When you thought phone slamming was over….

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read this article from NJ.COM – A true eye opener
Want a lower telephone bill?
Of course you do. We all do.
But when an offer for cheaper service came via a telephone call to Janet Goldstein of North Brunswick, something didn’t sound right.
“The woman said that next month, the cost of our telephone service would be 40 percent lower and that we would receive local and long-distance calling for $19.99 instead of the $48.99 which we were now paying,” Goldstein said.
“Then she asked me if I was a Verizon customer and I said yes,” she said.
The caller never identified herself as a Verizon rep, or as a rep from any other company, for that matter.
“It certainly sounded like she was from Verizon,” said Goldstein, 66, noting her number is on the national “Do Not Call” registry, so she wasn’t expecting a telemarketing call. “If she was calling from Verizon, she would not have to ask if I was a Verizon customer. Why would anyone else be calling about landline service?”
Because slamming is back, that’s why.
Slamming is the illegal practice of swapping a consumer’s telephone service company without permission. Slammers sometimes get their victims through trickery, such as adding consent for a switch to the fine print of a promotional offer or coupon, while others simply deceive potential marks with telephone calls, calls very much like the one Goldstein received.
But Goldstein is no mark. She and her husband Bernard, 72, were suspicious before the call was completed.
Bernard retrieved the telephone number from the phone’s memory — (800) 690-9950 — and their Caller ID showed the same number had called several times before. Goldstein contacted Verizon to report her suspicions. Verizon said no one had tried to switch the couple’s service yet, and it would institute a block so no one could change their service without the Goldstein’s authorization.
The Verizon rep also identified the company on the other side of the slamming telephone call: Cordia Communications.
Who is Cordia?
That’s a question Bamboozled has been unable to answer, despite messages left at four toll-free numbers and two e-mail addresses.
The website boasts, “From a single home phone line to comprehensive business solutions, Cordia Communications connects you to the world.”
But it can’t seem to connect Bamboozled with someone who can comment on the company’s behalf.
None of our messages were returned.
So far in 2011, there were six complaints against Cordia on record with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Half were resolved in the consumer’s favor, and half in favor of the company.
There have been six slamming complaints lodged against Cordia with the state’s Bureau of Public Utilities since Jan. 1, 2010.
“Upon investigation, there were no slamming violations found,” said BPU spokesman Greg Reinert. “Cordia was able to provide proof of customer consent. Phone calls are recorded.”
(Hmmm. See tip No. 3, below.)
Slamming has fallen by the wayside over the past decade, noted Tom MacGuire, senior vice president for national operations for Verizon, the Goldstein’s carrier. But as consumers in this economy look for ways to cut costs, he said, disreputable companies see an opportunity.
“It’s like anybody else in a predatory relationship,” MacGuire said. “These guys are taking advantage of someone looking for a better deal, and who doesn’t want a better deal? I think the whole practice is rather disgusting.”
Cordia is nothing if not persistent.
Two days after the Goldsteins’ requested their number be blocked, they continued to receive calls.
The phone rang yet again on Aug. 16, Janet Goldstein said, and it was the same Cordia rep with the same pitch. Goldstein told her not to call again.
“I contacted Bamboozled because I feel that this is some sort of scam,” she said. “If they were a legitimate company selling a legitimate service, they would say who they are and what the benefits of their service are. But they don’t do this.”
Here are tips to avoid getting slammed, courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission and the National Consumer League.
1. Don’t return calls to numbers that you don’t recognize. You could be calling a number that results in switching your phone service.
2. Be wary of unsolicited offers. Calls that offer to lower your phone costs should be suspect.
3. Sometimes slammers create phony verification that customers agreed to switch. For example, someone posing as a rep from your telephone company may ask if you are satisfied with your service or if you’re interested in a new discount plan. A “yes” answer could be tape-recorded and used as proof that you agreed to switch. Also be wary of telephone surveys about your telephone service, which can be telemarketing in disguise. If you say “yes” to any of the surveyor’s questions, the answers may be taped and used later as verification of your agreement to switch your service.
4. Read the fine print. Contest entry forms, coupons or other promotional materials might include an agreement to switch your phone service. Federal law requires that written agreements to change phone service must be separate documents and not part of a prize package. If the company offers a monetary check to get you to switch, the check must state clearly on the front and on the back, in the signature area, that you agree to change your service.
5. Check your phone bill carefully. If you notice a new company name, call the number and ask for an explanation.
6. Ask your local telephone company about to freeze or block your phone service to prevent it from being switched unless you confirm directly that you’ve agreed to a change.
Start by calling the slamming company and tell it that you want service switched back. Next, call your regular company and tell it about the slam. Ask to be placed on your old calling plan and say that you want all charges from the slammer removed from your bill.
Under FCC rules, you don’t have to pay for the first 30 days of the slammer’s service. If you’ve already paid a slammer’s charges, the company must pay your authorized company 150 percent of the charges you paid the slamming company. Out of this amount, your authorized company will reimburse you 50 percent of the charges you paid the slamming company, the FCC says. Alternatively, you can ask your authorized company to recalculate and resend your bill using its rates instead of the slamming company’s rates.
Then, make sure you file a complaint the Bureau of Public Utilities (BPU): call (800) 624-0241 or visit http://nj.gov/bpu/assistance/complaints. New Jersey complaints that go to the FCC (888-CALL-FCC or http://www.fcc.gov/complaints) will be passed down to BPU.

