Category Archives: wirless

Verizon FIOS Execs – Please Read – It’s Not Me, It’s You

vonage-logoToday I made the jump, the leap, to Fios. For the record my previous home technology stack had been Vonage for voice, Comcast for Internet and TV. I have had VZW for mobile since the days they actually called it a “car phone”.

Since I was working from home today, I was able to observe the FIOS tech as he went about his business in my house. He arrived promptly at 9:00 and greeted me like the chef at a Japanese steaks house. “Okay, Mr. Spencer, you have one Triple-Play, three sets, two with, one without, HBO , Internet and Phone….correct?” Should I have ordered the soup also?

He told me that installation is an 8 hour job and that he would be in and out all day. No Problem. I went about my business, we went about is.

After a couple of hours I took a break from my work to see how Verizon guy was doing. He was busy6-18-08-fios_installerattaching the “ONU” (Optical Networking Unit) to the side of my house. I found it interesting since during my early days at Bell Labs, in the 1980s, my department had worked on the Darwinian ancestors of the ONU. Back then the evolutionary process was first called FTTC (Fiber to the Curb), the unfortunate acronym -Far Access Remote Terminal, and lastly FTTH, Fiber to the Home. These were all technologies that were decades ahead of their time.

verizonfiosbackupHe then proceeded to install a battery backup for the phone service in my basement. The phones I use are all cordless and my family has 5 mobile phones. The battery back will not help my cordless phones and a blackout should not impact my mobile phones. This is a pure expense for legal air cover should the power go out and -GFB- I need to call 911. For such an advanced service, very backward thinking in 2009.

After buzzing out the phones, the Internet came up quickly and then the last pulling and tugging of cable to get the television service going. All went smoothly to that point. Just like the commercials, he sat me down and demonstrated my remote (without a cable guy glaring in from the window). Total effort was the advertised 8 hours.

As soon as he left and we started to use the service, the quirks emerged.

Firstly the Verizon set up disk only works on a Windows machine. I had to morph my Mac with a VM to fire up Vista. The setup program executed, updated and churned for 45 minutes. The only think useful that happened, through all the screens, T&C’s and other useless info, was that I got a Verizon email. One that I will never use.

I then tried to register at Verizon.Net. I tried several times and continually got a message that said “We cannot register you now”. This seemed strange. Then it hit me. Verizon has nothing that supports Mac, even Safari browser. So, I switched to Firefox and the registration worked perfectly.

Next task was to set up my personal and work email using the outgoing email server at Verizon. I prefer to use my ISPs outgoing service so that my free personal email with my own domain does not have ads on the bottom.

Everything seemed to work with just one small problem. The test emails that I sent to myself never arrived? I connected to the Verizon server just fine. The email was accepted by the server and then got lost.

This could not be a Verizon issue. After all, when I leave my house I have that nerdy guy with glasses and 300 of his friendssplash_verizon_crowdfollow me around to make sure my service is ok. Having served Verizon as a vendor for most of my career I appreciate that they take 99.999% reliability seriously.

I checked and double checked all the passwords, permissions etc. I stopped and thought about this and then I remembered another strange occurrence about 4 months ago.

I had just started a new job and was configuring my corporate email account on Google. Like most people (I assume), after you set up an email account you send yourself some test emails to make sure it works. I had the same problem with Google. I struggled with that one for a couple of hours. Next, I checked some bulletin boards and found out that Google mail was in the middle of a significant outage! Three hours later, without touching anything, my service was up and working.

I wondered. Could I be that unlucky? Could Verizon be having an email problem the exact moment I tried to use my new Verizon service? I checked the Verizon user self-help bulletin boards and…..Bingo!….. Verizon was experienceing hour plus delays in email delivery due to server outages.

I put email aside and next tried to tackle voicemail. There was nowhere on a Verizon support site or any piece of paper or booklet that I got from Verizon that instructed me on what to do to set up voicemail. I know that Verizon has some portal somewhere to listen to voicemails online and send yourself alerts, but they certainly like to keep it a secret.

