Date: 24 Sep 2018 16:12:50 -0600
From: "Fred Atkinson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Finger Pointing
I was just reading Hancock4's post of 9/22.
His brief reference to 'finger pointing' in the industry brought
back a lot of memories.
I worked for MCI during their high growth years. I was a very
sharp troubleshooter on analog lines. Every time a vendor tried to
get me into a finger pointing match with them, I always prevailed.
That was because I did thorough troubleshooting and I never assigned
blame to another telephone company or COAM provider without absolute
proof. If it wasn't their issue, I'd just fix it without getting them
Sadly, a lot of the COAM and even some of the phone companies
would make assumptions and deny the issue was theirs even though my
troubleshooting clearly demonstrated that it was. It happens a lot
more often than you think much to your customer's displeasure.
In my later years at MCI, I was involved with a department called
'Accounts Maintenance'. It was a polite name for something else. A
more accurate name might have been 'Troubled Accounts'.
These were customers with foreign exchange lines, WATS lines,
and/or analog data lines.
They never sent me to a customer unless the customer was already
absolutely furious. I could bet you a hundred dollar bill [with no
fear of losing] that the customer was ready to eat me alive when I
walked in the door.
But I never failed to resolve their issue(s). I always had them
eating out of my hand when I left. I saved many an account for MCI.
When I would get into a difference of opinion (a more
professional way of referring to it than 'finger pointing'), I would
schedule a meet with the COAM or telco and prove the issue to them. I
always isolated the issue to their service or equipment and got them
to repair it.
I thoroughly embarrassed the local Bell company because they
refused to believe my assessment. Their field installers/repair men
always took the attitude that if you weren't one of them, you didn't
The customer was experiencing a loud hum whenever they bridged
their MCI WATS line with one of their Bell lines. It otherwise worked
I had the local phone company go out and check it. All he did
was check for dial tone at the demarc, said there was nothing wrong,
and proceeded to leave.
That customer was a burglar/fire alarm company that paid the
local company twenty thousand dollars per month for all of the lines
they used to monitor their customers' alarms. That customer stopped
the installer, explained to him that he was a large customer, and
politely asked him to assist him in resolving that issue. The
installer refused and he left.
I went out there with my test equipment. When I put a volt ohm
meter between ring and ground, the meter pegged to the left. There
was positive battery on the ring of the circuit we had leased from the
local Bell company to carry our WATS service to his premises. I
checked the conditions on the Bell lines to compare. They all showed
negative battery ring to ground.
I opened a trouble report with the local phone company. They
sent the same installer/repair man to the site as before. He called
me and told me I didn't know what I was talking about. He said I sent
him out on an unnecessary trip. He also stated, 'on a loop start
circuit telco does not provide battery' (excuse me?).
I told him to hold tight and not leave because I was now going to
When I called the escalation line, they let me speak to a
technical supervisor. I told him what I had found on the line and
that the installer/repair man was refusing to address the issue. He
told me he'd call me back.
About ten minutes later, my phone rang. It was our customer. He
told me that it worked and he even bridged up our line to demonstrate
that there was no longer a loud hum on the line when they bridged it.
I heard a clear MCI dial tone with no hum.
Five minutes later, I got a phone call from the technical
supervisor. He told me, "Fred, I would have bet a month's pay that
you were wrong. And I would have *lost*!". They had identified a
defective power supply they had installed on the customer's premises.
When they replaced it, the issue cleared.
I ran into that installer/repair man at one of our data customers
about a month later. From then on any time I asked him to do
something or told him how to troubleshoot anything, it was 'Yes, sir'
and he acted! I never had another minute's issue with him (I still
remember his name, haha). Apparently that story spread to the rest of
his colleagues in that area because their attitude seemed to change
when I dealt with them, too.
I could tell a number of other stories like this. I had one with
Rolm where I had to arrange a meet. I really embarrassed the folks at
Rolm when I immediately proved that the issue with the WATS line was a
card in the customer's switch and not our WATS line. They had been
telling the customer for weeks that the issue was not in the Rolm
switch. Of course, they insisted the issue was on the WATS line we
were providing. The supervisor that met me swapped out the Rolm card
while I waited and the issue was immediately resolved. The customer
went absolutely ballistic when he found he had been without his WATS
line for weeks because of that defective card and Rolm had repeatedly
denied it was their issue. I could give you further details, but I
think you get the idea.
Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than finger pointing
between telcos and/or COAM providers. First, thoroughly troubleshoot
it and clearly identify the issue. If it is your issue, resolve it
right then and there. If you isolate it to another service provider
or customer equipment, schedule a meet with the telco or COAM provider
and make sure everyone in attendance understands that no one is
leaving until the issue is resolved. Then, resolve it. That leads to
much happier customers.
Date: Sat, 22 Sep 2018 13:21:10 -0400
From: Bill Horne <bill@horneQRM.net>
Subject: Private monopolies failed to deliver fiber. Now it's time
for municipal broadband
By Don McIntosh
In the Willamette Valley, you have two choices if you want high-speed
Internet access: cable monopoly Comcast or telephone landline
monopoly CenturyLink. For decades, without ever investing in
fiber-optic cables to residents' homes, the two monopolies have
ratcheted up the rent on their legacy coaxial cables and twisted
copper wires, all while confusing customers with complicated package
deals and temporary introductory rates - and maintaining
legendarily poor customer service. It's no wonder giant cable and
telephone providers are consistently ranked among the most hated
companies in America. But what are you gonna do about it?
