Friday, October 10, 2008

Embroiled with the Evil Empire

My sincere apologies for the incredible long absence from my blog (long, even for me!) .. besides being crazy busy over the last several months, I had a long and frustrating battle with Verizon over my dial-up connection. Initially, the problem manifested itself with frequent disconnects .. this as long ago as last winter. The course of additional actions on my part throughout winter and early spring included wiping my hard drive and reinstalling EVERYthing all over again (fearing a recent Trojan detection may have been the culprit in my connection's erratic behavior), deciding to forego reinstalling any software that wasn't necessary or regularly used, and installing a new modem in my laptop. After all the frustration and time & money spent, it turns out none of this was necessary. It wasn't until after the new modem was installed that I finally began thinking about the possibility of my connection, because not only did I continue to have problems, but they were getting worse. Sometime in early July, I couldn't connect at all. I wasted countless hours dragging my laptop to the local library (or using my husband's office computer) for credit card sale processing, online banking, ordering, answering emails, etc. Little jewelry was being produced during this period while I tried to just keep up with administrative activities I was normally able to accomplish first thing every morning in my studio.

My adventure with Verizon began in mid-July with the first of many calls to customer repair. Having worked in the telecommunications industry in Albany, it was quickly evident that I knew more than many of these customer service reps., which only added to my frustration, as none of them were willing to concede to my certainty regarding the situation. The one argument I continued to hear was that "Verizon does not guarantee data, only voice transmission" .. and they assumed that would be that. Sorry .. not the case. I'm a bit of a bulldog in that regard. Especially when my business was at stake. I couldn't continue running into town three to four days a week for online-related work .. my inventory was suffering!!

After about eight or nine calls to customer repair .. during several of which I was certain I was gonna bust a vein .. I had managed to create three repair "tickets". None were successfully completed. What should have happened with the first repair ticket was a complete point-to-point test .. from our home to the nearest Central Office. What actually happened on both the first and second repair tickets totally ignored the line from our house to the ready access terminal on a pole in our yard. I had to speak to a supervisor in order to get a technician to test from the Network Interface Device (NID), or the demarcation point, at our home, where the connection to Verizon actually begins. The line from the NID to the ready access terminal in the yard is called the "drop" .. and by plugging my laptop directly into this line and bypassing the house wiring I was able to determine that the problem was most certainly NOT inside wiring, but the drop! On the third ticket, the technician conceded that something indeed was wrong - but also, as an aside, mentioned it'd be too much trouble to repair because the drop is buried. There it was, in a nutshell. Too much trouble to repair!! Not the kind of thing you mention to a bulldog ... especially one who's telecom savvy.

As this third ticket, like the two before it, was closed (accompanied by an automated message delivered to our home phone that the ticket had been closed "successfully") with no chance of a fix, I gave up. As a rural home owner, I thought our only choice was a dial-up connection, but I found an alternative in a wireless modem through AT&T (I'm sorry now I didn't think to go with a Wi-Fi connection, since my laptop supports it). It plugs directly into a USB port in my laptop, and actually allows me to use the laptop anywhere there's a signal. Very cool uptick! After a 30 day trial period, I decided it'd probably be fine and went with it. It's not as fast as a cable connection, but it IS better than dial-up. So perhaps everything happens for a reason : )

Not the end of the story, however. We only occasionally get calls on our home phone .. we both have cell phones; and most people who know me use my cell number. I would say 85% of the land line's use was dial-up connection. So (thank you Carrie and Darryl for the idea - I'm embarrassed I didn't think of it!!), I called AT&T to see about switching my Verizon mobile phone to AT&T service. And as part of the deal we turned our home number into a mobile phone and added it as a second phone to this account ... and disconnected the Verizon land line entirely. As my old friend and Sprint Long Distance partner in crime, Mark Foss, would say, "my heart soared like an eagle" at the thought!! And there's more ... when we received our "final" invoice from Verizon for the land line, they had tacked on a $91 charge for "inside wiring repair visit". I smiled inside, for I knew this one was a battle I could actually win. My first action was to call Verizon customer repair and explain that this charge was unwarranted under the circumstances .. what I got was "inside is inside, the charge applies". I loved it. Onward and upward to the Public Service Commission's site to lodge a formal complaint. This is the pertinent piece in that complaint:

"It is my understanding that the NID belongs to the public switched telephone network provider (Verizon in this instance) .. and the fact that it is located inside rather than outside our home should not be a reason to charge us for an "inside wire repair visit" in order to perform point to point testing, which should have been done during the first open ticket. Third, inside wiring was not the problem; I had disconnected the inside wiring and tried to dial-up direct through the demarc, and still had no success .. and told them so. Additionally, the tech, during the third open ticket at which time he finally came to test at the NID, agreed that something was definitely wrong from the demarc point out. When I suggested the problem was in the drop, between the NID and the nearest Ready Access Terminal out in our yard (and that this cable is buried), he commented that it would be "too much trouble to replace." "

We received a call from a Verizon higher up located in Syracuse the very next day. Ain't life grand? The fee was waived.

And that should have been it, right? Wrong .. there was still Verizon wireless, from whom I received a "final" mobile invoice earlier this week, with a $170 charge for "Early Termination". Well, folks, long before I decided to switch my wireless service from Verizon to AT&T, I called Verizon wireless about some other long, ongoing error I had only just noticed on my wireless invoices and asked in passing when my contract was up. Turns out it had expired back in April and I'd been running on month to month ever since (I probably would have waited to do the switch, otherwise). So .. not only did I get an immediate $86 credit for the "ongoing error" I'd discovered during that initial phone call, but I also just got the $170 waived when I called this week and suggested I knew better with regard to this charge .. didn't even have to go the PSC for that one!! : )

The cost in lost time has been enormous during these last couple of months, but I feel like I've come out on the winning side against the evil empire! And the additional good news is that the signal strength for ATT's network is significantly stronger out here on the Oswegatchie River than Verizon's ever was .. no more dropped calls! Life IS good.

I'll try to get a new piece or two up within the next week or two .. thanks so much for your patience!