Since I’m not exactly new to the telephony world, I just dialed my own number and walked through the VM set-up. But, I still wanted to find this portal. I figured it was accessible through Verizon.com – a logical guess. I had previously registered on Verizon.net and thought that user name and password would allow me into Verizon.Com. no such luck. I tried to register at verizon.com (with a non-Apple browser, of course!) and still no luck.

Now its time to call Verizon. I have to say one of the reasons I left Comcast was because their customer service was , well, sucky. Verizon, with my nerd friend and his army of techs clearly have their act together, right? Wrong….

I called customer support, waited 10 minutes with really bad music, and spoke to a lovely lady with a heavy Indian accent. I explained that I was trying to find the Verizon voice mail online portal. I am not sure exactly which word she did not understand, but I guess it was everything after the word “Verizon”. I gave here my address and phone number twice and she said, “Oh my, you have fiber optic voice service!” Bursting with geek pride I said, “Yes I do!”. I figured I must now be in line for some very special VIP treatment.

Her next words were, “I can’t help you , I will transfer you to Fios” , The line went silent and then I was put on hold with music for another 10 minutes. At this point another guy answered the phone, asked me for all the same information and gave me the same line – “I can’t help you, I will transfer you” click, ring, music, another 10 minutes.

The third person I spoke to understood what I was looking to achieve. He also told me that he could not help me but said the “e-desk” is the place for “you”. Frustrated and wanting to have a little fun; when he asked me if there was anything else he could help me with , I said yes. “The Verizon email? Does it always take an hour to deliver an email? Is that standard?” He launched into the tech support speech that I call “you are a dumb person with technology and let me tell you why….” He went on about how Verizon can’t be held responsible for the whole Internet and that was obviously the problem. After he finished reading from the prepared speech on his PC (obviously not a Mac) . I asked him , “If that’s the case, why did my email stall in a Verizon server for 67 minutes?” I gave him the server name and the IP address. I am not sure what I gained by that, so to that Verizon CS guy…..sorry.

He then connected me the e-desk. Finally some satisfaction? I got a recording that the e-desk ‘s hours of service had ended two hours ago. Click, disconnect. Oy.

Hey Verizon, I could have gotten this treatment from Comcast!

Epilogue:
In this change over of home technologies I had to cancel Vonage and Comcast. This is almost as frustrating as my Verizon help desk run around.

First Comcast:

comcast21After working my way through the automated phone system I finally got to they “cancel service” option. I nice upbeat guy answered and I told him I was cancelling my TV and Internet Service. He told me he was “Shocked” to hear that. That I was such a good customer. (paid my bills?). Then he starts to launch into the “Save this customer “script. These scripts can last 15 minutes. Once he launched into all of the new special offers and services that Comcast could bring me, I asked him to stop, jump to the last page of the script where you give me my cancellation confirmation number. He was “deeply saddened”, and asked Why would I leave?
I told him “Its not you, It’s me” and I promised to still be friends.

Next breakup call was Vonage. The guy on Vonage was “amazed” that I was a Vonage user for 5 years. I was one their longest tenured customers, practically a celebrity. I also asked him to skip the next 10 pages of script and just give me my cancellation confirmation number. He decided to read the next 10 pages anyway.

I also told Vonage , “Its not you, it’s me”, and my new BFFL Verizon. He could not believe I would leave Vonage. I even asked him if he wanted me to put Mike, the Verizon tech on the phone? Now, that’s a good Verizon commercial in the making.

So – To Comcast and Vonage – Bye, Loved it while it lasted, but we grew apart and you are not a match for Fiber.

And to Verizon, Please get your CS act together. Just because you provide the same services as cable companies does not mean you have to provide the same customer service experience! It takes your tech 8 hours to install your service, you need me to stick around for awhile to re-coup those kind of costs.

