Tag: telecom

Telecom Tech Support

By James Kwak

I’ve recently been making you suffer through my struggles with the telecom industry. To show that I appreciate your patience, I wanted to recommend to you a brilliant cartoon on telecom tech support, from the inimitable XKCD. I would reproduce it here, but that seems like it would violate fair use, so you’ll have to go over there.

Don’t forget to check out the mouseover (place your pointer over the cartoon and wait for a few seconds).

More Telecom Hell

By James Kwak

So, I wanted to transfer phone and DSL from one house to another. I went to Verizon’s web site, clicked on the promisingly named “Moving to a New Home” link, and walked through the step-by-step wizard. It said I could have unlimited domestic calling and 3 MB DSL for $55 per month, which was a better deal than I was currently getting, so I signed up. The only issue was that the scheduling calendar only allowed install dates in the next month and I wanted a date six weeks out, but the live chat representative said I could just call in later and change the install date.

A few days later I went online to check on the order status in their online system and saw that my DSL order was nowhere to be  found. So I called up and, after much misunderstanding and aggravation, I figured out that my order had been canceled by their back-end system. Even though the front-end (web) system knew that I was an existing customer (remember, I clicked on “Moving to a New Home”) and offered me a discounted bundle, the back-end (probably mainframe system) didn’t want to give discounts to existing customers and wouldn’t allow the order to be processed.* After a little arguing, the representative said that she would manually book the order at the higher price and then go in and give me the originally promised discount.

The next time I checked my order status I saw that I had three different DSL orders in their system, which made me nervous, but there was nothing to do but wait.

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Telecom “Innovation”

NewYork Times technology columnist David Pogue is mounting a campaign against those canned messages that cellular carriers play after the greeting on your mobile phone voicemail (hat tip Mark Thoma’s son) – you know, the ones that say “to leave a voice message, wait for the beep,” only they take 30 seconds doing so, for th sole purpose of chewing up the mobile phone minutes of the person calling you. (According to Pogue, multiple carrier executives have admitted that the sole purpose of these value-destroying messages is to maximize airtime and hence revenue.)

This is exactly the same kind of “innovation” that we’ve seen in financial services and in health insurance. In each case, it’s what you get when you have too much concentration, so that a small group of oligopolists can effectively agree on the same business practice that generates profits at the consumer’s expense.

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