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The Almighty Buck

Telecommunication Customer Service Worldwide 298

imin8r writes " Whirlpool writes that an Telstra, Australia's largest Telco (who also happens to own all wholesale access to ADSL in Australia), had rejected an ADSL user's application from a small ADSL provider, but subsequently accepted their own ADSL application from the same user. The funny thing is, the smaller ISP sells exactly the same service as Telstra as they are a Telstra reseller. Both providers use the same line, same exchange and same equipment. However, the story doesn't end there. When Telstra was approached by the aggrieved user explaining what had happened, Telstra offered him a settlement to keep quiet. When he didn't, they disconnected his already connected ADSL service. One of the arguments for Telstra's bad track record with customer service is the fact that they were previously government owned but are now partly privatised (and listed on the stock exchange). As a result they own a lot of the infrastructure which has been paid with by taxpayers money, but any new Telco players still need to use a lot of Telstra's infrastructure. I'd like to know whether full de-regulation of the telecommunication industry in the United States has benefited customer service and also what effect it has had on providing innovative services. "
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Telecommunication Customer Service Worldwide

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  • > "Telecommunication Customer Service Worldwide"

    RTFA? I didn't even have to bother reading past the <TITLE> tag to award it an automatic (+5, Funny).

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Commercial monopolies behave just as badly, if not much worse beacuse there isn't local accountability; ie, a government representative you can call and bitch at
    We should only favor corporations when there isn't a monoopoly. Converting a government monoploy into a commercial one is *always* worse for customers... although, it is often a great deal for the politicians who made it commericial.... and of course, the new owners who realize a windfall wihout any real work...
  • Before and After... (Score:5, Informative)

    by IO ERROR ( 128968 ) <error AT ioerror DOT us> on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:51AM (#6096267) Homepage Journal
    Before the breakup of AT&T, we used to say "New York Telephone sucks."

    Then we said, "NYNEX sucks."

    Then we said, "Bell Atlantic sucks."

    Now we say, "Verizon sucks."

    The name may change, but the suck remains the same.

    • by L. VeGas ( 580015 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:00AM (#6096352) Homepage Journal
      The name may change, but the suck remains the same.

      So not true.

      Get married. When her name changes, the suck will be a lot less frequent.
    • by jefeweiss ( 628594 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:12AM (#6096451)
      The government never should have let the Baby Bells keep ahold of both the physical lines and the services that use them. Of course, this is in hindsight. Maybe competition would have worked out better if there had been a split into a line owning company and a service providing company. Expecting the Baby Bells to allow competitors access to the lines they control was fairly naive.

      If the competition had been a little more even from the beginning, maybe the service would be better now. I have Verizon myself and the customer service is pretty awful. I think customer service is kind of a lost art in any field though. Good customer service is not compatible with the short term cost cutting that people who buy and sell stocks like to see. The longer people in customer service positions work with a given company the more helpful they will be, as they learn the systems, and who to get a hold of. Unfortunately, the longer they work at the company the more they get paid, which makes them an attractive target for cost cutting. I would be pretty surprised if the average length of employment of a CSR (customer service representative) who actually answers the phones at a major company is more then 2 or 3 years. At that length of employment they are probably just about trained.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Two words: British Rail.

        In case you are not familiar with the British railway system, many many years ago there were a great many companies running railways. In 1923 these were "grouped" into four, and then in 1948 these (technically) private companies were (together with other transport undertakings) nationalised to form the "British Transport Commission", which managed to run increasingly large defecits. In the early 1960s this was abolished and the "British Railways Board" (still in existence despite pr

        • by arkanes ( 521690 ) <arkanes.gmail@com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:36PM (#6097199) Homepage
          There's a similar issue with the rail in the US. Amtrack is (by law) the only non-mass transit passenger rail service. Also by law, Amtrack cannot own track or carry freight. All the freight companies also own the track, and they cannot carry passengers.

          The end result of this is that we don't have high speed passenger rail, because there's no incentive for the companies that own the rail to upgrade it. The same thing would probably have happened with telco - we'd all still be on noisy dialup lines because there's no incentive for them to do the upgrades needed for DSL.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        I worked for Bell Canada in a large office that almost entirely consisted of customer service reps. Training for this position lasted three weeks. The company always stated that it would take 6 months to become completely efficient at the job. Here's the rub--the turnover rate at this office averaged 8 months. Most restaurants have a lower turnover rate than that! This means that, as a percentage, you only have a 25% chance that the person you are dealing with is competent at their job.
        Unfortunately, this i
      • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:44PM (#6097300) Homepage
        The reason why customer service sucks is because price is a quantitative tangible measurement and customer service is not. Generally speaking, people don't compare customer service when they shop, they compare price. Therefore, in order to be more competitive, companies have tended toward cutting customer service in an effort to reduce costs.

        It's been interesting though to see how the overall reduction in customer service standards has given openings to some companies. Here in Chicago, a new cell service came into town trumpeting that they have award winning customer service. Whether there service is actually good or not, I cannot say, but it does suggest that, in a market with consistently bad customer service, it can be used as a competitive differentiator.

        Now, as this applies to the local phone market, it looks likely that it will soon become an uncompetitive market. Here in Illinois, they recently passed legislation to allow SBC to change the rates they charge the CLEC's. I expect to be seeing my DSL bills skyrocket as a result.
        • It's been interesting though to see how the overall reduction in customer service standards has given openings to some companies. Here in Chicago, a new cell service came into town trumpeting that they have award winning customer service.

          Remember, just because you win awards for customer service, it doesn't mean you are good. Battlefield Earth [imdb.com] won seven awards [razzies.com] so technically it is an award-winning movie too.

    • I disagree...

      In Michigan, before the breakup of AT&T, we used to say "Ma Bell sucks".

      Then we said, "Michigan Bell sucks!"

      Then we said, "Gads! Ameritech REALLY sucks bad!"

