Verizon Fios – The Ugly Side.

I’ve talked about how great Verizon Fios is previously. And at that time I noted a few downsides that hurt the service quality but still noted the ISP was the best I’d used. Today I’m going to rant a little longer about the ugly side of FiOS, mainly because I have just gone through/am still going through an excruciating experience1I rant in part about these types of situations because the bureaucracy in these large companies makes it almost impossible to get help. Oftentimes a blog posting is the most effective way to get real help.. That said, I still recommend FiOS2I recommend more the technology than the service. At this juncture there is no alternative provider with the same technology available in this geographic region. On a similar note, the use of traditional DSL through alternative providers does not actually circumvent utilizing Verizon as these providers operate over Verizon’s lines. Satellite/Cable are true alternatives and WiMax (Sprint’s Xohm) when it becomes available will be another real alternative.

On Thursday, 10/16/08 I tried to log onto the internet. No connection. Between 10/16-10/17 I would make seven major phone calls to Verizon in an attempt to resolve this issuing totaling approximately 250 minutes (over 4 hours). Verizon for an unknown reason3Not only unknown to me but also unknown to them. They did not know why I was disconnected, just that they had done it. disconnected my FiOS service4Second time this has happened since establishing service with them.. Okay, no big deal – reestablish the service5Unfortunately it takes hours for this to occur. As a Network Engineer I am still unable to comprehend what could possibly take so long in the assignment of an IP address when all the physical wiring actually exists and has for some time.. They create an entirely new account and inform me at the same time that I can no longer have my less-expensive 5 Mbps/2 Mbps subscription but must upgrade to a 10 Mbps/2 Mbps. Again, not a huge deal – $10/mo. – but doesn’t make an unhappy customer happy when you screw up and then demand he pay a higher price for the service.

The installation was supposed to be completed by the end of that day. At the end of the day I called back, ohh – somebody screwed up the order. I would talk to approximately three people between that call and calls the following day attempting to get the order straightened out. They placed at least two new orders and finally one of them kicked through. In all, it was around 48 hours without internet access.

Then the internet access finally returned. Great! I’m a happy man…Till its slower than DSL. I run some speedtests. Yup, certainly slower than DSL – and ping tests against Google/Yahoo’s servers revealed that occasional timeouts where occurring and response times were slow (over 100 ms typical). More phone calls to Verizon6Unfortunately my cell records have not updated to show me the length of those calls, so I cannot report their exact duration – but it was several and the time was significant.. Yes, my service is now working. No, the service is very slow. How do I know? Well, I used a bandwidth test. Run through the normal diagnostics – resetting wireless router, plugging directly into FiOS connection, resetting the FiOS box outside my house – sending the issue over to a tech. to look at. The pings drop down – Google/Yahoo now in the 10 ms range, but the speed is still horrific. Maybe its the bandwidth tester – well, I trust Speakeasy’s test but, sure, let’s try Verizon’s. Verizon shows even more dismal speeds. Ahh, forget Verizon’s speed test let’s try speedtest.net. Now if I go to the server in Newark I get 10 Mbps, but almost everywhere else its slow as anything. Will I run the FiOS settings optimizer7Glorified IE/TCP optimizer.? Sure. Still nothing. I’m tired, I’m going in circles. I talk to a supervisor. Same thing. They want to send me a new router. Sure, you can do that, but since I’m plugging directly into the connection and bypassing the router it’s not the router. Okay, we’ll have a technician look at it. Great – never hear from them again.

The connection has slowly improved. Dropped packets have decreased, but overall the network is slow. Streaming video doesn’t work well – unless you happen to hit 1% of the servers that seem to be operating on Verizon’s network at high speeds.

So, that is my situation as of today. Two days without internet – now extremely slow internet. Calling into technical support is an exercise in frustration. I can’t speak to someone who understands the problem is a technical issue on Verizon’s side. My guess? Either my circuit settings where entered wrong or they have a bad router somewhere along the line. 99% of my traffic is going through the bad router – if I happen to hit a server that takes another route (doesn’t use that router) then I get good speeds.

Anyone else having this problem? The phone support from Verizon has improved in that I don’t spend 15 minutes dialing through automated voice support – but the help desk support doesn’t have a clear escalation path beyond themselves and so I am at an ends. Vague promises of a “network tech.” looking into it and no followup leaves me with little hope of a long-term solution.

UPDATE:

Spoke to a technician at Verizon who knew what I was talking about and again submitted a ticket to the network tech. guys. His name was Dan…If any Verizon people do read this, he needs a promotion – his networking knowledge is far beyond most of his peers. In any case, he agrees the issue is one with the route being taken to reach the final website. To give everyone an idea here is a tracert to google.com (note the length of the route, its extremely, ridiculously long):

