Helaine went to place a call to Hartford a few minutes ago. Instead of connecting, she heard a message saying our number had been disconnected. You read right – not the number we were calling – our number had been disconnected!
I tried by placing a call to my cell phone. No problem. Then I called my folks in Florida. Again, without problem. So I called the area code 860 number Helaine had tried and sure enough, there was the announcement.
It didn’t take me long to realize intrastate and interstate long distance are treated differently and maybe there was a screw up with ours. Between cell phones and Steffie’s VOIP¹ service, and our really large local calling area, we hardly ever call long distance in the state.
Our long distance service has been handled for years by GTC Telecommunications. Who knows who they are? I had never heard of them. But for years we had been getting our long distance for 4.9¢, painlessly.
Then, one day while looking at their website I noticed they were advertising long distance for 2.9¢ per minute. I called, asked to be switched, and I assume the problem started then.
After waiting on hold for about 5-10 minutes Keith answered. I asked at the end of the call, but guessed from his first words, that Keith was in India. Though he was able to take care of the problem, and he did speak English perfectly, there were communications problems because he doesn’t speak American English.
There are phrases and ironic statements that we all use all the time which were… well, they were foreign to Keith.
At the end of the conversation he told me I’d have to call my local phone company and tell them I needed my intrastate carrier changed to ‘pic code 0333.’
I picked up the phone and called SBC, my ‘local’ phone company. I have accented ‘local’ because, until recently, we had our own lovely, local, responsive phone company – SNET.
SNET was the classic non-Bell local phone company, covering the vast majority of Connecticut. A few years ago, in a deal that richly rewarded their top management, SNET was sold to SBC. My phone still works, but now I’m a little jerkwater customer far away from SBC’s Texas home office. Before Connecticut was SNET’s only business.
SNET was sold, we were told, because they couldn’t compete in this increasingly complex world of telecommunications. Now, if business is bad somewhere else in SBC’s system, our bill goes up here.
After working through the voice mail tree (some options have recently changed – right) a pleasant woman with a Texas accent picked up the phone. I assume that used to be a Connecticut job. I explained my problem and read her the pic code – 0333.
“We use codes with letters” she responded.
Luckily, the carrier for my intrastate service was the same as the working carrier for my interstate service. She says it will be fixed before the close of business today. There was a $2.60 charge for switching, but considering someone dropped the ball in this mess, she waived the fee.
She couldn’t have been nicer… even though she tried to upsell me some services before I could hang up.
The sad part is, years ago this was a big deal. Long distance was a much larger line item. Now, with cell phones and Steffie’s VOIP service, we make many fewer long distance calls with our wired phones. Most months we’re under $20 – closer to $10, for long distance.
There are people at work who don’t have wired phones at all. Maybe someday soon, we’ll join them.
¹ – VOIP is Voice Over Internet Protocol. Instead of having a real connection between two phones having a conversation, the phone call is digitized and sent as packets through the Internet or other data network. It is much cheaper to provide that standard phone circuits (called POTS for Plain Old Telephone Service). Steffie’s phone has unlimited calling in Connecticut for $10 a month – with voice mail, caller ID and anything else you could imagine in a phone. It is why GTC can afford to route customer service calls to India and what SBC’s executives have nightmares about every night.