AT&T just installed fiber to my house. It’s fast. I get a steady 949 Mbps up and down. I had no complaints about the 160 Mbps/14 Mbps I was getting from Cox, but my inner geek couldn’t say no to faster-for-the-same-price.
The install was pretty smooth, but during the bumps, I would type nonsense URLs in to see if things were working. Most of the domains actually existed, but when I hit something that wasn’t live, I got the AT&T-branded page telling me the page I’m looking for isn’t available. Well, it said that somewhere within the mess of ads. Call it what you will, it’s DNS hijacking. Amazingly, AT&T allows users to opt-out of “this service”. But some ISPs don’t.
End ISP DNS Hijacking
Before I noticed that opt-out, I took a minute to update my Redirector settings appropriately. No more AT&T DNS hijacking. (I’d previously used it to prevent Cox from hijacking my DNS).
It works in FireFox, Chrome, and Opera, and Redirector is good for more than stopping DNS hijacking. It’s a versatile browser usability enhancer.
Use Redirector to Help Your Favorite Charity
I don’t have a car, and I loathe shopping, so I regularly shop with Amazon for things I can’t get by foot or on my bike. I made a valiant effort to remember to use Amazon’s Smile program special URLs to help my favorite charity (Death With Dignity National Centers,) but I’d usually forget. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.
I didn’t want to leave those easy donations on the table, so I searched for something that could remember for me. Enter Redirector. Now, every time I click an amazon link, or type amazon.com into my browser, I’m taken to the smile.amazon.com version of that page, instead.
I’ve uploaded an image of my Redirector settings at the bottom of this post in case you too want to more frequently, passively donate to your fave cause, or if you want to stop your ISP from hijacking your DNS. It’s easy. For the latter, you can use the same DNS hijacking forwarding URL I use, or copy the PHP snippet from that page.
Because it’s still relevant, I’ll leave my initial robocall fix idea below. But I’ve had some time to think about robocalls for a few years and I have a better idea.
Charge for every call.
Find some amount. I’d like to make it high, like a penny. One measly cent. But others have arguments to make it smaller, like a tenth of a cent. Either way, making the origination of a call actually cost something would be a game-changer. It would help to stop spam. At scale, even a tenth of a cent is daunting.
If the cost itself wasn’t an effective barrier, the potential to follow the money would maybe scare some spammers off.
Anyhow. I’ll leave my late-2019 addition there. On to the original idea from 6+ years ago.
In early November I received my umpteenth call from Rachel at cardholder services. A few years ago I wasted time filing FTC reports on these jokers in a wholly ineffective effort to thwart their incessant nagging. Of late I’ve instead taken to passive aggressively nagging them back.
How I Used to Deal With Rachel and her Cardholder Services Minions
This time, as is now my custom, I pressed whatever number would get me to a consultant to discuss the urgent scam relating to my credit cards. I then pressed mute and walked away. A few minutes later, per my routine, I picked up the phone to hang it up, but this time there’s a guy whispering all sorts of awesome stuff still on the line. So I listened for a while. He’d just started at his call center job two weeks earlier and had yet to get any training. He was bitching about the people near him and how backwards and horrible everybody and everything about his job was. Very entertaining. (He was using more colorful language than I’m willing to recount here.)
I wanted to un-mute and talk to him but decided not to. What would I have said? “Become a whistle-blower!” These $#%^ing phone spammers are breaking the law and I’d love to see some convictions. Unfortunately I (and likely most call center drones) are unaware of incentive to blow the whistle on such illegal activity, if any even exists.
FTC Robocall Challenge to the Rescue?
The FTC is planning to spend serious dough on “new and innovative ways to block these illegal calls,” and is soliciting fresh ideas via the U.S.A.’s official challenge website. They’re also offering $50,000 in prizes for challenge winners. But I recognize problems with most of the submissions. They’re either ineffective, costly, unproven, violate basic privacy or show other weaknesses. Solving this problem is as simple as the American dream itself and it’s a bargain too.
From aforementioned breathy undertones of the underbelly of the robocall world, I was able to infer that call center workers are overworked, underpaid, shown little respect and mistreated. What if we offered cash rewards for proof of illegal telemarketing activity? How much would it take? I’m guessing not much.