10 Reasons People are Unhappy With VOIP

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Thanks Sarah Johnson at homephoneservice
for sharing this
If you’ve seen the commercials for some of the different VoIP phone services, you might wonder why everyone isn’t switching their phone service over to this new technology. Many people and tried it and are finding that it meets the need for inexpensive international calling. Beyond that, there still seems to be some issues that leave it trailing behind as a communication option for most households. Here are ten of the reasons why.

Voice Quality – Typical landline voice quality is usually crystal clear. If there is a problem, it usually has to do with the quality of the phone itself and not the delivery system. This hasn’t been true with VoIP phone calls. The quality seems to be affected by several different factors, which means that you never know what to expect.
911 Calling – Many ViOP services are now providing or offering emergency 911 service, but this continues to be an issue. 911 operators receiving phone calls from a VoIP phone can’t always tell the true location of the caller because the call is being routed through the internet.
Power dependent – Unlike analog phones and cellphones, if the electricity goes out, your VoIP will not be useable. It was must have power to operate.
Bandwidth sharing – The fact that the phone service is carrying voice over data lines that are sharing data traffic means that the amount of traffic can affect the quality of the phone call.
Extra hardware – There are a few VoIP services that only require speakers and a microphone with your computer to operate, but most utilize a special phone that connects into your internet service or computer.
Pricing – The pricing structures for the different VoIP services vary and can be confusing to understand when compared to standard local and long distance telephone plans. This also makes them difficult to compare to one another.
Calling limitations – Some people have switched to VoIP phone service and then found out that there are certain phone numbers that they cannot reach using that service; an issue not found with other types of phone communication.
Security – The fact that the phone calls are traveling the internet highway raises the question of security and privacy for many phone users.
Dropped calls – Landline phones seldom drop phone calls and with VoIP phones, this can be a much more common problem. It is frustrating enough when it happens on your cell phone, to have it happen on your ‘home’ phone is generally not acceptable.
Voice delay – One of the biggest quality issues tends to be voice delay in the transmission. This is something that can vary from one phone call to the next. Again, it is something that people are not used to having to deal with on their landline phone, and are easily annoyed by it, when it occurs on their VoIP phone.

If you make a lot of international phone calls, VoIP phone service may be a great money saving option for you, but you aren’t going to see them become the standard household phone in the near future.

Do you have something to share about the telephone industry. feel free to send it to telephonetoday@gmail.com

US Telecom Provider’s Former CEO Sentenced for Bribing

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A former CEO of Latin Node, a telecommunications company in Florida, was sentenced to 46 months in prison under U.S. anti-bribery laws on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said

Jorge Granados, 55, pleaded guilty on May 19 to a conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with a scheme to pay Honduran officials more than US$500,000 in bribes, DOJ said in a release on Thursday.

After its acquisition of Latin Node, known as LatiNode, in 2007 and discovery of the improper payments, eLandia International, an information and communications technologies services provider in Florida, disclosed potential FCPA violations to the department.

