Tag Archives: Review

Cell Phone Subsidizing lives on!!!

I suspect there are a lot of people in the world who are disappointed by the disappearance of cell phone subsidizing. “WHAT, I HAVE TO PAY FOR MY PHONE NOW?” At the end of the day it kind of all comes out in the wash for me, I never did contracts anyway because I simply don’t like being tied to a phone company, on principle, and dating back to the days of being in Alaska Communication’s noose.

For the people who miss those subsidies, I have great news. Not only are they back, but they’re back with a vengeance.

Let’s rewind to the beginning-ish of March. I’ve been with Verizon ever since I moved to MN. I still maintain my AT&T line and number, but just for aesthetic reasons. The only phone I use is my Verizon phone. I also recently got into the smart watch market, albeit the cheap way with a secondhand Moto 360. I won’t say I’m elated with the smart watch, but now that I’ve had it for awhile I definitely feel naked without it. The problem has been that the constant jabber between smart watch and smart phone has caused my aging Motorola phone to have less than acceptable battery life. That’s fine, the Samsung Galaxy S7 was just announced and it’s almost an adequate flagship handset, so I’ll just spend a few bucks and we’ll fix our battery problem and take an upgrade at the same time.

I go into the Verizon store at MOA. Overall the service was satisfactory (personable that is), although it definitely took longer than I wanted to achieve the goal I was seeking. I was not necessarily planning on walking out of there with anything new, the phone was still a pre-order and I just didn’t have the watch in mind. The deal is though – buy yourself a Galaxy S7 and get this sweet deal on the Samsung Gear S2. The sales guy went into adequate detail regarding Tizen, but he was also wearing one and was able to show me the benefits of having a 3g watch. I figured what the F, I’ll try it. What the Verizon salesman was not particularly clear on was that in order to get this sweet deal I was going back to good ol’ subsidized price modeling. So here’s what the *deal* looks like:

The points to take away:

1) The device “only costs me $5.00/mo” according to Verizon staff.

2) The great deal is $150 (43%) off of full retail cost of $350.

Regarding point 1, only $5.00 a month sounds great, but the reality is that it’s over twice that. If you look at surcharges that are in their control combined with governmental charges outside of their control, it’s actually more than double of the “only $5.00 a month.” I called today to talk about canceling it – the early cancellation fee is $175. Less than paying the $11.37 for the term of the contract, but not by a lot.

Regarding point 2, you used to be able to get iPhones valued at $500+ free right? Or is that me imagining things? Either way, it was way better than paying 57% of full retail.

I don’t like being under contract, I don’t like sneaky sales practices, and I don’t like being taken to the cleaners. When the math is done I will be paying (at best) $404.19 to own this thing for a month. The best I can hope for in the resale market is about $300. This month Verizon not only took their normal $150 out of my pocket for the services they provide, but they’re also hosing me for $100 additional that I’ll see no benefit from.

So thanks assholes at Verizon. I was recently shopping around because T-Mobile claims their network is fixed. The only reason I didn’t jump ship is because I honestly had very few complaints about Verizon besides the cost. Fact is they’re all too expensive though, and T-Mobile doesn’t give me any corporate discount on service, so continuing with big red just made sense. I have a new complaint, and after tomorrow my contract with you will be terminated.

As an aside – if you’re considering going from a proper Android Wear device to a Tizen based device, save your money and your frustration. Tizen is garbage, and because I see no looming Wear support coming for the device you’ll find mine on eBay as soon as I’m clear of the bounty on the device, in case you don’t trust my advice…

ACS Network Status Update – Sucks

If I spent 10 minutes writing about every poor experience I’ve had with Alaska Communications I’d be busy writing for over 24 hours. The number of people I’ve interacted with at that company that were actually pleasant to work with could easily be counted on 1 hand, and most of them worked in customer service in Anchorage. Today I’m going to just complain about one interaction with this company, my least favorite organization on the planet (no exaggeration).

