Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I feel like I've just been serviced

You'll remember from my previous post on this subject that we were stuck with no phone or internet (through no fault of our own), and I took matters into my own hands and self-serviced.

There have been some developments in the last few days. First, was a very long, detailed voice mail message on my phone at work yesterday. The caller was a PR person in the executive suite at QWEST who went out of her way to explain the Local Number Portability (LNP) process in agonizing detail. She then confirmed service would be restored today, and invited me to call her back if I had any further questions/concerns.

I decided to take her up on her offer, as I still had some questions that her message didn't answer. I didn't really need the overview of how LNP works, as I was familiar with it from my consulting days when I worked at AMS.

Much to my suprise, when I called back, she answered her phone, and was very pleasant and articulate. Our conversation went something like this (I will paraphrase a bit):

Paul - How did this happen and who did it?

Qworst Lady - Your phone number was requested to be ported by First Digital on 1/23.

P - Okay fine, but who are these guys?

Q - Don't know, but you can call them and find out.


P - Why wasn't I notified before you switched off my service?

Q - LNP requires that a phone number be immediately ported if a valid port request with all the confirmed account information is given to the carrier. The carrier cannot contact the customer to confirm port requests before doing them, because "waiting to contact customer" could be used an excuse never to port a customer's number -- that is, if carriers were all allowed to contact the customer before switching service, then carriers would have no incentive to really try to contact customers, and would just let the process linger, thereby extending their revenue stream.

P - Hmmm, I *guess* I understand why you didn't call me, but how was my complete contact information provided, if I didn't initiate the request?

Q - I don't know, but you can get hold of First Digital - see if they can explain it.


P - What's to prevent this from happening again?

Q - Short answer, this could happen again -- but don't be overly alarmed, it was probably just a clerical error.


Q - You know, this seems to be happening a lot more often now - it's sort of like long distance slamming in the late 80s/early 90s. This process could probably be improved.

No kidding.

P - So you're saying there's nothing to prevent this from happening again?

Q - Well, you can call customer service and have them block your number from being switched or ported. Then no changes can be made to your account without your authorization.

Seems to me like this should be the normal way to handle these things, not by request.

P - But you don't set this up automatically for all new customers or anything?

Q - No, often our customers don't want to have to call us to make changes to their accounts.

Geez, I wonder why.

P - Can you do that for me now?

Q - Not until your service is established, then you'll have to call customer service to put the block on. You might want to think about doing that.


P - Well, I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, you didn't call me back within 48 hours like your customer service people promised, though.

Q - Oh, I was responding to your complaint filed with the FCC and PUC of Utah. I responded within the time frame required by law.

Ohhhhhhhh. There, my friends, is an important life lesson. If you're unhappy with the service (or lack thereof) provided by a monolithic utility, don't waste your time with the customer service folks, put your tax dollars to work.

Qworst lady DID let me know that they would be crediting my bill for one month's service because of the inconvenience.

Fast-forward to this morning. Qwest called Sherise on her cell phone to confirm they would be coming out today to re-establish service. About an hour later, the phone was turned back on. Hooray.

After she called to report this to me, I decided to call the First Digital people to see what I could learn. Again, paraphrasing my conversation:

F - Thank you for calling First Digital, how can I help you?

P - Your company ported my number away from Qwest without my permission. Could you help me figure out how this happened?

F - Sure. What's your phone number?

P - 801-XXX-XXXX.

F - Okay, our records show that number was ported back to Qwest yesterday.

P - Right. But, how did you guys get my information to request my number initially?

F - I don't know, but somebody probably just typed your number in wrong.

P - But Qwest tells me they will only port if they receive the correct name, address, and phone number. How would you know my name and address?

F - We only have to provide the phone number - Qwest would have completed that information.

Nice. Glad to see the new phone company is as good at blaming the other company as Qwest is. They'll go far.

P - Fine. I need you to confirm you're not going to be billing me for this.

F - Correct - an account was never set up for you because the port did not complete successfully.

P - Are you guys going to request my number back and put me through this again? I need you to confirm that you aren't going to try to take back my number.

F - No, your number is no longer in our system. But I would recommend you call Qwest and have them block your number so it can't be ported or switched. In fact, funny thing, this has happened to me like three times. I kept porting my number away from Qwest and they kept porting it back. I finally had to block my number. It's a really good idea.

Fan-freaking-tastic. So the one thing both companies agree on is that this LNP thing really doesn't work all that well. And it sounds like my options are:

1. Block my number and it won't get stolen, but then I can't port it to Vonage.
2. Hurry up and port it to Vonage, but then Qwest will probably fork the whole thing up and just take my number back anyway.

Tomorrow I'll call Vonage and see if they allow customers to block their numbers.

There has been one nice side benefit to having my phone number disconnected - the phone didn't ring, and I didn't have to talk to anybody from Church. I'll miss that.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Food Fighters

When I came home from work last night, I was very surprised to see something that probably wouldn't even pass for a garage band in my Family Room. Sherise picked up Rock Band as a Valentines's Day present for the family. The original idea was to wait until Feb 14 to open it, but the resolve quickly passed, and what you see below is the result.

The family that plays together stays together.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Spirit of [dis]Service

I write today about Qwest, also known as Qworst or Qweerest.

You see, our phone and internet service with QWEST was shut off the night of 2/4. When we called the next morning, QWEST confirmed that our bill was current, but our number was being ported to another carrier, and that was the reason for being disconnected.

Problem is, we never requested having our service ported. So we asked QWEST who initiated the request, and to which carrier. We were told they had that information but were not allowed to share it (nice). We asked about having our service restored, we were told the port had to complete, and then service would be restored 5-6 business days after that.

I asked to escalate the matter, as this is completely unacceptable, and was told someone would call me back within 48 hours. It's been three days, and yup, you guessed it, never hapened.

So there we were, with no phone and no internet through absolutely no fault of our own, and the phone company didn't seem particularly motivated to do anything about it. I should add that I have to work from home a fair amount during evenings and weekends, and this would likely force me to drive into work at odd hours when something comes up. I couldn't sit still knowing I pay these people nearly $1000/year for phone and internet access, to receive such poor service.

So I took action.

I filed a complaint with the FCC and PUC of Utah.

Then I called the people at Comcast cable. I asked about their Internet service. It's over twice as fast as my old DSL line and costs $5/month more. They said they could be out the next day to install it. Done.

Then I stopped by CompUsa and picked up a Vonage VOIP adapter. Activation took 5 minutes. Once the internet was up running again, it took 5 minutes to connect to my router, and I was making phone calls. A Vonage line is $10 - $15/month cheaper than a Qwest line, depending on the features.

So, I solved my internet problem and my phone problem over a week faster than the supposed experts BY MYSELF. And my internet service is twice as fast as before, and I'm now saving somewhere between $5 and $10/month.

Ironically, the president of the Utah division sent us a letter in the mail, letting us know we were one of their best customers, and don't hesitate to let the company know if there's anything they can do for us.

I'm going to take his letter, staple my first month's bills to it, and mail it back to him, thanking him for setting me free. Maybe the company *IS* service-oriented, and I just failed to see it.