In his guilty plea, Granados admitted to authorizing bribes to be paid to officials in Honduras in return for business advantages from state-owned telecommunications company, Empresa Hondureña de Telecomunicaciones (Hondutel)

LatiNode was the sole winner in December 2005 of an interconnection agreement with Hondutel, permitting it to use the Honduran company’s telecommunications lines to establish a network between Honduras and the U.S. and to provide long distance services between the two countries.

U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard for the Southern District of Florida also ordered Granados of Miami to serve two years of supervised release following the prison term.

The FCPA makes it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.

A number of technology companies have come under scrutiny for bribing people abroad to get business. U.S. federal agencies are investigating whether Oracle violated federal anti-bribery laws in dealings abroad, The Wall Street Journal reported last month, citing people familiar with the matter. Oracle declined to comment on the report.

To date, four former senior executives of LatiNode have pleaded guilty to conspiring to pay bribes to the Honduran officials, DOJ said. The other three executives are to be sentenced later this year.

Between September 2006 and June 2007, Granados and others caused more than $500,000 in bribes to be paid to the Honduran officials, according to court documents, concealing many of the payments by laundering the money through LatiNode’s subsidiaries in Guatemala and to accounts in Honduras controlled by the Honduran government officials.

LatiNode pleaded guilty on April 7, 2009, to a one-count information charging the company with a criminal violation of the FCPA and agreed to pay a $2 million fine.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John’s e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com


Who Remembers Those Days?

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The days when you waited till Sunday to make a phone call.

From The L.A. Times.. On a quest for decent telecom service

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It’s tough to admit, but I made a big mistake.

I put all my eggs in one basket, and that basket was Time Warner Cable.

As a result, when the company’s system went down last week, my family lost not only all our television service, but our Internet connection and home telephones too.

This may be the 21st century, but Chez Hiltzik was reduced to a dark uncivilized island, bereft of all communication with the outside world. No Netflix. No “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” No email. No voicemail.

When I finally reached Time Warner on that silent Sunday via my intermittently serviceable cellphone (we’re in a transmission hole between towers, so we often have to walk down the block for a decent signal), I was informed they’d roll a service truck to me as soon as possible. Which meant: two days later.

I’m not alone in abominating Time Warner’s service, as the company often ranks below par in customer satisfaction surveys. But my experience should serve as a caution before you think of taking up any company’s offer to bundle all your critical telecommunication services together. I’m a victim.

This isn’t a beef about the men and women on Time Warner’s front line. The company’s technicians and maintenance crews have been invariably professional, polite and efficient, often above and beyond the call of duty. They’ve done their level best to diagnose and repair my service. But 10 days after the first outage, my Internet and phone services are still cutting out once or twice a day.

Telecom companies say bundling is a great deal for you, the customer. You get one bill in the mail instead of three, and the services are cheaper wrapped together than a la carte. But the real benefits flow to the providers. Through bundling they monopolize access to your household, to which they can also sell on-demand entertainment, enhanced features such as hi-def video, and apps for mobile devices such as cellphones and tablets. Bundling raises the bar to competitors, because once you’ve switched to a single provider it’s a pain in the neck to switch away.

It may not be fair to pick on Time Warner alone, as it’s certainly not the only cable provider that receives poor marks. A bigger issue is that regulation has failed to keep up with the commercial transformation of the telecommunications industry.

Decades ago, the home phone was regarded as a utility, requiring a high standard of service. Until 1984, AT&T was our national telephone monopoly; it faced no commercial competition to keep it honest but was subject to stringent regulation. Whatever the incentive, Ma Bell took pride in engineering its system to “five nines” reliability — it had to work 99.999% of the time.

The idea behind the 1984 breakup of AT&T was that competition would substitute for regulation. With new companies empowered to offer better service, novel features and lower prices than the remnants of the old, the marketplace would effectively monitor service standards and pricing, and customers would reap the benefits.

Things haven’t worked out that way, largely because competition has been a mirage. In most places there’s a single cable system providing cable TV and Internet service. Satellite services can compete for TV customers but typically don’t provide Internet connectivity. Fiber-optic systems such as Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse offer TV, Internet, and voice and get high marks for service, but they’re not universally available (and not in my neighborhood).