The red circle was last Friday, ACS rolled a truck to *upgrade* the speed of my client’s Internet. The blue line is a continuous stream of data between my client and my servers in MN. It’s not obvious from the image above, but the speed *upgrade* took my client off the Internet for a total of 4 hours and 18 minutes during normal business hours. I suppose in the 1990s it was acceptable to have such a large outage for such a modest *upgrade*, but it’s 2014. I suggest that the upgrade was a modest one because they were attempting to go from a 3Mpbs business class service to a 7Mbps business class service. Not long ago I upgraded my low-cost and low-priority home Internet from 6Mbps to 50Mbps. There was no outage and the total amount of invested time on my part was about 15 minutes. In my mind this is how upgrades should happen in 2014.

The Friday outage was split into 2 parts. The first was a lengthy 3 hours and 3 minutes, during which time it was blackout for me. I had no knowledge of what was happening. I was E-mailed prior to the commencement of the upgrade asking if I had any advice. I replied with a basic structure of what my client’s router expects to see in order to reinitiate the connection to the ISP and the disclaimer that if he or she didn’t understand my E-mail then they should postpone the upgrade until we could work together on it. They proceeded so I assumed he knew what he was doing. I was eventually contacted by an individual back at the Alaska Communications call center, they needed my assistance (and understandably so) getting the office back online. I told them to reboot the router, at which point the PPPoE connection came up and all was fine, it seemed the technician did his job OK  just my ddial PPP connection wasn’t coming online. A reboot is simple enough and something that Alaska Communications themselves wouldn’t hesitate to do with most customers, it just so happens my router is slightly more intimidating looking:

After the line came up I asked the technician to not touch anything further and leave the room. Although my client still wasn’t on the Internet, the remaining portion was up to me. I did my business then it was my time to leave work so I started my commute home. The connection stayed up for all of 15 minutes and 10 seconds. About 1 mile into my commute I got a text message saying it was down again. Normally I’d turn around to put myself back at a terminal, but this particular Friday I had a meeting after work that I didn’t want to miss. I continued on my way and did phone troubleshooting with staff at my client’s office.

After probably 45 minutes of great help from one of my client’s employees, we found the inability to connect even just using a laptop and Windows 7’s Internet Connection Wizard. I turned the problem back to Alaska Communications with a phone call back to the individual who had called me earlier. That ACS employee contacted my client’s staff, had them plug the router back in and it miraculously came online. I’m aggravated as I’m sure the ACS employee played it off like nothing was wrong the entire time when there is no doubt in my mind he did something on his end. There is no other explanation since we couldn’t even connect with a generic Windows 7 box. The 2nd outage while only a mere hour was big enough to make 3 9s system when measured over a year.

This brings us past the red circle above and into the orange circle. The Internet was online all of Friday evening, all of Saturday even though speeds dropped in the early morning as you can see, but the connection did stay up. The blue circle encompasses the Sunday outage, one which started about 30 minutes prior to the end of AK Daylight Savings Time. The outage lasted through the day, meaning for an entire day and then some my client could not send nor receive E-mails. Their servers were unreachable so no doubt some correspondence was bounced. ACS doesn’t have a 24 hour business unit, or at least not one with a listed phone number, so I had to wait until they opened at 8:00AM. The good news is even after they opened the technical support I was able to contact was utterly useless. “I can see you’re not online, but we can’t do anything about it without someone onsite.” Certainly I agree it would be nice to have someone onsite, but unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards. The people that would normally be there on a Sunday were out of town this particular weekend. The annoying part was that he didn’t even bother to look at connection logs or any such, they just gave up at “you’re not online.”

About 30 hours past, the connection was brought back to life Monday morning at 8:09AM AK time. This is what availability looked like for the week – Tuesday morning through today, note that the point when the *upgrade* started is clearly visible:

Since their Internet presence returned yesterday morning, my client hasn’t fallen back offline. Their bandwidth remains pretty random. At the end of the day, my only prayer is that I don’t have to work with ACS Personnel, ever again, in my life. They’re one thing I’ve been unable to leave behind by leaving AK, and I wish more than anything that I could change that.