      Then we said, "SBC can blow me." and we all went wireless. ;)
    • It's true, there is no company I hate with such ferocity and venom (ignoring microsoft) as Verizon. I have never had such rude, apathetic, outright incompentant customer service as with verizon. You'd think they felt as if they really didn't have to WORK to get you as a customer. Uh wait...they don't! It takes 3 weeks to get a phone installed, and don't you dare try and do it within hailing distance of any minor holiday.

      Then because I was so furious about the shitty DSL service they provide, I switched to
    • by Theatetus ( 521747 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:04PM (#6096886) Journal

      And, unfortunately, suckage is not a zero-sum system.

      Brill (yeah, I know, just bear with me) had a neat idea about conglomerate corporations. He was dealing specifically with media but it seems to apply to telco, too. He called it "antergy".

      Generally whenever you get a company as large as Verizon, they talk about "synergy", meaning that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They believe in the second law of suckodynamics, which states that delta suck ~ 1 / delta size.

      Brill, OTOH, has pointed to several examples of antergy, where the whole is less than the sum of its parts (for example, ABC news refuses to run bad stories about Disney, but will cover Britney Spears' every move). This seems to be the alternate second law of suckodynamics, delta suck ~ delta size (there's an even more pessimistic version, which is simply that for any epsilon, delta suck >= 0).

      Verizon in particular, I think, is a living monument to antergy, and a shining testament to the fact that Bell got broken up the wrong way. Rather than making several regional monopolies, what we need is publicly owned infrastructure and completely open competition for any companies that want to supply service on that infrastructure.

      IANAA, but it sounds like maybe that's what the Aussies need too

  • Verizon (Score:5, Informative)

    by JSmooth ( 325583 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:53AM (#6096281)
    Similiar horror stories here but on a much grander scale. My part of the world (Rural Massachusetts) had limited high speed options for businesses. T1 from Verizon started at $750.00 for the line (ISP was extra). Then the city fathers, etc. got together and convinced Global Crossing to come in (before they went belly up). Now T1 with internet from GC at most $500.00. Long Distance was cheap, etc. However, the last mile was still Verizon lines. Right before GC came in a customer order and had installed a verizon T1 in less than 8 business days. For the same service under Verizon (A subcontractor) that service can take MONTHS).

    Fact of life, those who have don't want to share.
    • Re:Verizon (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Audacious ( 611811 )
      I didn't have any problem reading your message. I guess Lord Greystroke hasn't left the jungle yet.

      From where I sit (ie: Unemployed but looking) there are several problems with the way in which things are going now-a-days.

      First, America is converting from a Democracy to a Capitalistic state. The difference between the two is in a Democracy the government is of, by, and for the people. In a Capitalistic state the government is out to make as much money as it can, however it can. Even if it has to tramp
      • America is converting from a Democracy to a Capitalistic state.

        The United States is Representative Republic, not a Democracy. I agree with all your other points.

  • SO.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cackmobile ( 182667 )
    When the government sells the rest, which they will soon, will they be a nice helpfull company. I doubt it.

    Also anyone think its wrong for govs to sell off a asset of the state which affects future generations with out referendum etc.
    • Re:SO.... (Score:3, Funny)

      by gerf ( 532474 )

      Also anyone think its wrong for govs to sell off a asset of the state which affects future generations with out referendum etc

      Not really. Deregulation doesn't require any kind of specific public approval, as far as i'm concerned. Heck, i bought a 200mhz pentium, with monitor, hdd, everything for $5 bucks the other week. They didn't have any need for referendum for that. I have NO problem with the gov't selling stuff, especially cheaply, and to me.

      If the gov't never sold anything, simply because it's

      • Re:SO.... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by arkanes ( 521690 ) <arkanes.gmail@com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:40PM (#6097251) Homepage
        Selling off stuff is one thing, selling off public assets, like public land or (especially) monopoly rights is altogether different.
        • Re:SO.... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @05:16PM (#6100622) Homepage Journal
          But , don't you remember?
          They sold off telstra not "for the children!" , but "for the environment!"

          So they got a few billion dollars for half of Telstra. Great. What happens in ten years time when than money's gone? Why, sell the other half! And then? Ooops, no more assets to sell. Telstra pretty much was the last major valuable asset the Australian Gov't had.

          Once they sell them, there's no buying them back. Soon after they'll say "No, you can't have a phone in outer BumFuck, it's too far away from any regional centres of note and it's just not *cost effective* for us. Sorry. Here, try a HF radiotelephone instead."

          As far as I'm concerned, certain things should be government owned simply because they provide a service to the people that is too important to worry about the cost, which is what private companies do.

  • by presearch ( 214913 ) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:53AM (#6096288)
    If there's any aspect of customer service that is seen as a "benefit" in the
    US telecom industry, it's is perceived as a system fault and an unnecessary
    expense, corrected immediately, and the cost to eliminate the benefit is added as
    a surcharge on your bill. The stock price rises .01% and the top execs all get a
    1 Mil bonus for the quarter for cost containment.
  • I'd like to know whether full de-regulation of the telecommunication industry in the United States has benefited customer service

    HA! customer service improving....now that's a laugh....
  • by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <xaxxon@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:54AM (#6096303) Homepage
    The guy lives more than 5 km from the local exchange, which is supposedly their rule for qualifying people for DSL.

    He tried to get service with another ISP and was rejected because he was more than 5km from the exchange.

    He then tried using their service and was accepted (for unknown reasons -- apparently some sort of favoritism for their own service). It worked fine, even though it was supposedly too far away.

    He complained that they were giving themselves special treatment.

    They said "Well, you're beyond our limit, and since you're demanding equal, fair, and consistent rules, we're turning you off."

    I mean.. he really got what he asked for. He shouldn't have ever been qualified for DSL service (and the fact that he was shows something sneaky is probably going on), but they really solved it correctly by shutting him off.
    • It varies [dslreports.com] depending on the telco and type of service. Generally you can get ADSL out to 17500 feet (about 5300 meters). Depending on the conditions of the specific line you can go farther than the given limits, or not quite as far. But telcos don't want to exceed the limits they give because it usually causes them support issues.
    • That is misinformation. The user only got his Telstra ADSL connection because Telstra didn't want him to complain [whirlpool.net.au] to Australia's Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). Such complaints generate automatic fines against Telstra, whether or not the telco is at fault.

