No Phone Service – The Epic Returns

Helaine went out this afternoon. While on the road, she called. No problem. Later, on her way home, she called again.

Busy! Except, of course, it wasn’t.

It seems like yesterday, but it was the end of September when last our phone died. What a helpless feeling. The phone is our lifeline to health and safety in a way that computers or a cell phone can’t approach… at least not yet.

I immediately went down to the basement and plugged a phone into the network jack, where the phone line enters the house from the street. Dead. The problem was somewhere outside, and so the responsibility of the phone company.

I am much more upset about the way my local phone company, SNET (actually, they are now a very small part of a very large national company and have dropped SNET for SBC) handles outages like this than the outage itself. It seems as if someone said, “We’ve already inconvenienced Geoff… why inconvenience us too by sending someone out on Sunday?”

As far as I can tell, nothing at all was done about this problem today. Nothing.

The last time this happened to me, I made it clear that I thought it was wrong for the phone company, once it knew of an outage, to let a line continue to ring busy – as opposed to a recorded “out of service” announcement.

No change. It still rings busy after being reported.

In 2004, to a child with an elderly parent, a phone that’s busy for hours means the possibility that someone is ill… or worse. If my parent’s phone was busy for hour after hour, I’d call the police to check it out. This is an uncaring policy which must be changed.

Though you can see the status of your repair on-line (a feature I found to be worthless and wrong back in September) you can’t report the outage online. Nor can you easily even get the number to report the outage! Their website lists 611 for residential repairs – a number that won’t work if you’re using a cellphone to make the call, or if you try to get someone out-of-state to make the call for you (as I did today – contacting a friend in Florida via Instant Messenger).

We still have no cell service from the house, but at least our current phones allow you to call 9-1-1 using another carrier’s towers. That service is only available about half the time. The rest of the time the phone is looking for a Cingular tower that’s not there.

The current automated estimated repair time is 01:00 PM Monday.

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