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Filed under Apple, Fios, Google, Love, MAc, new media, relationships, Verizon, wireless, wirless

Twitter : Getting New Management?

twitter_logoThe rumor mill of possible suitors for Twitter blogs, buzzes and Tweets with different theories. The largest speculation, at least in terms of media attention, has Twitter pairing up with either Google or Apple. While these reports are officially unsubstantiated – they did get me to think about what Twitter would be like under new management, and what the significance would be for Internet Services.

The Internet has re-invented itself several times in its brief history. From a government funded cold war project, to an academic research vehicle, to a closed consumer oriented portal (AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve) product, to the World Wide Web (often referred to as Web 1.0), to an interactive, interrelated, multi-device user content environment of today (aka Web 2.0). Each of these transitions has left many companies in the dust; with some companies merely surviving the transitions and a small select group thriving through the changes. Web brands and services such as Amazon, Google, E-bay, Apple (iPhone, iTunes) are examples of those that have thus far thrived through transitions.

It’s the next transition that is presently underway that makes the Twitter rumors particularly interesting.

Web 2.0 was initially defined in terms of user-generated content. In a rough sense the social media giants of today would be in that category. The way I define Web 3.0 is the total social integration of the Internet. Facebook, MySpace, and a collection of second tier players, plus the media darling, Twitter, are leading this social integration. Web 3.0 is all about Social media.

While both Google and Apple have benefited from social media, they are not in themselves social media leaders. An acquisition of Twitter for either company would thrust them into a major Web 3.0 position.

Lets look at this from the viewpoint of “Fear” and “Greed”.
Fear is motivated by losing something you have. Greed is the motivation of obtaining something you want.

Which company needs Twitter more?

The answer to this question is neither.

Google could continue being Google, and benefit from the eventual ad placements and paid search on Twitter, just as it has in the general web. The strategic question for Google is can they continue to have unfettered access to ad inventory without owning the social networks? Do they have to be a social networking giant also?

The Facebook/Google dustups on ad placements and “connect” services must have sent alarm bells ringing in Mountain View.

google-logo

Google went after the mobile industry with its on mobile device platform, why not social media with its own network? Since Google is the undisputed heavyweight champion in internet advertising, it is the motivation of “fear”, of losing what they have, that would drive them to a Twitter acquisition.

Apple, like Google, can derive benefits from Twitter without an acquisition. There are various methods to Tweet your iTunes selection(s) directly on Twitter. Twitter has many iPhone applications and is likely a driver (albeit modest) for iPhone sales.

apple-logo12Apple may have the most loyal clientele of any modern tech company. They have, however, not yet significantly leveraged this large, loyal, and generally satisfied customer base into a Web 3.0 style social network. Apple has tons of trade magazines and web sites on the virtues of Apple products, the product pipeline, self-help, and troubleshooting. The natural leveraging of this existing community into a social network must be on the strategic whiteboards at Apple HQ.

I do not think that it would be fear that would motivate Apple to acquire Twitter, but “greed”. Apple has ridden the waves of portable computing, rich media, digital music, handheld devices, smart phones, web services and the need for great user experiences across everything, to ever increasing prominence and success. Extending these competencies into the next wave of social networking is natural.

Would an acquisition of Twitter thrust Apple into social networking leadership? Or would it be a distraction from their core strengths of devices, software, digital content, and UI design?

There is another company that could be motivated by both fear and greed.

Microsoft

Microsoft has been playing catch-up to Google and Yahoo in paid search for a decade. They were late to the game for Web 1.0 and have been eclipsed in all of the major Web 2.0 services. They are an example of a company that has survived transitions in Internet services, but have not thrived. They leveraged their virtual monopoly in desktop operating systems to a dominant browser position (regardless of how the courts ruled). The browser position gave MSN and Microsoft search products critical web traffic.

Five years ago the market share of IE was 93%, it is now 65%. Both of these numbers are staggering high for any tech product. Despite, the dominance of their browser, Microsoft is a third rung player in search and ad revenue. This browser advantage, completely leveraged from their operating system position, is eroding at an accelerating rate. This market loss has to create a fear motivation within Microsoft.
While I believe that Microsoft managers are breed for greed, they suffer from Innovators Dilemma. They are so large and so dominate, that truly new ventures, new innovation is difficult when compared to protecting the core. But the greed is still present. It is for this reason that I expect a Microsoft play for Twitter. An acquisition that would thrust Microsoft ahead of Google and Apple in Web 3.0 social media Internet.