      And indeed he did retract his complaint to the TIO, instead, he just released his story to the media.

      Cheers
      Simon Wright
      whirlpool.net.au
      • That is misinformation. The user only got his Telstra ADSL connection because Telstra didn't want him to complain to Australia's Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

        I don't get that from the article you linked or from the original story's article. The way it reads to me is that he complained to the TIO because Telstra denied him service for iiNet but approved him for Bigpond, so he felt that Telstra was giving an unfair advantage to Bigpond on the line quality check.

        However, the original stor
    • Nah, nothing sneaky, I figure they know it might work father than 5 km from the exchange, but it doesn't always. And not always reads 'no' for any big company, because you're fucked if you promise things you can't make true.
      I'm sure Telstra are a bunch of idiots on a rope, but this, as you also say, is hitting them with the wrong stick. They acted fairly logical on this one.
  • by rushfan ( 209449 ) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:54AM (#6096305) Homepage Journal
    I have SBC, so YMMV.

    I called them to get DSL when I moved (within Cali). I went to DSLReports.com and saw where the CO is and how far away I am. I called SBC -- They told me I'm too far for DSL (yeah, right, I'm like 1/3 the max distance).

    So, I called Covad (who uses SBC's last-mile line) and got 1.5/384 with them. SBC's customer service doesn't know what they are doing, and what's worse is they don't really care to know.

    Their office hours are horrible (I mean, most huge non-monopolies have 24hr customer service), you can't phone in a payment easily, if you get online billing, you don't get a paper bill anymore.

    And the sad part is they seem to be on par with all the other baby-bells.

    Just my rants on my local phone monopoly and they
    're lame customer service....

    (although AT&T's local phone customer service is 10 times worse from what I hear)

    - Rushdan
    • by rworne ( 538610 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:15AM (#6096474) Homepage
      I had the opposite experience. I called Covad and they told me my nearest exchange was 50 miles away.

      The funny thing is I live in Los Angeles, 50 miles in any direction would take me completely out of of the city.

      I called them and tried to let them know of their mistake and they refused to listen. I gave them the location of the exchange (about 1.5 miles away) they said the distance didn't matter, it was the length of the wire between them and my house. I agreed and stated that if the exchange was 1.5 miles away, how exactly did they run the phone lines to my house? Did they spiral them in? They had no answer for that, but said they and their computer don't make mistakes and it was impossible to get ADSL service.

      I called up Verizon later that afternoon, they verified that I was about 1.5 miles away and qualified me for every level of service.

      I explained my dealings with Covad, and the rep at Verizon laughed and told me Covad colocates their equipment in the same building. They also laughed at the 50 mile distance and told me if that was the case, they would be suprised if my phone worked at all.

      That's a crapload of customers being passed over and handed to the regional Bells because of stupidity on the part of Covad. Because of that, I have little sympathy for them.

      As for customer service, I leave them alone (I run my own mail and web servers) and they leave me alone (I have a business DSL account, so servers are allowed). An excellent arrangement for the two of us. All they provide is a reliable pipe to send/receive data.
  • by moehoward ( 668736 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:55AM (#6096307)
    Wireless is the only way out of this mess. I have a wireless high-speed connection. It is a fine piece of technology. As soon as QOS issues are resolved for the long term, I'll put my phone service on it full time as well via VOIP.

    This is not the phone companys' fault. By "this", I mean this whole mess of line and plant ownership. I can definitely see their point of view. At the same time, I can see the point of view of those who want to use that public(?) infrastructure to roll out their own services. I just don't see these issues with the lines and plants being solved any time in the next 15 years.

    Wireless solves many problems. I know there are scalability issues, but I think these will be solved. QOS is another issue as compared to hard wire, but this will get resolved as well.
    • Wrong wrong wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swb ( 14022 )
      Wireless isn't the solution to anything. As soon as wireless vendors ramp up to userbases approaching the normal telco world, expect increased regulation (in addition to the spectrum regulation and local tower-size/placement hurdles) at the local level as well.

      Of course, being government regulated is only half the problem, the rest is the problem associated with customer service generally, which is falling to abyssmal levels overall. I remember when you could get a remote circuit test of a residential PO
    • A coworker of mine has been completely fed up with the service, price, and general ill will that Verizon has shown him in his new home that only can get phone service through Verizon at this point in time. So he began looking into alternatives: wireless, calling cards, and finally, VoIP. He went with Vonage [vonage.com] as his new VoIP phone service provider, and signed up for broadband from TimeWarner at the same time.

      Having heard of Vonage before, as most of you have, I was interested to find out what his experience
      • If you're not at home during the day, a $40/month cellphone plan should have plenty of minutes to replace your landline, especially with the extra night and weekend minutes. There's no reason to get a landline phone if you have cable modem service. Unfortunately, you can't get DSL without a phone line from the ILEC.
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <splisken06.email@com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:55AM (#6096310)
    which works because we've declared that is doesn't work and we can't have facts contradicting our official policy. Furthermore, your informing people of this unfortunate situation directly violated our "Don't ever say anything we dislike" agreement, quite prominent in the EULA you would have seen if the service had worked which it never did, despite the fact that it did.
  • dereg = marketing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scrotch ( 605605 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:56AM (#6096315)
    In my opinion, deregulation has led mostly to the development of marketing.

    I've seen no improvements in customer service, billing accuracy or service. I have seen thousands of advertisements, marketing gimmicks and 'unbeatable deals.' Telemarketing and junk mail from telephone, mobile phone and internet service companies are at an all time high for me. It is no easier to get accurate information about services. It is nearly impossible to compare services between providers and find any appreciable differences. You can easily find numerous claims that one service is better than the rest and will change your life - with no evidence beyond the new ring tones you can get for your mobile phone.
    • You can easily find numerous claims that one service is better than the rest and will change your life - with no evidence beyond the new ring tones you can get for your mobile phone.