What person working at a thankless illegal job is going to turn down a four figure reward for ten minutes of work? IT WILL WORK. But how will we fund it? While there’s likely already a budget for this sort of thing, I understand that taxing and spending isn’t sexy these days and that we’re to rely on the private sector for things like… money. (?!)
I’ll start. If I win the challenge, I’ll donate 10% of my take to an FTC telemarketing whistle blower fund.
Won’t you join me? (Boring details for my FTC challenge submission follow. Thanks for reading!)
Project Details FAQ
Q: What is required to stop robocalls and encourage whistleblowers?
A: Funding. A website to field scam reports. Small staff to review reports. Initial marketing push.
Q: What about robocalls that don’t provide an option to speak to a human?
A: There are still underpaid minions in these shady organizations. We can turn them from the dark side.
Q: What about robocalls from other countries?
A: People in other countries like cash too. We can turn them and stop the flow of robocalls.
Q: Harumph! I hate government spending! What else would we need to crowdsource the funding?
A: If the gov doesn’t have the ability to do it already, hire somebody to use free, off the shelf, open source scripts to accept donations. Initial marketing push.
When he’s not traveling or making music, Dan Dreifort likes to consult on search and usability. Dan also likes his wife even though she has neglected him for almost four years while she’s been at veterinary school. She comes back in three weeks. Dan is very happy about this.
A tale of trying to switch back to Verizon for local phone service
I use First Communications for local and long distance phone service i.e. my “land line”. First Communications is a CLEC, which means they resell an ILEC‘s (or RBOC‘s) telephone lines. Verizon is the ILEC/RBOC in my area. Because Verizon sucks, using a CLEC is especially attractive. When I call my CLEC, I almost always get directly to a human being and they’re almost always able to help me immediately. Wow. To make matters worse for Verizon, CLECs are often able to offer a savings to phone consumers. How do ILECs survive the onslaught of wireless and CLECs? Well, maybe they won’t.
I saved some money with First Communications for a while, but they’ve gotten more expensive every year. Base fees have gone up, add-on fees (e.g. call waiting) have increased, long distance rates have risen too. Recently, they even implemented a five dollar per month “administrative fee” – whatever that is. One person speculated that it’s a fee to recoup losses and fines from the huge blackout in 2003 which was caused by FirstEnergy, a partner in First Communications. Who knows? Well, maybe the CLEC will tell me? I’ve been on hold with First Communications for about fifteen minutes as I type this. (So much for that stellar phone support track record I mentioned earlier.) And I’m stepping out for lunch, so I guess we’ll never know about that mysterious fee.
The short of it… my incentive to stay with my current provider is waning. For the past three years, once a year I contact Verizon to see what sort of a deal they can give me to compel me to return. Three years ago I got tired of being transferred and being on hold and just gave up. Last year the offer was so good (something like $20/mo for unlimited local and long distance,) I signed up for Verizon service. A week later I hadn’t heard anything so I called back and determined they’d canceled the order by mistake. This year I called and spoke to somebody who told me that I had to talk to somebody else, and etc. I eventually hung up and tried a chat session.
Verizon Live Chat Transcript
Chat Subject: Home Phone Product Inquiry
Your Question: Want to get pricing for home phone, call waiting, etc.
A Verizon eCenter Representative will be with you shortly. Thank you. (11:46:27)
Agent William has joined. (11:46:27)
William : Chat ID for this session is xxxxxxxxxxxxxx. (11:46:27)
William(11:46:42): Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. I will be happy to help you today.
William(11:47:02): Have you tried to access that information from the www.verizon.com website?
Dan Dreifort(11:47:02): Hi, looking for home phone, call waiting, caller ID, three-way, non-listed number, and maybe longdistance
Dan Dreifort(11:48:09): I have tried both calling and your website. But if you point me to your pricing, I’ll try that
Dan Dreifort(11:48:41): I’d like to know what I’d pay including those extraneous fees too
William(11:49:52): If you are on the www.verizon.com website, please go to the phone tab and click check availablity.
William(11:50:32): You would need to enter your address to see what services you qualify for.
Dan Dreifort(11:51:00): Doing it now…
William(11:51:20): After you do this you will choose the product you want and it will allow you to start placing the order and get the pricing for the entire order.
