In May 2009, we signed up with Vonage in order to escape the greedy clutches of our local telephone provider, Fair Point Communications, which charges outrageous prices for turning our phones on and off while we are away, and a large premium for “wide area” dialing anywhere outside one sliver of Carroll County, New Hampshire. My advice is: the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
It seemed so easy. Vonage quickly signed us up for $9.95 a month for three months and then only $25 a month for free calls to everywhere but Mars, and sent a $25 modem which they wanted us to plug into our system. Exactly where was a mystery. This should have told us something. I would now like to tell Vonage where they can plug it.
The installation point could not immediately be determined because Vonage had first to communicate with Fair Point to discontinue our service. Unfortunately, our Fair Point phone number and fax number were “suspended.” This was because had them suspended in January, to forestall a charge of $80 a month for zero usage while we were in the Bahamas. So before we could switch to Vonage, Fair Point had to turn both the house and fax number back on, so that they could then be turned off. Get it?
After two weeks Fair Point had the house phone back on but the fax line was still apparently suspended. We were dunned with emails from Vonage and conversations with far-off Filipinos and Indians we could not understand. I admire the Indians and the Filipinos are sweet people, but… We finally made it clear that they could not proceed until both Fair Point lines were back on.
Vast confusion now occurred at Vonage and Fair Point. Vonage could activate the home phone and discontinue Fair Point, but not the fax phone until Fair Point turned it back on so they could turn it off. I can hear you laughing from here.
Lo and behold, after two weeks, Fair Point had both phones working. We knew this because when we picked them up we heard dial tones. So Vonage called Fair Point to discontinue them both.
Our phone line then went dead.
No installation of the Vonage modem (which has to be placed where there’s both a phone jack and ethernet jack) worked. The only place we had both jacks free was a ground floor pool room, and that only made the line buzz.
I gave up trying to communicate with Vonage’s people and my wife came to the rescue. She called Vonage, and spoke in Tagalog and Hindi, and learned that we had to plug their black box in where the cable modem enters the cellar. But with that done, the only way we could make a Vonage call was in the cellar. Also, plugging in their modem made our cable internet go dead.
It emerges that we would have to “rewire the lines” to get Vonage to work on all our telephone jacks and not screw up our internet connection. Imagine rewiring the lines in this house, which has four separate telephone lines and about fifteen phone and ethernet jacks. Barbara tried to opt for Vonage’s offered $100-minimum “professional installation,” only to be told they had “nobody in your area.”
Vonage finally admitted defeat and agreed to discontinue our account, reimburse us the $65-odd we’ve paid them and take their equipment back. Except that, since it’s now taken more than the 30-day money-back guarantee to get the job done, they won’t reimburse the $65 after all. A little added bonus. And we’re still being billed for their monthly rate, which we regularly reject through our credit card supplier.
The project then became: get our phone lines back with Fair Point. To do this, Vonage had to keep our account open and not “release” either number until Fair Point calls us “within forty-eight hours” to confirm that the numbers have been restored. By late June, Fair Point hadn’t called, and when we called them they put us on hold for fifteen minutes then broke the connection, by which time they were all gone for the weekend. (24/7 is but a wishful theory at this Total Service Provider.) Two months later, we were still without our phones.
If you think this is amusing I have several suggestions for you which I cannot put in writing. And if you should say “Magic-Jack” I will spit.
Vonage: The Sequel
Or: “Was it as great for you as it was for me?” as the Bishop said to the Actress
July 5th and still no phone. Kirsten at Fair Point called to say they had only just received authorization from Vonage who had now “released” our number. Boy were we grateful.
I’m not kidding about this: The change order said “Harbourside, Maine,” a combination of our street address and the adjoining state. Kirsten couldn’t figure it out. They had been trying to find a town in Maine called Harbourside.
She said she would “send a technician out.” I asked why. She said, “Have you had Fair Point before?” Er, yes, I said—we’ve had it since they took over from Verizon years ago, and only recently tried to dodge their bills with Vonage. “Isn’t restoring our service just a matter of a couple of keypad punches?”
Well, apparently not, but she said that in this case a techie might not be needed. “I’ll be working on it.” God bless her.
We also had the benefit of a Fair Point “customer advocate.” Unfortunately, Fair Point is in such disarray, still reeling from software fiascos since they took over from Verizon, that these people are very temporary, and before we even got on friendly terms our “advocate” was “no longer with the firm.”
We did call the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office and got a very determined-sounding communications specialist who vowed to make life very hot for Fair Point, but never called back.
The kicker is that the fax line, which we thought was part of all this, was never turned off in January, or absorbed by Vonage—and had been unaffected all this time. In desperation, once we realized this, we plugged a spare phone into the fax line, which would ring in the office (but nowhere else in the house). Of course, most of the time, incoming calls were mostly fax-beeps. All in all, we’d be better off beating tom-toms.
It was July 20th before Fair Point finally had our lines working again. We then reduced our service to the “restricted area” el cheapo rate, instead of our previous “statewide free calling”—which costs about $40 less a month. But we will never again suspend service when we’re in the Bahamas because Fair Point takes two weeks and a dozen phone calls to turn a suspended number back on—and charges you $40 or more for the privilege (each time).
By comparison, our telephone on Eleuthera, provided by the local phone company, costs $16.25 a month, can be turned on and off for free, and works fine, except when the salt air off the Caribbean rots the connection on the local telephone pole and it goes all crackly. Then you just call Miska Clarke and he toddles out with the bucket truck and installs a fresh connector (free). Or the mice eat one of the lines and you call Carl Knowles, who shinnies into the rafters with a new line for $20 and a cold beer.
And some people actually think of the Bahamas as the “Third World.”
Have a great day!