      The marketers are going after the mass audience. Most people really don't care whether their phone is 3G or how fast it will browse pr0n and display it on screen. They are little sheep who are wowed by bells and whistles like ring tones and silly full-color games on their phone. Aside from those sorts of things, most people

    • There is usually not much of a difference because usually there is not and difference in who owns the infastructure. It's all about price and to tell you the honest truth that is all the average consumer cares about.

      Most people who are oput shopping for that sort of thing don't ever plan to run anactual server off it, not do they even know the difference between a static or dynamic IP address. Even discussing speeds all the know is the bigger the number the better, and even that is pretty much uniform.

      All
    • Imagine how things would have been with the old state monopoly still in place.

      I remember the days when Holland had a state monopoly telco. We weren't allowed to hook up our own phones, we had to rent them from the PTT. They had a choice of about 6 phones. Making a new extension in your home? Nono, you have to get the PTT guy to do it. Voicemail, call waiting, toll-free numbers? Forget it! Top that with outrageous rates for international calling. Oh, and it wasn't that the technology for some of t
  • by Gorm the DBA ( 581373 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:56AM (#6096316) Journal
    One effect it has had is significantly increasing the difference in service levels between Urban and Rural communities.

    For example, DSL Service. Deregulation has made it so that is exceptionally profitable (well...okay...maybe) for DSL services to be offered in Urban Centers, so that there are many competing companies offering service. On the other hand, live just 250 feet past the City Limits (as I do), and there are zero, none, nadda, companies willing to have the service go to you.

    I'm beginning to wonder if we don't need a Telecommunications version of the Tennessee Valley Authority. For the American History Impaired, the TVA was created during the Depression to bring electricity to Appalachia, and other rural regions, and it accomplished it's goal of extending the grid to virtually everyone in America. Something similar could/should be done to encourage cooperatives or the like for Internet bandwidth.

    • I've already been trying to get something of this sort started locally, but their are more hurdles to jump going this route then if the local 'last mile' line holder would do it... & recent decisions by the national gov haven't been helping...
    • I would disagree. Living in the center of London, a huge number of costs are far higher based on increased demand for limited space. The obvious example is property prices, which are up to 10 times higher than in rural areas, but almost all my other services, from car insurance to school fees all suffer as a result.

      Yet for some services, this centralisation should result in lower costs. For gas, electricity, water etc, a service provider can run one bundle of pipes, lines etc down the center of the road an
      • Your point is valid, except for one thing.

        Unfettered deregulation creates too many areas where *noone* is willing to provide service, because they believe it to be uneconomic (or at least, insufficiently profitable to justify their expenses).

        That's why a TVA sort of solution could work. If noone wants to undertake the fixed costs of building the infrastructure for profit, then a non-profit, subsidized organization is given the task, and expected to recoup their expenses by charging for the service.

        • Yes, this may be true for essential services such as electricity and water, but should providers have to subsidise rural areas from city profits, as happens across the world at present?

          The problem seems to be that vendors are still stuck in a pricing model from the 1920's. With a decent geographic information system coupled to a pricing database, I sould be able to get my services at the cost it costs the provder to service me plus a standard profit percentage.

          I am forever reading about medium sized town
  • Hahahah (Score:4, Funny)

    by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:57AM (#6096320)
    Deregulation, improved customer service. No way! Customer Service sucks. Deregulation has improved pricing and available features.

    "We're the phone company. We don't have to care."
  • I'd like to know whether full de-regulation of the telecommunication industry in the United States has benefited customer service and also what effect it has had on providing innovative services. "

    Basically, I'd say that customer service has gone into the toilet, while innovative services have been rolling out - maybe not as quickly as some would like, but progress is being made. The problem is that in the rush to get new products into the marketplace and sieze the high ground, customer service has been
  • by Night Goat ( 18437 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:58AM (#6096336) Homepage Journal
    I recently signed up for phone and DSL service from a local ISP, SoverNet. [sover.net] They said I'd have service within three weeks. Which is crazy anyway, that's a hell of a long time! But I figured, fine, the price was right and Verizon was asking for the same amount of a wait. SoverNet gives me a due date, it comes, I still have no phone. I call them, and they say that Verizon does all the actual work on the lines because they own them. They were supposed to come to my house, but for some reason they did not, and no reason was given. SoverNet says that there's nothing they can do, considering that they're a small, local company and Verizon is a "Baby Bell" with tons of money and lawyers behind them. They are under no obligation to actually do the work that they're contracted out to do. Since I wasn't going to be paying them any money, (going through a different provider) what's the hurry in setting me up with a phone line? And SoverNet said that I wasn't an isolated case, that they've been having trouble getting Verizon to show up and do the work they're supposed to do. At the moment, I still have no phone service at my house.

    In conclusion, I feel that the government is who should own the phone infrastructure. Deregulating doesn't really work because the owners of the lines can still use their muscle to squash the competitors.
    • This is an excellent point.

      An office I worked for had this problem. Phone service was through one provider, who didn't own the lines and sub-contracted the equipment to another company. So there were three parties (four if you include the building maintenance people). Problems would last for weeks while the blame got shifted from one company to the next. It was a nightmare of unaccountability.
    • by Finni ( 23475 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:16AM (#6096477)
      The government doesn't need to own the phone lines - there is recourse already. Threaten Verizon - tell them you're going to call the DPUC. Dpeartment of Public Utilities Commission.

      Or maybe call the DPUC first, THEN call Verizon, depending on what the DPUC says. You'll have service faster than you can say "Attorney General."

      • Hell yes! I'm definitely calling the DPUC. Thanks for the info. I had been trying to figure out a good way to get some revenge on Verizon, now I have it. My roommate suggested spray painting my assigned phone number on their building, which is funny, but I'd like to stay on the good side of the law here. Thanks again.
      • Slightly OT but T to the parent.

