Bad Telco! A Round-Up of Ways the Phone Company Gives Us the Raw Deal

There isn't too much cohesive about these stories other than showing how badly AT&T and Verizon treat their customers.

For starters, why don't we talk about SBC's actions in South Africa? They were part of a consortium granted exclusive rights to build the nation's telecommunications infrastructure after the end of apartheid. What ended up happening, however, is that they took all of the money and delivered none of the infrastructure. Now SBC is a big chunk of the new AT&T conglomerate. Hmmm… sounds familiar to our own $200B rip-off, doesn't it?

Of course, it's not just third-world nations that AT&T rips off. Seniors who've been renting their phones for decades have been paying anywhere from $5 to $20 per month for that privilege, the cost of buying the same phone. Despite a $350M class action suit settled in 2002, over 580K Americans are still a part of this scammy program. AT&T's response? Spin. "[Our phones] are much more robust than the average telephone, are available in a wide selection of colors and have special features, such as a real bell ringer, which we know our lease customers want. Many of our customers tell us they lease for the products, benefits and services that leasing provides. The No. 1 benefit they cite is unconditional product replacement." Right.

Of course, they reserve the right to scam the rest of us too. Despite no cost increase, AT&T has decided to jack up prices on services like call waiting and 3-way calling for customers who don't bundle the services. The motivation is more than money: they want to nudge customers into bundles because they're less likely to seek out a new phone provider. Heck of a way to reduce churn, guys.

Verizon isn't content to escape criticism, however. A recent petition filed with the FCC reveals that the company wants to end reduced rates for DSL competitors. The net effect of this will be killing of competition in the DSL market and further consolidating their grip on the areas they serve. It's already bad enough that they don't have to share the FIOS network with competitors (a glaring violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996), but now they want to cut off the copper as well?

They continue the "poor, picked-on me" song and dance by asking Virginia regulators to stop being so picky when it comes to restoring phone service in the event of an outage. Apparently restoring 80% of customers within one day of an outage is just too much to ask. I guess their techs are too busy lighting homes on fire during FIOS installs to be bothered with fixing downed lines.

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