Friday, 9 August 2013

Technology Bytes!

By Guest Blogger Lily Gayle

 I love gadgets and technology. I don't always understand how they work, but I've always had a knack for electronics. My husband gets flustered trying to install a DVD player. Not me. I love the challenge.
When I tired of high phone bills, I switched to internet phone. When my internet provider sold out to another company and the server kept going down, I disconnected my DSL. I set up a Gmail account and got a hotspot for the internet. I just added a clip-on wireless router the size of a cigarette lighter to my desktop monitor and plugged it in with a cord. Then I plugged the hotspot in and placed it in a central room of the house. Ta-da! Internet for everyone and no modem!
Then I got get rid of my internet home phone. The only people calling on that line were telemarketers and politicians, and my friends and family used my cell phone.  Now, I have fewer bills and fewer cables connecting all that technology together. And connecting everything was simple enough, given good instructions. But I soon learned, electronics can be much more complicated. Sometimes, technology bites!
My parents are 75 and 78, but they try to stay current with the latest technology. They both have their own computers, email addresses and Facebook pages, but they live in the boonies so their choices of internet providers is limited.
A few years ago, they upgraded from dial up to satellite internet through their satellite television provider. The company set them up and my dad figured out how to set up a wireless network. Then a week or so ago, a telemarketer called my mother on her land line and convinced her she could save money by bundling her internet with internet phone service. She did the math and figured she could save $10/month.
The company guaranteed she could keep her phone number and email address. They came out to the house, installed the new internet dish next to the old internet dish, and showed my parents how fast their service was. My parents were pleased so they agreed to cancel their old internet service when the tech suggested it. They didn't want two internet bills. Then the tech dismounted the old dish from the roof and my mother no longer had access to her email account. The tech told her she could still use her Gmail account. But my mother didn't have one. They also didn't have the internet phone, but the service tech promised the box would arrive in the mail and all they'd have to do was plug it in. Yeah. Right!
The box barely came with instructions. So, when I brought my mom home after her  cataract surgery Wednesday, my dad asked if I'd hook up the internet phone box as  it required hooking up cables under his desk and he's 78 with a recent hip replacement and a bad knee. No problem.  Or so I thought.
When I had Vonage, it was just a matter of running cables and turning things on. Vonage took care of the registration and porting my phone number. Not so with this company. After hooking up the box, the customer has to log in to the website and handle the registration and porting. I followed all the instructions and hooked up the cables but when I logged on to the website, it kept kicking me out and not letting me log back in. When I finally managed to log onto the site long enough to register the pone, I got an error message. So, I called the company. Five hours and three service techs later, I still couldn't register the phone and the service techs had no idea what was wrong. They said it was a "bad" box but they still wouldn't send a tech out. They told me they'd call me Friday and let an advanced tech walk me through the process again.
"If it's a bad box, why not just send a new one?" I asked.
They couldn't do that until an advanced tech went through some tests on their end. Why they couldn't run those tests that night, I'll never know. But their responses and answers to questions bugged me. Something didn't add up. The way they told me to hook up the cables prevented anything from working. The way I had hooked them up gave my parents internet, but no phone.  There had to be a problem with the cables not the box.