Meanwhile, state regulators don’t have the sway over cable or wireless operators they had over conventional phone providers. Cable-based phone service like Time Warner’s barely comes under the California Public Utilities Commission’s jurisdiction.

At the federal level, telecom regulators now seem to think their main role is to windmill big mergers through to approval as fast as they know how — the government’s recent challenge to the proposed wireless merger of AT&T and T-Mobile landed on the front page because it was a man-bites-dog moment.

Companies such as Time Warner are now among our biggest providers of services that used to be utilities, but, freed of effective oversight, they don’t feel pressure to match the old utility service standards.

Time Warner essentially places the onus for monitoring system conditions on the customer. Service reps have told me that they won’t declare an official outage until they receive problem reports from three customers, even though the company has the technology to know what’s happening on its system all the time — its techs can see from their end if my cable modem is dead, they just don’t look until I ask.

Preventive maintenance? Forget it. Last week, when Time Warner’s technician opened the sidewalk lid covering my subterranean connection box, the equipment was so slathered with primordial goo it looked as though it hadn’t been tended since our amphibian ancestors first crawled out of the slime. Yet the company knew these connections were vulnerable to seepage and corrosion because the problem had occurred before; it just chose to wait for a failure before sending out a crew to address it.

If that policy means an outage from time to time, Time Warner figures it can fob off the clients cheaply. A customer service rep, apparently under the misimpression that I buy my home telecommunications service by the hour, like a room in a cheap hotel, initially offered to refund the charge for three days of non-service (about $18). When I replied that the sum didn’t come close to covering my frustration, inconvenience and lost productivity, a supervisor agreed to further discounts, including cutting the charge for phone service to zero for a few months.

To be fair, that would bring the charge for the service in line with its true value, since a home phone that can’t be trusted to stay on all the time is worth exactly nothing. But that’s still too much, because I can’t afford a phone line in my house that cuts in and out at random, even for free.

The only real option for customers in this world of indifferent service is to limit their exposure to any single provider; i.e., by shunning bundles. At the very least, I’ll be moving my home phone off the Time Warner network. That way, even though my phone and my cable service may suffer outages from time to time, barring a natural disaster the chances are low that they’ll go down at the same time. So if my cable company goes down, I’ll still have a phone; if the phone goes down, I can make calls on the Web.

My new non-Time Warner phone service may not prove to be an improvement; Verizon, the provider in my area, has been accused of allowing its conventional copper-wire land-line network to go to hell so it can focus on the growing wireless and fiber-optic markets. And my memory of the stringent regulation of yore may be suffused with the glow of nostalgia. Certainly phone service in the old days was far from perfect, or Lily Tomlin’s supercilious operator Ernestine (“We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”) wouldn’t have struck such a chord with audiences.

So my quest for decent service will undoubtedly continue. What I’m looking for isn’t so complicated: It’s for a service provider that, once it has my money, doesn’t make me feel like a chump.

Michael Hiltzik’s column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Reach him at mhiltzik@latimes.com, read past columns at latimes.com/hiltzik, check out facebook.com/hiltzik and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.


Who Likes Analogstill’s New Look

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Some have you been noticing the new look on the analogstill telecom news blog . We checked out a whole bunch of themes and “notepad” was nominated the best. I am pretty happy about that because its my favorite as well.

AT&T Archives: Careers in Directory Assistance

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This is so great. Imagine there was once a day that people looked up phone numbers from a phone book.

Phone restoration continues in Vermont after Irene

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MARLBORO, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s largest landline telephone company says it’s making progress restoring phone service to residents who lost service during Tropical Storm Irene.

FairPoint Communications says it restored service Saturday to most of the southern Vermont town of Marlboro as well to the Dover Commons area in East Dover.

FairPoint says it has also installed nine new lines at the town library and town offices in Dover that residents still without service can use for free.

