Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Phone Company Puzzler

Let's say you're a nTelos customer and you're calling long distance within the same area code.

The call doesn't go through.

You try again numerous times. Occasionally you get through but just as frequently you do not. Sometimes the phone doesn't ring but someone eventually picks up.

Hello? Hello?

You respond but they can't hear you so they hang up, of course.

Now, who do you report this to?

In the old days you would have dialed 0 for operator and reported the problem. You told the operator what problem you were having. She said thank you very much and told you she would take are of it.

So now you call your phone company.

Your phone company (nTelos) says sorry, it's not on our end. You need to call the phone company that services that area.

Like you know what company that is.

Fortunately the helpful nTelos phone company people figure this out- it's TDS Telecom - and give you a number to call.

You call and attempt to make a report. After speaking to several people, the final helpful TDS phone company person says, essentially, so what do you want me to do about it?

Fix it?

He suggests putting in a "trouble ticket" but you don't know if that will cost the people you're trying to call anything, so you don't respond.

So what do you want me to do, he says.

You don't know. You are just calling to report that there is a problem. You aren't a telephone company repair person. You aren't even their customer.

A long time ago it didn't matter which company had the phone service (perhaps this was because it was all one big company) and you didn't have to turn into Sherlock Holmes to try to track down a phone number to report a problem.

Now you wonder, what exactly is the O for operator for? What does it do these days?

When you dial 0 in this day and age, what happens?


  1. Sometimes I really wish for those good old days of one big phone company monopoly.

  2. When you dial "O", be prepared to pay. In the old days, you dialed 611 for repair in most parts of the country - I think that is still true, for the most part. I suspect that the number you were calling was a cell phone, no? From your description of the problem, that's what it sounds like. I've never heard of that kind of a problem with a landline.

  3. Jeff - it was land line to land line. No cell phones involved.

  4. When a phone doesn't ring, it usually means that there is an electrical problem caused by water in a cable splice. If the party answers and can't hear you (and if there is a moisture problem) it is likely due to severe static on the line. So they hang up. In either case, the problem could be in the house or it could be in the cable - unless the customer is knowledgeable, repair could result in a service charge. So you did the right thing. But one thing to keep in mind is that small local telephone companies in rural areas often were never a part of the Bell System, so the idea that "in the good old days" things were more easily resolved may be wishful thinking. That is not to say that maintenance wasn't better in the "good old days" because it probably was. About the only thing you can do in a case like this is to call in a few days, when the lines have probably dried out and your call can be completed. The telephone business is extremely competitive these days (think of Citizen's recent troubles) and money for expansion and repair is hard to come by.

  5. Oh my gravy, you just described my husband's ordeal with the bank this week. Just sub out -phone- and sub in -bank- and you've pretty much summed up the frustration experience of using Bank of America.


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