        The city was doing sewer work in front of the house and they cleared off about 60 feet of frontage which took out a ton of trees, etc. One day we get an agreement handed to us saying "Sign here so we (the construction company) are not liable for any damage caused by the power generator."

        It turns out they were going to take down the power lines fo a day in front of the house to get the equipment underneath and they offered to let us use a generator, but there was a risk of a
    • I had essentially the same experience with Ameritech (a Baby Bell of the Mid West). I had Ameritech DSL for a while, but the service sucked and the customer service was attrocious. Not only did it take a month to get service, I caught a manager lying to me about calling my roomate to arrange an installation time. I eventually went with a Covad DSL reseller. Covad had excellent techs and customer support in my opinion, but they still had to use Ameritech's line. Same result: it took a month for Ameritec
  • Canada ... eh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SirLeNerd ( 21841 )
    I think you'll see these sort of problems anywhere you go. I live in Alberta whose encumbant Telco (Telus) was formally government owned (AGT). Getting access to the infrastruce has also proven difficult for others trying to get into the *DSL game. One ISP in Calgary (Cadvision) put up quite a stink about the whole fair access thing. Eventually they were bought by Telus anyways. Governing bodies trying to ensure equal access may try (CRTC ... don't get me started on this one) but the encumbant usually
  • by Quixotic Raindrop ( 443129 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:59AM (#6096346) Journal
    I'd like to know whether full de-regulation of the telecommunication industry in the United States has benefited customer service and also what effect it has had on providing innovative services.
    So would we Americans.

    Telecommunication deregulation in the US has had little impact on the customer service arena, in my experience. When US West was our provider, we called their support services US Worst: they were even worse than phone support for Macintosh users from online banking call centers. Then, they got bought by QWest, and they got even worse.

    As for innovative services, I'd say that the dereg has had some positive impact on innovative services: you can buy some DSL connections without the local bell, but only sometimes. It's forced me to abandon my landline phone for cell-only access, which works mostly because cell phone competition is pretty good (probably a positive result of dereg).
  • by Amadaeus ( 526475 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:04AM (#6096391) Homepage
    There must be a clear distinction made between deregulation and delegation.

    In many cases around the world, including Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan (Not sure about the US, someone can clarify), xDSL service may be delegated to a 3rd party to eliminate some of the burden on the call centres of the larger Telcos, although the backbone, routing equipment, and in some cases even consumer equipment, remain property of the Telcos. When delegation exist, there is little the consumer can do but put up with the hot air and incompetence of these big, monopolistic telcos. The reason why these "delegated" smaller agents have as poor a service as their larger counterparts because they have NO incentive to put a smile on their face. The consumer prices are just the same, the costs incurred by smaller companies to the large Telcos are at parity, and consumers choose whatever they hear is best from their best friend's neighbour's dog.

    In very VERY small cases where true deregulation exist and competing organizations can lay their own fibre-optic lines to serve the community, prices are driven down and service improves drastically.

    Such is the price of false deregulation.
  • Not in the US but.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Roadmaster ( 96317 ) <roadmr@nOsPam.tomechangosubanana.com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:04AM (#6096392) Homepage Journal
    IN the early 90's, Mexico's formerly state-owned telephone company, Telmex, was privatised. Previous to this process, service was abysmal, as befits any government branch; you could expect to wait 3 months for a new phone line, technology lagged behind by a big margin, customer attention at offices was pathetic with queues of 100's of people.


    After it got privatised, things improved significantly for customers, but that's because they were so bad, they had no place to go but up (improvement). With private capital infussion, Telmex modernized its technology, hired more and more competent staff, and started offering new services. This sounds good, however it's really not.


    The problem when you privatise something like this is that you get an "instant monopoly", and that's what Telmex is. With 95% market share for land lines, over 50% long-distance, and 70% cell phone share, all competitors face an uphill battle, plus they also have to depend on Telmex's infrastructure to provide their services. Telmex owns the land line infrastructure and, as such, is the only provider of ADSL service, leaving all other competitors at a serious disadvantage.


    All in all, it would appear to be a bad idea to do this; a possible option would have been to sell the former state-owned company in parts, to avoid having a single point of control. Another would be having better government controls over the company (right now the federal telecommunications commision, COFETEL, is basically a puppet, unable to put telmex in check for their anticompetitive behavior). Because right now it looks like all competitors will eventually be out of business, either by bankruptcy or giving up on competing with a monopoly such as Telmex, and then the Telmex will probably have no incentive to keep innovating, which so far has been the only positive consequence of the privatisation. (ok, and they now install new phone lines in an average of 10 days)

  • Customer Service? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:06AM (#6096410)
    I can't say it's done wonders. I was pretty young when they broke up the government monopoly into the baby bells.

    Our region is/was run by Ameritech, now gobbled into SBC and has fought off competition pretty well, while trying to increase it's own competition.

    If I am to believe the stories I hear, customer service is considerably degraded.

    There really isn't much incentive to roll out new services by the local market leader. They own the lines and extract substantial toll from any who wish to compete. I have yet to really find an incumbent provider stepping out to give me modern services quickly.

    2 years ago I was on ISDN, and unable to get DSL from anybody ("lack of electronics...yada yada"). I shopped for months for something better than my $130/month for ISDN.

    Finally, I was able to get a quote for "Business Class Internet Cable" from the local incumbent cable company. They still wouldn't sell me personal cable internet service. I then took the quote up to a local executive and asked why only business service was available (it took some work to find him). The next day, they called to offer me residental service.

    Four months later, DSL became available. So the marketers say "competition works." Unfortuneately, it works REALLY SLOW with getting big companies to move and really fast at killing the small ones.

    I'm not reall privy to the details of how the telco's run their interoperability these days. But it's taken a long time (as in just last year) to get any seemingly meaningful competition for basic phone service. As for Internet connectivity--we wish there was.

    As long as the incumbent local/regional monopoly-like carriers have no financial incentive to roll out new services or cut rates, we only see things continue as they have with higher rates.