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Filed under Acquisitions, advertising, android, Apple, Google, iphone, microsoft, mobile, MySpace, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Twitter, Web2.0, wirless

The Daughter, The Doll and the Wife!

LBS Services, The Daughter, The Wife

by mobileman (09/05/2007 – 15:05)

LBS Services, The Daughter, The Doll and the Wife! The classic example of why LBS services may not have reached their market potential yet is a story I first told at a CTIA event over 5 years ago. It happened to me about a week before the show and has the perfect metaphor for the state of LBS services. It has been re-told by pundits  and even published in trade magazines. Indeed many now tell this story as though it happened to them! So now without further pre-ample is the LBS story of the daughter, the wife and the doll. 

We were going “through the woods and over the hill” to grandmother’s house. In this case the woods were 180 miles of New York State Thruway and the hill was the Catskills Mountains. The car was packed for the weekend with me, my wife and three kids. 

The youngest at the time was about 3 and she was never far from her beloved “dolly”,   a ragamuffin doll that is stocked at every Toys-R-Us. 

  

You see, we were now seasoned experienced parents. We learned that favorite dolls have a way of going missing and therefore getting our child to bond with one that was easily replaced seemed like a good idea. We even had bought 4 copies of the original one  and stored them in our house, just in case! 

  

Getting a three year old to go to sleep without her comfort doll is not a pretty sight.

About 2 hours into our trip our worst fears were realized! My daughter called out for her dolly. I looked at my wife and she looked at me and both of us said, “I thought you ……”. The family is now in dolly Defcon 4 mode. We stop the car on the side of the highway and do a complete search with no luck.

  

We continue our journey with a now distraught, crying child.     All I have to do (in theory) is find a Toys-R-US and buy a new doll. This is the solution that our doll standardization efforts should have yielded.

  

 Being a wireless guy, I decide that the easiest way to find a Toys-R-US is to use the search function on my WAP deck (at 70 miles an hour!). I was able to find a page on the toy store but it had no location information.

  

The crying seemed to increase and  the leers from the front passenger side got more serious.

 My next technological solution was to guess that Toys-R-US probably had a 800 phone number that is 1-800-toysrus. This worked! (you can try it) I felt as though my technological  manhood had been restored! I navigated the 78 step voice response system to finally get the prompt that promised to tell me where the nearest toy store was.   It then said “ Please enter  your zip code…”.

   

For those of you who have not been on the NY State Thruway recently (or ever), it should be no surprise that that State highway authority seemed to have forgotten to put zip code signs next to each exit.

   

Okay, I am not deterred, technology will get us out of this problem, I assure my increasingly skeptical family. All I have to do is figure out what zip code we are driving through, then call the 800 number again, navigate the 78 step voice system and voila!, I will have the location of the nearest Toys-R-US.

  

The fact that it was now 8:45pm and most Toys-R-Us stores close at 9:00 pm was just a minor glitch.

The next exit came up and I got off. I told everyone confidently that I will ask the toll taker what his zip code is and we will be in good shape.   My daughter wailed even more desperately in a demonstration of lack of confidence.

With all my self- assurance,  I paid the toll and started to ask the toll taker the zip code question. I was cut off with a still painful elbow to the ribs. My wife leaned over and had this conversation with the toll taker.

“Do you have a Toys-R-US in this town?”, “You do, great!”, “Can you give me directions?”, “ 1 mile, turn right and you will see it?.”, “Great!, Thanks!”

  

  

Humbled, I drove the precise directions to the store and bought the doll and put my internet enabled phone away for the rest of the weekend!

www.stevenspencer.net

http://ceospeaks.dada.blog.net

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Filed under CEO, himor, location based services, mobile, Uncategorized, wirless