So, the next day after work, I drove the 45 minutes to my parent's home with a box of old portable phones and cables I'd used when I had internet phone service. I hooked everything up and ta-da! It looked as if everything was going to work. I was even able to get back on to the website and register their information. But I still didn't have a dial tone and I still needed to transfer their existing phone number. So, I called tech support. Again.
Nothing they suggested worked. During all the redundant things they asked me to re-do, such as resetting the IP address and rebooting the computer, their website went down. This had happened the night before too and they claimed my computer wasn't hooked up correctly, even though I hadn't changed the connections and had just been on their website a couple of hours earlier.
One tech told me I could only log in using Internet Explorer. One told me I could only log in using their service provider's email address. One told me I had to reroute the wires so the internet cable connected directly to the phone box in order to access their website. In a nutshell, no one knew what they were doing!
I finally got connected to a tech supporter with some sense. We got everything working again, but the phone still didn't have a dial tone. He said the box was bad and they'd send out a new one. When I asked if he could send a technician to hook the box up for them this time, he said, "No. None of our service techs are trained to install the phones."
"WHAT?!" I shouted over the phone. "You have service technicians who need training before they can connect the internet phone box and yet you expect a 75 and 78-year-old geriatric couple to crawl around under the desk and connect the wires?"
I was livid. Even if my mom wanted to go back to the previous company, the dish has been taken down and she'd have to pay another installation charge and probably sign a new contract. She still has her land line, but that's double what the internet phone would be if we could ever get it connected.
As for the new internet provider, they are double the cost of the previous provider. My mother's savings were to be on the phone service, which we can't seem to get connected. So, now, my parents are stuck paying the higher phone bill and the higher internet bill until we can get some resolution on this internet phone line. They are NOT saving money!
In the meantime, I have retrieved most of my mother's email addresses and I've gotten her back on Facebook. The tech support  guy promised to call me today and let me know if my parents need a new box or if I need to go back out there and change some wires or settings on the computer. And that's when I went into bitch mode. I managed to get the company to postpone charging them for the phone service until it's actually working and I got them to extend the introductory pricing offer for an additional three months. And apparently, they expedited shipping on that new phone box. The company didn't call me today as promised, but my mother just called to let me know that Fed Ex had delivered the new box.        Looks like I'll be playing internet Geek again as the company still won't send out a technician to connect the phone. They did, however, promise to walk me through the connection process over the phone. Now, I just have to find time to get back out there.
Yep. I think I'm keeping my hotspot and cell phone. No matter where I go, I can take it with me. And I don't have to deal with installation or poorly trained technical support!

Author bio: 
Lilly Gayle is a wife, mother of two grown daughters, and a breast cancer survivor. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and little dog, T.T. When not working as an x-ray technologist and mammographer, Lilly writes paranormal and historical romances. 
Over the years, she's convinced her family to take side trips to museums and historic sites while on vacation. Her daughters never complained—to her face—and thankfully, her husband enjoys those same activities. However, he doesn't seem to enjoy science fiction and the paranormal as much as Lilly would like. 
Lilly grew up watching western, science fiction, and paranormal movies and television with her father. Her mother and both grandmothers taught her a love and respect for history, and she credits her love for reading and passion for writing to three wonderful teachers.

Visit her at


Calisa Rhose said...

Oh good grief! I'm sorry your parents are going through this and you too! How frustrating. I have a private internet service because my satellite company charged way too much for iffy internet where we live.

I hope you get it sorted out and working right soon, Lilly.

AJ Nuest said...

I still cannot believe this story. Honestly, I don't know how you didn't end up taking a ball bat, hunting down every worker at that internet company and going completely postal! Man! What just blows. I really, really hope everything gets worked out. At the very least, they should give your parents a month free, in my opinion. Hang tight, Lilly! I'll be thinking of you!

Lilly Gayle said...

The worst part about this story is that the supposedly cheaper bundle package charges my parents 9.99/month to rent the equipment and another 11.95/month for express repair service. I laughed my ass off over that one--and not a funny-haha laugh. Express? I asked the customer support person. What's express about ME having to set up YOUR equipment? If I can't get the phone working with the box they sent today, it's going to be "on" for sure!

Anthology Authors said...

My mother lives in podunk nowhere. It's lovely out there, but options for internet are very slim as well. Thank goodness my husband is a systems administrator. Yeah, he's a computer geek for a living, and it's wonderful. Still, the companies are maddening and do take advantage of anyone they can.

Companies like that should be held accountable for false advertising.


Jaime Samms said...

Wow. Sounds like my fiasco with Rogers and trying to get them to only charge me for services I actually signed up for, and use, instead of every godforsaken thing that think they can tack onto my bill without me noticing. So far, over he past two months (each time I get a bill) I have spent a total of about five hours on the phone with them. I'd say at least 2/3 of tat time was on hold. Jerkfaces....