Dan Dreifort(11:51:23): It says Verizon service exists at my address…
Dan Dreifort(11:51:36): I use a CLEC
Dan Dreifort(11:51:41): is that why?
Dan Dreifort(11:52:07): i.e. I’m sure Verizon manages the lines and they run into a Verizon NOC.
Dan Dreifort(11:52:23): But I’m billed by First Communications.
Dan Dreifort(11:52:45): And my question is, how do I respond to this question: “Verizon service exists at the address you entered.
Is this service yours?”
Dan Dreifort(11:52:52): “Yes, I want to add or change the services on my account.”
Dan Dreifort(11:52:54): or
Dan Dreifort(11:53:04): “No, I am moving to this address or living at this address with the owner of the current services.”
Dan Dreifort(11:53:15): Because neither is exactly correct.
William(11:53:56): If you would be bringing your services back to verizon, Click the first add/change services.
Dan Dreifort(11:54:06): ok
Dan Dreifort(11:55:06): I enter my phone number… and get this ERROR “We don’t recognize the number you entered as a Verizon home phone number. ”
Dan Dreifort(11:55:14): So that’s why I’m chatting with you.
Dan Dreifort(11:55:22): I’ve been trying to come back to Verizon for THREE YEARS now.
Dan Dreifort(11:55:34): Never works.
Dan Dreifort(11:55:38): Always reach a barrier.
Dan Dreifort(11:56:03): It shouldn’t be that hard to welcome me back.
Dan Dreifort(11:56:08): What can we do?
William(11:56:34): I would not be able to process this request. Please contact Verizon sales and billing at 800-837-4966. This department would be able to process your request for service.
Dan Dreifort(11:57:20): Not really – I’ve already been on the phone w/ Verizon for 15 minutes today.
Dan Dreifort(11:57:44): They kept passing me from dept to dept. Nobody wanting to take responsibility to sell me phone service.
Dan Dreifort(11:58:01): Same thing has happened every time I call/chat.
Dan Dreifort(11:58:34): Can you have the correct person call me?
William(11:58:49): I am not able to have someone call you.
Dan Dreifort(11:58:52): I’ve wasted several hours of my time over a few years trying to bring Verizon business.
Dan Dreifort(11:59:06): Can you have somebody email me?
Dan Dreifort(11:59:14): Or fax me?
William(12:00:55): I am not able to do either of those options. I apologize for the inconvenience that you have received.
Dan Dreifort(12:01:00): Or can somebody please write me a letter explaining to me why it’s so hard to get Verizon to sell me phone service?
William(12:01:06): Have you been calling the number I provided?
Dan Dreifort(12:01:14): I’ll call right now…
William(12:01:40): Thank you.
Dan Dreifort(12:01:44): What number should I enter?
Dan Dreifort(12:01:59): e.g. “I don’t have one” is an option
Dan Dreifort(12:02:07): no, once I’ve called what phone number should I enter or should I say I don’t have one?
Dan Dreifort(12:02:15): I’ll press 0 to get an operator I guess.
Dan Dreifort(12:02:37): I’m pressing 3 for “something else”
Dan Dreifort(12:02:45): 1 for “phone”
Dan Dreifort(12:02:57): 3 for “everything else”
Dan Dreifort(12:03:02): 1 for “home”
William(12:03:18): To order new service. Not sure of the option number.
Dan Dreifort(12:03:36): Listening to the hellish Madonna midi hold muzak for the fifth time today…
William(12:03:56): I apologize.
Dan Dreifort(12:04:03): Not your fault.
Dan Dreifort(12:04:12): All agents are busy.
William(12:04:22): This department should be able to take your reqeust.
Dan Dreifort(12:04:43): You’d like to think that. I on the other hand have zero faith in that statement.
William(12:05:05): I completely understand.
Dan Dreifort(12:05:05): As far as I can tell, their strategy is to have me wait on hold until I hang up.
Dan Dreifort(12:05:38): I’ve been on the phone for four minutes already and nada.
Dan Dreifort(12:05:55): How long should I give Verizon to make a sale?
Dan Dreifort(12:06:04): a quarter of an hour? Half an hour?
Dan Dreifort(12:06:11): An hour?
William(12:06:22): I do not think that is the issue.