    I moved in the past year, and now I have two options again--ISDN or local incumbent cable. I don't forsee any change in the next two years, except seeing my bills go up at the whims of the local competive monopoly.

    I generally try not to make them upset, as it would cause me to suffer. (The cowardly way: Take the package and be silent or at least anonymous about the evil DSL methods.")
  • One Bell System - it works
    $ _

  • > I'd like to know whether full de-regulation of the
    > telecommunication industry in the United States
    > has benefited customer service and also what
    > effect it has had on providing innovative
    > services.

    The telecommunication industry in the United States is far from fully de-regulated.
  • I'd like to know whether full de-regulation of the telecommunication industry in the United States has benefited customer service and also what effect it has had on providing innovative services.

    Canada telco have been partly deregulate. I say partly because there is still ton of regulation. The only place where I could see that this profited customer is long-distance charges but even that is going up again. IMHO, my telco (Bell Canada) have the worst customer service of all the utility I have to dea

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:13AM (#6096459) Homepage Journal
    they own a lot of the infrastructure which has been paid with by taxpayers money

    If you're not going to go all the way to clan-based anarcho-capitalism [clanarchy.com] then at least have the decency to admit that in return for the service of protecting property rights against acts of war or crime, including any form of force and fraud, government should tax net assets, in excess of levels typically protected under personal bankruptcy, at a rate equal to the rate of interest on the national debt, thereby eliminating other forms of taxation [clanarchy.com].

  • He got it in writing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by solman ( 121604 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:14AM (#6096465)
    He's got a written letter from Telstra which states that they entered a settlement agreement and lays out the terms of that agreement.

    What is to prevent him from walking into court and obtaining damages?

    Does Austrailia have small claims court and automatic damage multipliers for consumer fraud like in the US?
  • DSL in the US (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Torinaga-Sama ( 189890 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:16AM (#6096480) Homepage
    DSL has been a total crapshoot since its inception. Some people get it and never have a problem with it (most people in the first two or so miles. When things get stretched to their limits though is when things get wonky.

    Things are always ugly when you have vendors working with other vendors. As anyone who has any concept of how a good customer service relationship should work knows, the customer is almost always wrong about facts and always right when with regards to their opinion. For the most part a company's structure is a total mystery to the customer. Now, when you are an ISP who has a customer and you are providing them a service that you, yourself only have a small amount of control over and you in turn become the customer of another company (or as was the case when I would ISP tech support, a lot of other companies) things tend to get a little confused, not only for you but also for your customer. You have to spend a great deal of time trying to figure out who to contact for what as well as a lot of time trying to ascertain whether or not there is anything you can do on your end to make the problem disappear.

    In other words, it's a clusterfuck (if you will pardon my foul lingo). So deregulation, while good for the average businessman, is not necessarily so good for the consumer.

    I personally feel that the nature of this technology makes it a poor choice for the average Joe User (userj?) in this country. There are too many factors that make it a poor choice for a non techie (example PPPOE, distance variations, cordless phones, multiple vendors, lamps, the tides, wind direction, sunspots, liver spots, etc). Cable is by far the better choice for our geography and our average level of intelligence and patience.
    • It's always interesting to hear another point of view.

      I personally feel that the nature of this technology makes it a poor choice for the average Joe User (userj?) in this country. There are too many factors that make it a poor choice for a non techie (example PPPOE, distance variations, cordless phones, multiple vendors, lamps, the tides, wind direction, sunspots, liver spots, etc). Cable is by far the better choice for our geography and our average level of intelligence and patience.

      For over a year no
      • I have never had to deal with Comcast, so I cannot speak for that. The jsut bought my old provider (ATTBI), but my city [cityoftacoma.org] is wired to the gills and is capable of providing cable internet to everyone with in city limits. I could get comcast if I really wanted it (they offer a plan that is 3/512 which makes my mouth water) bu I don't really want to deal with a big business if I don't have to.

        The thing that you have to remember with Comcast is that even IF if you could get cable from somewhere else they still o
  • two letters: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crhylove ( 205956 )
    one word:

    no.

    deregulation just means some company got the government/populous votes to outright steal what taxpayer money paid to create.

    take a look at california's energy history in conjunction with the bank roll of current republican "elected" campaign financing, and the whole vile pile of snakes becomes pretty clear.

    oh, and haliburton also gets the contracts to rebuild iraq, despite their ties to enron.

    nice.

    rhy
  • by @madeus ( 24818 ) <slashdot_24818@mac.com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:27AM (#6096576)
    British Telecom pull the same kind of dirty tricks in the UK.

    I had a friend try to get Easynet ADSL - BT still do the end user installs and testing, they said his line quality was too poor.

    So he phoned BT to come round and do an ADSL install for BT's own BT OpenWorld install, which they did.

    He then logged on to his BT supplied ADSL router (via their web based interface) and simply put in his Easynet authentication details and he was instantly routed through Easynet (I actually watched him do this, and saw it worked fine).

    He called BT and obtained a full refund for his BT service (on the grounds they are lying weasles).

    There service (even commercial ADSL) is awful in any case, they do all sorts of rate limiting and obvious firewalling and stupid routing tricks (even on coporate accounts with externally accessible IP's!) and then lie about it for months. They denied flat out rate limiting P2P clients, until hordes of P2P users got together, did network through put reports and went public with it (thus forcing BT to admit they had been lying to comsumers).

    At another company, I worked on a software development contract where they broke our routing for two weeks due to a routing loop are were too utterly stupid to admit there service was broken, even though of other users in the same subnet were effected and I sent them endless trace routes.

    Once they refused to open a ticket because 'routing loop' was not a valid fault type in their help desk software!

    The next time I complained it turned out they simply closed right away without saying anything or getting in touch (after pretending it was still open for days, which I later was told was not true, by BT) - it was closed with the comment - 'insufficent data supplied'!

    They had a routing loop for two weeks, I'd sent traceroutes, time and date stamped for the last four days, they have source, destination, time, and the two addresses on their network that were looping the traffic, as well as a working traceroute to the destiation via another provider, what did they want me to do? Log on to their router and fix it for them?

