Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dial tones

Somehow, today became telecommunications maintenance and update day.

A couple years ago, I was getting my internet services and cable from Cox, and both my house phone, and portable VOIP from Vonage.

Unfortunately Cox kept raising prices, and Vonage kept screwing up with customer service. Then Cox started offering their own digital telephone service, and they started throttling the QOS of third party VOIP providers on their network.

Basically, it made Vonage unusuable.

This is strictly ethical, legal, and probably good business for Cox (because most customer won't know why their VOIP started working like crap, and they'll blame the VOIP provider... and most of the time they'd be right).

Personally however I think it's bad practice, and not right; and it pissed me off.

At the same time, my work switched to a new conference calling service; and whatever kind of compression they're using interacts with the compression Vonageuses; and the Vonagelines became completely unusable for calling in to work coference lines.

My entire job is conducted over conference calls. Clearly, the situation was unacceptable.

At the time (well, they offer it today too actually), Qwest was offering a bundled service package with phone, internet, and digital TV with FTTH (fiber to the home) at a greatly reduced rate. It was supposed to give me 20Mbps internet, 170 channels of full HD, an HD DVR, and two phone lines, for far less than the cost of my other services.

So, I cancelled Cox for cable and internet, and ordered Qwest. Knowing their might be trouble, I kept my Vonage subscription active, just in case.

What they failed to mention when they sold me this, was that actually they couldnt give it to me.

That in fact my area had only been provisioned for FTTN (fiber to the neighborhood); and that they could only give me 3Mbps internet, 90 channels none of them in HD, no DVR, and only analog POTS with the standard telco charges for extra features.

The installer let me know when he got to my house; but not before he had already tranferred my internet, house jacks, and interior cable wiring over to Qwest. He wasn't even told that I had been sold the higher level package; only that he was doing a bundle install. I noticed something was wrong when he came out with the wrong type of video gateway box.

Ooooh man I was pissed. I called Qwest up and cancelled the TV service on the spot; however, because Cox was still doing their stupid filtering thing, I decided to keep them for phone and internet.

That left me without a cable TV provider. I talked with Direct TV and Dish and I didn't like the options, so I called Cox back and asked them to permanently reduce my cable ate to get me to switch back, and they did.

I also cut my Vonage service down to the most basic plan, only because I wanted to keep my voicemail system, call distribution, and my 800 number. I also switched to using Skype for my VOIP.

Fast forward to today.

My qwest bill has gone up several times over the past two years, to the point where it's now $140 a month (all taxes etc... included) It's still only 3Mbps service and most of the time I don't even get that. Also, at least once a week, for several hours, all their DNS and DHCP within the region fails, effectively knocking me off the net.

Once again, It's really unacceptable.

I'm also really unhappy that they're charging me $78 plus taxes and fees for two lines with caller ID and voicemail, only one of which has long distance.

I'm already paying Cox $85 a month for cable (inc. taxes and fees), plus the $140 a month from Qwest, and the $22 a month from Vonage... Just under $250, for service I'm not happy with?

Well, since the switchover two years ago, Cox has DRAMATICALLY upgraded their cablemodem services; with a 12Mbps and 20Mbps plan. Not only that, but they've remioved the filtering on VOIP, and the silly 5GB per month download cap they were testing out for a while.

Right now, they're offering a bundle package, full digital HD cable, with one preimum channel package, the 12Mbps internet, and one phoneline with 3 features, for $119 a month.

Not bad, but not exactly what I need.

To add the second premium channel (we get HBO and showtime because we like their original programming) is $7, the second phone line is $12, and it's $20 to add unlimited long distance on the primary line. Oh and $6 each to add caller id and voicemail on the second line (which for some reason they wont let you order one of the feature bundles on, or it would be cheaper).

That's still $170 vs $230, and for what should be considerably better service; so I ordered it. They'll be here next Wednesday to move the phones over; and I'll install my cablemodem and hook it to my home network myself.

Also, I'm finally getting rid of Vonage; who, I swear before all that is holy, have the WORST reliability and customer service of any company I've ever seen.

They have overcharged me EVERY SINGLE MONTH since November of 2007. I have had to call up every single month and get it fixed AGAIN AND AGAIN.

The only reason I hadn't cancelled them completely up to this point was because of repeatedly rolling refunds and credits; so I wouldnt end up having to pay twice for something.

I found a provider that will give me 7 vmail moxes, a virtual PBX, and port my 800 number all for $10 a month, instead of the $22 Vonage is currently charging me.

Admitedly, they don't give me voip; but I don't WANT voip from them. I haven't used Vonages VOIP in two years. I use Skype for VOIP, and it's free to other Skype users, and ridiculously cheap for out network called ($2.50 a month)

So, I'm now getting everything I was getting before and more; at what should be better quality and with better customer service, for $177 instead of $252.

Alright.. good deal.

Too bad I can't roll in our mobile phone and data family plans. That'd be one less company to deal with, and another $130 ($30 of which is taxes and fees) a month I'd love to shrink a bit.