Now, coming soon to Portland City Council, is a union-backed plan for
public-owned Internet access that would be cheaper than Comcast and 40
times as fast. Not only that, but it would pay for itself and cost
(Remove QRM from my email address to write to me directly)
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2018 15:21:44 -0400
From: Bill Horne <bill@horneQRM.net>
Subject: Re: Finger Pointing
On Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 04:12:50PM -0600, Fred Atkinson wrote:
> I worked for MCI during their high growth years. I was a very
> sharp troubleshooter on analog lines.
I guess it was inevitable that *someone* at MCI knew their trade. I'm
glad to know it was you. ;-)
> ... Every time a vendor tried to get me into a finger pointing match
> with them, I always prevailed. That was because I did thorough
> troubleshooting and I never assigned blame to another telephone
> company or COAM provider without absolute proof. If it wasn't their
> issue, I'd just fix it without getting them involved.
For those of a certain age, "COAM" means "Customer Owned And
Maintained." Where I worked, the designation was mostly applied to
owners of COCOT (Customer Owned Coin Operated Telephone) pay phones,
and then to those who bought PBX (Private Branch eXchange) units from
a slew of fly-by-night vendors who cropped up after divestiture to
take advantage of the Bell System reputation for reliability, by
peddling sub-standard technology at exorbitant prices.
> When I would get into a difference of opinion (a more
> professional way of referring to it than 'finger pointing'), I would
> schedule a meet with the COAM or telco and prove the issue to them. I
> always isolated the issue to their service or equipment and got them
> to repair it.
> I thoroughly embarrassed the local Bell company because they
> refused to believe my assessment. Their field installers/repair men
> always took the attitude that if you weren't one of them, you didn't
> know anything.
Bell System technicians were trained to be self-assured and confident
when dealing with customers, long before divestiture. They sometimes
looked down on technicians working for other vendors because, frankly,
there wasn't much to go wrong with phone company wires or equipment,
and repairs could, for that reason, be made simply and quickly. There
were some companies that I won't name which had a business model of
relying on Bell System training and expertise to do all the
"complicated" work on their behalf.
> Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than finger pointing
> between telcos and/or COAM providers. First, thoroughly troubleshoot
> it and clearly identify the issue. If it is your issue, resolve it
> right then and there. If you isolate it to another service provider
> or customer equipment, schedule a meet with the telco or COAM provider
> and make sure everyone in attendance understands that no one is
> leaving until the issue is resolved. Then, resolve it. That leads to
> much happier customers.
I worked on a number of "Extension Off Premise" lines when I was a
Toll Test Technician, and often when I had to act on a complant from a
COAM vendor, I would often put a meter on a "dial tone" line coming
from a PBX that was (at best) capable of supporting some proprietary
desk phones in a small office, and it would show "floating" voltages
that did not meet the interface specification. I was usually forced to
explain to the vendor and the customer that the PBX was not producing
the conditions needed to interface with T-Carrier, range extender, or
other trunk-side equipment in my office. The vendors involved would
often complain that "Ma Bell" had gerrymandered the standards to her
advantage, even though they had been in use for decades, just to
placate their customers.
We could debate endlessly about whether those standards were "fair,"
even though the ILECs bent over backwards to accomodate incompatible
PBX's and other shoddy merchandise. Just as one example, we went
through several versions of D4 T-Carrier channel units that were
designed to work with the bizarre variety of PBX units being imported
for sale to dumb purchasing managers who assmed that every phone was
the same as every other, and wouldn't listen to the truth.
I think most customer frustration was caused by the double-talk and
evasiveness of some new entrants into the "telephone" business who
didn't know anything about it, and who assumed that "standards" were
for others to uphold. They wanted money, and they didn't care how they
got it. They cried endlessly to the FCC, to the various PUC's, and to
the media, while they sold carp hardware and planned on being both
rich and gone before it failed.
(Remove QRM from my email address to write to me directly)
Date: 24 Sep 2018 13:48:19 -0700
From: HAncock4 <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Cannot Get Answer from Verizon
On Monday, September 24, 2018 at 12:40:44 PM UTC-4, the Moderator wrote:
> Last week, I contacted the press office at Verizon, and asked for
> comment on the address issue.
For what it's worth, I do research into corporate history.
Years ago, corporations maintained public relations department
with prominently published addresses to handle inquiries from
the news media and individual. This was once considered an
important function to maintain customer loyalty and public
goodwill. One could even walk in off the street and see
a p/r person*, but today security restrictions discourage that.
But today I've noticed it's hard to find an mailing address on
a website. It seems fewer corporations publish descriptive
annual reports for the public, releasing only mandated financial
data (e.g. a 10-K). Many companies offer only a brief summary
on their web page. Some have a "contact us" email box to use.
In addition, a number of old companies maintained libraries
or archives, which could be visited by the public for research.
They too have been closed, sadly. I think their reason was
activists would dig up literally ancient actions and use them
* Tom Watson Jr, former president of IBM, wrote about all
of this in his memoir, Father, Son & Co. IBM made sure
that individual and media inquirers were given full service.
Personally, when I was a kid, I visited IBM out of curiosity,
and in response they gave me a whole tour of their facility.
Bell Telephone was very security conscious years ago, but
after a request, they let my family visit a central office.
End of telecom Digest Thu, 27 Sep 2018