    In response I sent them a URL to a technical article on 'How to trouble shoot BGB routing loops on a Cisco router', just to make a point.

    Anyway, ultimately, the company I was working for refused to pay for the service, BT sent a nasty leagal letter back, saying they'd take the company to court for non payment and said we hadn't reported any faults, and that we were lying. The company I was working for fortunately had kept copies of all correspondance (letters and faxes, as well as emails) and sent an even nastier legal letter back, and untilately secured a grovelling apology from BT (and they were able to cancel the contract).

    They are an utter disgrace and oftel ought to be ashamed of themselves.

    Disclaimer: I now work for Easynet UK, though I didn't at the time of either of these (in fact for the latter I was able to presuade them to swtich to Easynet).
  • Repeat after me "All phone companies are evil, but, some are more evil than others." Yes I know it's a take on Animal Farm's "All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others."

    For example, GTE was one of the most evil phone companies around but then they became Verizon. US West, affectionately referred to as US Worst, is now Qwest, and affectionately referred to as Q-worst.

    I work in an outsourced vendor call center for a low rated wireless carrier. And we do have some of the worst tech
  • True Verizon Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BobGregg ( 89162 ) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:34AM (#6096630) Homepage
    The idea of getting different stories from Baby Bells (or other incumbents) vs. resellers is nothing new. Two years ago when I moved into my townhouse, the prior occupants had had DSL through EarthLink/Covad. Verizon was the local provider, and owned the switches and lines. Covad had the actual DSLAM in my local central office, and EarthLink of course sells service pretty much everywhere in the US, including in my neighborhood. When I tried to order my own DSL service through EarthLink, I was turned down - apprently Verizon told them, "equipment incompatibility". They said maybe my local switch didn't support DSL. I told them that the prior occupants had actually had DSL at my address, but it didn't make any difference; they swore that my line wouldn't support DSL. Later I was told I was too far from the central office, even though I was actually 5000 feet. This went on for some time.

    After several more attempts, as well as going through Covad and calling Verizon directly (which did nothing - they just told me to call Covad), I finally discovered (through a friend that had a back-door into their systems - yes, seriously) that the *real* reason I had been denied service was because when I established local service, Verizon had switched the circuit from my house to the central office from a copper line to a fiber one. No amount of inquiry from EarthLink or Covad, or even my own calls, had been able to get them to tell me this.

    I had Verizon switch my line back to a copper circuit, but even after this, Verizon *still* turned me down for service! That's right - they still told me (and EarthLink) that my line was incompatible. EarthLink finally told me they would not offer me service, even if I could get Verizon to declare my line eligible for DSL. The reason? It cost them $500 dollars per request to Verizon to establish service - I am not making this up, it was a sales VP who told me this. He told me essentially to go away, and try some other GSP. Of course, there *were* no other GSP's - other than Verizon themselves.

    So finally I gave in and called Verizon Online. They too told me that my line was incompatible. When I asked why, I was told that I had a fiber circuit. I told the sales rep that I had had Verizon techs switch my circuit to copper, and they said they believed me, but that their computer systems didn't know that, so they still couldn't take my order. "However," the sales rep told me, "you *could* take your complaint to our Appeals Line".

    Uhh... Appeals Line? What the heck is that?

    Turns out that Verizon Online had encountered these situations before, and had set up an Appeals Line so that customers could have actual techs (rather than sales reps) manually re-evaluate their accounts for DSL service. So... why didn't EarthLink and Covad just do they same thing? "Oh, we don't make that available to our competitors; it's only for our customers."

    In the end, the Appeals department looked at my account, and - shucky-darn, whaddya know! - decided that my line really *was* eligible for DSL after all. And that was that. After 4 months (!!) of trying, I had a DSL account established within a DAY of calling Verizon Online instead of their competitors.

    That's what the FCC calls, "fair competition".

    Of course, that was two years ago. Maybe things have changed... but somehow, I doubt it.

    Bob
  • 3 cent long distance minutes.

    The part of your question regarding the benefits of deregulation is that easily answered. A typical intra-state phone call during business hours was ~28 cents a minute in 1990. Now I can use the latest marketing gimick (pre-paid LD phone cards) and get flat rate 2.99 cents a minute, no connect charge, LD anywhere in the country. Let me state that another way, ten years ago people were paying 9 TIMES as much per minute for their LD. It's worth noting that the break up of the
  • Someone really needs to break up the telecom unions. They ae really fucking it up for everyone. For instance, today..

    For the past 2 weeks, I've had mild static. My filter-based dsl has suffered a bit of on and off. This behavior has happened two or three times before. It usually clears up on its own. Well,

    Last week thursday comes, and my line is useless. Too much static and my DSL keeps losing connection.

    "Verizon, please have someone come and check my line please. Yes, I'll be home monday."

    Mond
  • I live in Texas, which was controlled by SouthWestern Bell now SBC. We all hate SBC. I had my DSL and my phone with them. Every time I word ask them to repair their crappy DSL, they would try to charge my $60 for what they would admit was their problem. After going through this three or four times, I had finally had enough. My sister had had a good experience with Birch Telecom when she set up here business line. I figured they couldn't be any worse than SBC. The first thing I did was call SBC and ca
  • Bearing in mind that Steve Mann had decided to make a fuss, cutting off his service was crassly stupid. Did they think that this would pacify him and so not tell the world, or did they think that this would be like a red rag to a bull ?

    You have got to wonder how little there must between the ears of the Telstra manager that decided this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:48AM (#6096758)

    I'd like to know whether full de-regulation of the telecommunication industry in the United States has benefited customer service and also what effect it has had on providing innovative services.

    No. The industry is now in the process of being regulated again. Many xSP's are in immediate danger of going under. The big Telcos quietly make it impossible for the independants to stay afloat.

    Our government officials are in their back pockets and there is currently a lot of "back room" deals going on between FCC and Verizon, et. al.

