Vonage: Don’t Let This Happen to You

Vonage: Don’t Let This Happen to You

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!

One thought on “Vonage: Don’t Let This Happen to You

  1. Well at least you can make one call and get all your prob­lems solved when you get back in Eleuthera :)

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