Dan Dreifort(12:06:52): I was on the phone for 15 minutes earlier. 20 minutes chatting with you so far. Five minutes on the phone now…
Dan Dreifort(12:07:04): We’re almost at 3/4 hour for the day.
Dan Dreifort(12:07:27): Is there a phone number I can call to make a complaint?
Dan Dreifort(12:07:34): A Verizon ombudsman or something like that?
Dan Dreifort(12:07:49): Or an email address I can email with my issues?
William(12:08:00): Is there anything else I can help you with?
Dan Dreifort(12:08:24): William, I’m guessing no. You’ve been very friendly. Thank you.
William(12:08:59): You are welcome. I hope you can get your order entered.
William(12:09:20): I apologize for all the problems you have encountered.
William(12:09:27): I hop you have ag reat day.
Did Verizon finally pick up the phone?
Yes. After about another ten minutes on hold I finally got to speak to somebody. She was very friendly. Her computer system wouldn’t allow her to provide me with any price quotes without actually placing an order. So we went through the whole song and dance of my social security number, drivers license number etc. to prove my credit rating is decent. She was telling me about some great pricing she might be able to offer… but no. After another twenty minutes on the phone I was told that I could get what I wanted for just shy of $60/month before taxes and fees.
That’s about what I’m paying now… and there’s no way in hell I’d ever go through Verizon hell without some economic incentive. Am I foolish enough to call Verizon again in another year? Maybe. But I might not get the chance.
Any bets on how long it’ll be before Frontier files for bankruptcy? I doubt it’ll take too long. Public utilities regulatory bodies both federal and state should be ashamed for letting this pass muster. (Edit: When I wrote this in 2010, Frontier stock was over $100/share. In 2019, less than a decade later, it’s worth about a buck a share.)
(Updated 3/25/2010 below) If your Verizon Wireless connection does not load bing correctly. Please leave a comment here. If you’re not having a hard time viewing bing.com in both firefox and internet explorer over a Verizon Wireless air card EVDO connection, then you’re going to be really bored here. Go visit uncool instead. Verizon Wireless support won’t open a ticket for me to fix this bing problem unless I can find another customer having the same problem. When I load the bing page from my Verizon Wireless connection, all I get is a white screen with one line of orange text – Tell us what you think – and some white on white text visible if I use the mouse pointer to select and highlight. But when I take my computer to any other connection, things are fine. It is only the Verizon Wireless card that won’t load bing.
Verizon Wireless Bing Problem
Back when Alltel still had a hand in my connection, I contacted support about a Verizon Facebook problem. After I found other people having the same problem on Verizon Wireless, Verizon fixed the problem. But they blew me off until then. Same thing here with Bing Verizon Wireless. It’s not working. Verizon Wireless support is blowing me off. They won’t even open a ticket for me. Verizon told me to contact Bing… but naturally couldn’t tell me how I should go about doing that. How rude.
I wouldn’t hesitate to leave Verizon Wireless for another company, but I’m stuck with them. There’s no DSL or cable at my location. No other EVDO options. Satellite’s latency is too high for the sftp and other stuff I do. ISDN is a sketchy pain. Dialup… ugh. So I just need Bing to load, but Verizon Wireless as usual is not taking any responsibility. How I long for the days of Alltel’s comparatively incredible mediocrity. Please contact me in the comments or by emailing verizonsucks at uncoolcentral dot com
My earlier post declaring Webposition a giant pit of suck still holds true, in that I was complaining about the terrible “support” they provide. So this is not a mea culpa apology. But I should note: I’m MUCH angrier with Verizon Wireless’ terrible “support” than I am/was with webpo’s. As far as I’m concerned, until both companies reimburse me for my wasted time, they can suck it.
Verizon bing.com problem solution
I’ve spent the past several months communicating with others experiencing the same problems. There’s power in numbers. Eventually Verizon started replacing modems. After hearing from others that upgrading to the um175 fixed most problems, I purchased a used Verizon Pantech um175 online to replace my Alltel um150. I took the 175 into the Verizon store a couple of days ago and asked if changing to a new modem would change my plan. Nope. I’m still grandfathered in on the unlimited plan for the time being. I can now access Bing.com. (no thanks to Verizon. Boo!)