Learn How To Skype From Your Home Phone

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Skype has finally built a standalone analog telephony adapter (ATA) (via their FREETALK brand) that you can hook up with your home phone line. Called the FREETALK Connect•Me Home Phone Adapter it is a PC-less standalone Skype device. It’s a relatively small device that can be plugged directly into a wall outlet. It’s sort of an oversized AC adapter with connectors on the bottom, as seen here:

In the picture above you can see the two-prong electric plug and then a white phone wire (to landline), black phone wire (to phone), and a blue network wire. I’m not sure I like the idea of this device requiring that I hang it against the wall in one of my wall electric outlets. It would have to use the bottom of a two outlet configuration due to the size of this and the wires coming out. I know in my house there are various AC adapters, surge protectors, etc. using up the wall outlets. I suppose you could connect this to the end of a surge protector, but that too is a prime spot and might look ugly/messy with 3 wires coming out of it.

I suppose in theory if you wanted to go 100% Skype you could skip the landline connection and connect the phone port directly up to your home wiring – after disconnecting your traditional phone line of course – you don’t want voltage coming from the CO frying your brand new Skype ATA.

I’m not sure the REN (ringer equivalence number) on the FREETALK Connect•Me. I’ve written about this before, but I’ll mention again that most telcos provide enough current to ring five telephones, also known as the standard 5 REN, however VoIP analog telephony adaptors (ATAs) often limit it to just 3 REN. If you connect more than 3 phone devices your phones ringing will be very weak or it won’t ring at all. Interestingly, Skype’s FAQ says, “A landline is not required to use the home phone adapter for Skype. However Skype should not be considered as a replacement landline service.” Doesn’t spark confidence, does it? Could be 911-related along with the inherent liabilities. Hence the disclaimer here.

Of course, Skype isn’t the first or only one to offer a standalone Skype device that also works with your existing home phone line. There is the Philips VoIP841 or even the ActionTec Internet Phone Wizard which I reviewed in 2005, six years ahead of this product.

Measurements: 95 (height) x 62 (width) x 32 (depth) mm.
Weight: 100 gram.
1 FXO.
1 FXS.
1 x LAN (DHCP).
Skype NWC.


Advocates Say BART Violated Telecom Law With Wireless Blocking by Wendy Davis

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The Bay Area Rapid Transit District in California violated federal telecommunications law by blocking wireless service earlier this month, a coalition of groups argues in a petition to the FCC.

“It has been settled law for decades that law enforcement agencies have no authority to order discontinuation of phone service on mere suspicion of illegal activity without due process,” a coalition of digital rights groups say in papers filed on Monday with the FCC.

The groups, including Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, are asking the FCC to declare that BART’s actions violated the federal Telecom Act.

BART shut down wireless service at some stations earlier this month because it was concerned that protests related to a police shooting could create unsafe conditions. “Prior to a planned protest on August 11, 2011, BART obtained credible information that led us to conclude that the safety of the BART system would be compromised,” the agency said in an open letter. “Out of an overriding concern for our passengers’ safety, BART made the decision to temporarily interrupt cell phone service on portions of its system.”

But critics say the move raised troubling free speech issues. “Cutting off cell phone service in response to a planned protest is a shameful attack on free speech,” the EFF wrote shortly after the incident. “BART officials are showing themselves to be of a mind with the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, who ordered the shutdown of cell phone service in Tahrir Square in response to peaceful, democratic protests earlier this year.”

Public Knowledge’s legal director, Harold Feld, recently posted a lengthy legal analysis arguing that the agency’s acts were illegal under both federal telecom law and California state laws. “There is a reason we do not mess with the phone system, and why that doesn’t change when the phone system is wireless,” he wrote.

He said as far back as 1942, a California appeals court ruled that the state attorney general could not order the phone company to disconnect someone suspected of using the phones to run a gambling operation.

“If BART gets away with including ‘we can shut down cell phone service’ in its tool box, you can guarantee that other local law enforcement agencies will start copying this — and all for the best of reasons,” he wrote. “Because what could possibly go wrong when you pull the plug on a critical piece of infrastructure whenever some local police chief or city council person or whoever decides they need to do something about these ‘flash mobs’ or ‘rioters’ or whatever?”

The petition, filed on Monday, argues that BART has no authority under federal or state law to unilaterally interfere with telephone service. “Regardless of whether BART can cut off service in a manner consistent with the First Amendment — an issue we do not address in this petition — the fact remains that such disconnections involve willful interference with CMRS [Commercial Mobile Radio Service] and are discontinuations of service without prior authorization based on the mere suspicion of future illegal activity,” the groups argue.


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