of an incoming caller on our TV screen. Obviously, that's a mixed bag. It's nice to not have to get up to answer the phone when the screen has posted in the upper left, "Private Name, Private Number", but if I were to be planning a surprise for Carol, for instance, it could really put the kibosh on the deal. I imagine there's a way to disable the feature, but I don't know what it is. I didn't hear about the feature from Time Warner; I read about it in the paper.

The one thing I don’t like about the phone system, the one thing that nearly killed the deal, is the fact that if the cable goes out, we have no capacity for E-911 service, a point they emphasized repeatedly, including with two mailings. I guess that’s the reason to have cell phones with per call charges.

Naturally, the transition from Verizon did not go smoothly. There was a final bill of $41, which we paid, but then we got a SECOND bill for NEW service, under the telephone number of our second line. It seems that the day the Verizon guy showed up (September 6) to uninstall the Verizon, the computer put it in as a new installation, with all of its attendant fees. I called Verizon, was told that the bill was in error, and that, in fact, we were due nearly $67. (One is usually paying ahead for telephone service.)

Then, LAST month, I get another bill from Verizon for $138, with a threat to disconnect the service that we don’t even have or want. I call the first Verizon help number and get stuck in phone mail hell. I call the second Verizon help number, but I put in my actual current phone number and get stuck again, and hang up. Finally, I call the second Verizon help number, put in our "new" phone number, wade through the voice mail options for five minutes before being given an option to talk to a real, live human being.

This Verizon representative finally cancels the charges on the second number, assures us that the $67 check the representative promised us a month ago is on its way within the next two weeks. I’ll believe it when I cash it.

Just last week, ANOTHER Verizon bill, this time for $87. It is to laugh, lest one cry.

Next time: Cable.


claire said...

We also had terrible problems with Verizon. We lived in an apartment where Barry had Verizon for phone and DSL. When we moved to our new house, we wanted to switch. Verizon told us they could not turn off the DSL in the apartment and turn it on in the house without a one-week delay. Imagine the electric company telling you that to switch your account to a new address, you'd have to go without electricity for a week! My job at the time was online, so a fast connection was a requirement of my job.

We finally finagled Verizon into accommodating us. But they never turned the DSL on in the new house. We finally got Time Warner Roadrunner and disconnected the DSL at the apartment.

They continued to bill us for the never-connected DSL for a year. The bill ended up in a collection agency. We were so fed up that we disconnected our phone and went with cell phones for a while because we were so disgusted with Verizon (we reconnected because we need a land line for our burglar alarm system).

Anyone who thinks government is incompetent and private industry is efficient has never dealt with Verizon!

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