Friday, January 09, 2004


Intelligent Networks and the Stupid Companies that Run Them

Did you call me in the last six weeks and get "fast busy" or an "All circuits are busy, please try your call again later," recording? For over a month some friends have complained that they can't call me. Others have had no problem. If you've encountered either of those symptoms, it might or might not be fixed, so please call me again -- 203-661-4798 -- and tell me what happens (by email if necessary).

Here's the story:

One friend who's had this trouble lives across town. He's been trying repeatedly, getting "fast busy" every time. So he'd send me email and I'd call him. I began calling the trouble in to Verizon about the second time it happened. They found no problem. Lather, rinse, repeat -- for weeks.

Fortunately, my friend has two lines in his house. Last weekend after three "fast busy" calls on 203-531-abcd, my friend got right through on 203-531-wxyz. He tried abcd again and got "fast busy". Wxyz rang through. Again. Abcd "fast busy". Wxyz no problem.

I must have called this in to Verizon six times over the last six weeks. You know Verizon. They're the phone company that answers, "Hello, I'm Pat from Verizon and I provide excellent service." Over the last six weeks, Verizon reps have told me there was no problem; excellent, but wrong. They told me the problem was fixed. Excellent again, but bogus as a 45-minute Iraqui nuke launch. One rep said there was a short but I could still get calls because tip and ring were two different lines. Excellent nonsense. Another rep told me that excellent service had nothing to do with whether my problem got fixed. And she said that "the guy at the switch" would call me the next day." But he didn't.

The one thing that they all repeatedly said they COULDN'T do: escalate the problem.

Now, thanks to my friend across town, I had an experimental prep: 203-531-abcd couldn't reach me. 203-531-wxyz rang my phone. He was a Verizon customer. I was a Verizon customer. Verizon couldn't pull that old, "It's the other network," shuck. My friend called in the trouble too. I called one more time. Again, no action. The Verizon techs failed to fix the problem.

I got on the Internet and found "voice message" numbers for Verizon Chairman Ivan Seidenberg and Vice Chairman Larry Babbio. I left nice messages. I explained that I didn't want to bother them, but when I was at AT&T, I knew that the Office of the Chairman had staff that could kick butts, take names and get things done.

The next day (yesterday) I felt like the dog who caught the garbage truck. I was called. I was visited. My line was tested and tested. Maybe Seidenberg really *is* worth $13,000,000 a year.

A Verizon tech named Jim stopped by my house to explain. He said,
"I saw something like this a year ago. The customer had Anonymous Call Rejection and Caller ID. I discovered it by accident. I was working for the called party, and I ran into a colleague at the switch who was working a caller problem. As we talked, we found out we were working two ends of the same problem. We spent the rest of the day trying different customer account settings until we found it."
He said that I just had to call the business office and ask them to turn off Anonymous Call Rejection. I called. The Verizon Business Office rep said that I didn't have Anonymous Call Rejection. I called Repair and they instructed me that *87 would turn off Anonymous Call Rejection, and I'd hear a voice message. I hit *87 and got no voice message. Then another Verizon rep called and said that I did indeed have Anonymous Call Rejection, and that she had turned it off. Then I got another call from Verizon. The Caller ID came up "Private". The rep on the other end of the line pronounced my problem fixed.

I had one more chat with Jim that day. I asked him if he knew anything about how the conflict between Caller ID and Anonymous Call Rejection worked. He didn't. I asked him why my callers got "fast busy" or the Network Busy announcement instead of the Anonymous Call Rejection announcement, which explains how to complete the call (you dial *82+ the number). He had no idea.

My friend with the two lines must be out of town for the weekend. I can't reach him. I don't know if the problem is really fixed or not. If you've had a problem trying to call me in the past, please try your call again now. 203-661-4798. Or *82-1-203-661-4798.

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