    One result is that now the Big telcos will be allowed to jack the equipment and infrastructure leasing as high as they want to. (they say "high enough to be profitable").

    It has not helped the customer service one bit. The small ISP's have great customer service. The big Telcos are still as devious and downright evil as they used to be.

    Example 1:
    4 years ago I signed up for DSL. Long and Short: it didn't work. We tried for 1.5 years. The whole time the telco was charging me for the service with the understanding that I would be re-imbersed once they got it working. I had to keep the account open so they could work on it.

    When the time came for me to cut my losses, they refused to reimberse me, and tacked on $2000 in fees. It took 3 (count them THREE) distinct Better Business Bureau cases to get my money back. Each time it was "oh yeah that is off your bill now", next cycle it would be back. Funny, the Better Business Bureau still says it has 0 information on Verizon, despite my 3 documented cases, which I won, all of which prove that Verizon is nothing but a predatory mega-corporation. They are organized crime in it's purist form.

    At one point I was told by a Verizon customer service rep:
    "You will pay for this. You are just like the rest of them, trying to get something for nothing. You disgust me."

    The service NEVER worked! I never transferred the first packet through that DSL line. This was verified by their own engineers.

    Example 2:
    Last week my wife signs up for the Verizon unlimited long distance plan.

    She called them to sign up for this plan, they went over a bunch of stuff and finished up with the rep telling her, and I quote:
    "Ok mrs. xxx, everything is in order. You can start using your new long distance plan in 24 hours".

    24 hours later I start dialing my cousin in San Francisco, from the east cost... then it hits me.

    "Check your account status..." my internal alarm voice shouts.

    Not only does the service not start within 24 hours, the account rep hadn't even signed us up! I called back, found this out, and signed up for the plan. The new rep tells me it doesn't start until the next billing cycle. You had better believe I will go through the same drill before using the service.

    My point is, if I had just started using it and gotten a $600 phone bill, do you think they would have entertained the notion that the rep had given us bad information? No, I would have been screwed. They tried to steal from me again, as far as I am concerned. I was there when my wife signed up. I know she did it and how. I was listening.

    Moral: Big Telcos in the US have gotten worse since deregulation. Now they are shutting the small telcos down, so it can only get worse. They do everything except reach into your pants to take your money. If I wasn't such a bulldog, I would have $4000 STOLEN by them from me in less than 4 years. The Mafioso and Russian Mob could probably learn something about doing crimes from Verizon.

    I am not optimistic.

    l8,
    AC
  • I'd like to know whether full de-regulation of the telecommunication industry in the United States has benefited customer service ...

    We'd all like to know what full deregulation would bring. We're still waiting for full deregulation of telecom here in the US. You'll be able to recognize it when it happens. Full deregulation will mean that anybody will be able to offer any kind of service to anyone, anywhere, any time, any way, WITHOUT going to the FCC, state utility boards, usw. That hasn't happened

  • I had a long 3 month ordeal back and forth with verizon. The salespeole, and the cancellation department kept assuring me that I would be able to get service, and the service never came on. They cancelled the order 6 times and re-submitted it, sending me 2 modems and connections kits, after all of that they said that for some unknown reason I couldn't get service, and assured me that a manager would get back to me. No calls. no service. They suck. If I were this guy, I'd have been counting my digital b
  • by MrM ( 169109 )
    Is that like when the farmer has a bull "service" the cow?

  • IT has gotten better, at least from my perspective.
    I remember when you had to stand in line for hours just to lease a phone, yes lease you couldn't own a phone at the time.
    Now you can own your phone.
    Then I remember what a nightmare it was if you had to go down to the office for any reason. The last time I was there I was in and out in 15 minutes.
    WHen I had an issue with my connection, Verizon sent people to my house twice. The second time the guy hooked a laptop to the phone lines and called another ISP to
  • Telestra probably still has the mind set of a govermental agency. It looks like privatization is not working to well. Testra is only partialy privatised. Its effectivly a "For Profit", publicaly traded, Governmantal Agency. I don't think this a workable combination. Thats too bad. I tend to be a Libertarian ( for those not familiar with US politics, Libertarians like vary small, modular government). Between this and some resent events in the US, it seems that gradual de-governmentation is difficult to impos
  • by Asprin ( 545477 )

    I decided a long time ago that when I finally snap and turn to the dark side in a megalomaniacal frustration-induced rage solely bent on world domination, that I'm taking "The Phone Company" out first.

    For the long-standing monopolistic pattern of deception, lies stupidity and fraud, they are ALL undeniably and unquestionably at the VERY TOP of my poop list.

    I hate them more than mosquitos.
    I hate them more than Michael Douglas.
    I hate them more than MS Open Licensing 6.0.
    I hate them more than the xx
  • Deregulation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) <Satanicpuppy@gma ... m minus caffeine> on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:04PM (#6096881) Journal
    Remember what the word "Deregulation" means. It means no government controls. Ask anyone from California if they think deregulating their power industry was a good idea.

    Government is bulky and bloated, but there really isn't any incentive for screwing people on public service costs. Private enterprise is technically leaner and more efficient, but they have a whole slew of new costs (Marketing, of course, top of the list), and they have no reason not to screw the consumers. That's what capitalism is all about.

    Now, theoretically, competition will even all this stuff out and get you the best service for the lowest price, but I've never seen it happen here in the real world.

    All this being said, it's the worst of all worlds to have a business that's half regulated and half free. You get all the negatives and none of the positives.

    Just my opinion.
  • Telstra own most DSLAMs and can reach many more exchanges than anyone else. Optus [optus.com.au] have DSLAMs in Perth's Wellington Street exchange and presumably corresponding coverage in other states, and RUCC [rucc.net.au] have a few DSLAMs scattered about (more than Optus, far fewer than Telstra).

    Any DSL through Telstra is unreliable, but it seems that the DSL they on-sell through other ISPs is even less reliable than the Telstra-end-to-end flavour. Just a coincidence, of course.

    Telstra have this really bizarre way of authenticat

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