1 1 ms <1 ms <1 ms Wireless_Broadband_Router.home [192.168.1.1]
2 4 ms 4 ms 4 ms L100.FTTP-02.PHLAPA.verizon-gni.net [68.238.240.1]
3 7 ms 6 ms 7 ms G1-0-881.LCR-08.PHLAPA.verizon-gni.net [130.81.110.108]
4 7 ms 6 ms 7 ms P14-2.LCR-02.STTLWA.verizon-gni.net [130.81.29.6]
5 7 ms * 7 ms 0.so-6-0-0.XL2.PHL6.ALTER.NET [152.63.3.81]
6 13 ms 12 ms 11 ms 0.so-6-0-0.XL4.IAD8.ALTER.NET [152.63.0.130]
7 13 ms 11 ms 12 ms 0.ge-3-3-0.BR2.IAD8.ALTER.NET [152.63.40.229]
8 22 ms 49 ms 99 ms 204.255.169.2
9 88 ms 86 ms 87 ms tbr1.wswdc.ip.att.net [12.123.8.106]
10 580 ms 576 ms 724 ms cr1.wswdc.ip.att.net [12.122.16.89]
11 580 ms 484 ms 96 ms cr2.phlpa.ip.att.net [12.122.4.53]
12 115 ms 97 ms 96 ms cr2.cl2oh.ip.att.net [12.122.2.209]
13 87 ms 87 ms 86 ms cr1.cl2oh.ip.att.net [12.122.2.125]
14 88 ms 87 ms 86 ms cr1.cgcil.ip.att.net [12.122.2.205]
15 99 ms 99 ms 99 ms cr1.st6wa.ip.att.net [12.122.31.162]
16 88 ms 86 ms 87 ms tbr1.st6wa.ip.att.net [12.122.23.130]
17 87 ms 86 ms 87 ms gar8.st6wa.ip.att.net [12.122.111.17]
18 98 ms 96 ms 117 ms 12.89.209.14
19 111 ms 96 ms 97 ms 209.85.249.32
20 103 ms 98 ms 89 ms 66.249.95.208
21 91 ms 92 ms 91 ms 72.14.233.37
22 92 ms 92 ms 104 ms 216.239.48.143
23 93 ms 106 ms 117 ms 209.85.251.125
24 102 ms 94 ms 104 ms 74.125.31.2
25 105 ms 104 ms 104 ms cg-in-f99.google.com [209.85.171.99]

Unfortunately 99% of the sites I visit appear to be routing in this same, obtuse method. 1% take a different router and operate at blazing fast speeds.

Canceling Your TransUnion Trial (Not as Easy as You’d Think)

How to Cancel TransUnion (Updated: 10/4/15)

I recently received a helpful email from Carrie. She had spent thirty minutes looking for a way to cancel and wanted to share this method so others wouldn’t have to do the same.

  1. On the main page (tui.transunion.com) click on Customer Support.
  2. Click on General FAQs.
  3. Click on Payment (left and side).
  4. Click on How Do I Cancel My Membership (last FAQ).

The link below no longer works. They keep changing the relevant pages.

However the number has remained the same: 1-855-681-3196.


Read First (Updated: 4/8/15)

Several years on this remains one of my most popular posts – apparently there are a lot of people trying to cancel TransUnion. Unfortunately, the information in the original article is no longer current. TransUnion now redirects the contact page I linked to out to an order form.

I was able to track down the new contact us page. I’m also including the phone number on this page, in case they change the URL (again!). Hopefully the phone number itself won’t change: 1-855-681-3196.

The page says that they are open Monday through Thursday 8 am to midnight and on Friday through Sunday from 8 am to 8 pm.

I hope this is helpful!


Introduction

There are three big credit bureaus that track essentially everyone’s financial history and viability – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. They keep track of how much you owe and to whom, whether you’ve made your payments on time, where you live and where you have lived, and on and on the list goes. They provide this information at request to businesses who use it to determine whether they are going to sell or rent a product or service to you.

The Free Trial

Each of these bureaus tends to offer free trials – in this instance I signed up for a seven day free trial to TransUnion which included both a credit score and report (from TransUnion – the three bureaus don’t necessarily have matching information).

It was a good thing I did – they had Charity’s employment listed as mine and Charity’s employment listed as her former employment. I was also able to take care of a false delinquency charge on both Charity and I’s accounts.

Now I was done and the choice was to keep the service for $11.97/mo. or cancel it. Well, that was easy – I wanted to cancel it. Unfortunately, unlike most web services, it isn’t particularly easy to cancel your service. I scoured everywhere within my account and profile settings on the TransUnion website for a cancel option but all I could do was upgrade my services to more expensive plans – not cancel them. What?!?!

Finding a Phone Number

When everything else fails there is one solution remaining (okay two, one can also find a postal address) – find a phone number and talk to a real person (time consuming and I don’t like phones). I went to the TransUnion site and clicked on Contact Us. Okay, a whole bunch of options…which one to try? In the end I chose Consumer Resources – called the number and within three minutes was somehow placing (via their automated system) an order for another credit report and pressing 0 repeatedly only caused them to hang up on me rather than sending me to a real operator / support person. Usually 0 indicates the person needs help not “please end my phone call.” Thankfully, the order didn’t go through.

Google Helps

I ended up searching via Google for “how to cancel transunion free trial” which eventually led me to their terms of service page where there is a hyperlink (not hyperlinked) to another contact page (that I have no clue how to navigate to otherwise) here: https://tui.transunion.com/contact.jsp. On this page you’ll find a phone number you can call and cancel your service. The operator picked up quickly (I expect b/c no one is able to find the number) and fairly quickly and without too much argument canceled my service.

Dave Thinks

For what it is worth – I think it is great that we now get a free credit report annually from each of the bureaus, but I don’t think this goes far enough. These bureaus are trading information about us – sensitive and personal information – which is used to make life-altering decisions for us (can you buy that house, lease that car, qualify for that credit card) and it is unfair for them to charge us for the privilege of viewing and/or correcting our credit score/report at any time, any place, for any reason at no cost to us. In fact, I think someone could probably make an excellent class-action suit on this basis.

Newtown Medical Group: Thumbs Up.

Finding a good Primary Care Physician (PCP) can make a huge difference in one’s ongoing health. Many practices, for whatever reason, seem to be little more than pill dispensaries. You visit when you have aches and pains and need a prescription…but you shouldn’t really expect a lot of help with really maintaining good health.

A patient having his blood pressure taken
A patient having his blood pressure taken by a physician. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I finally found a PCP I love and I refer people to all the time – Newtown Medical Group. If you live in the Langhorne, Middletown, Newtown, Penndel, Hulmeville, Levittown area and are looking for a high quality primary care practice – Newtown fits the bill. If you are currently surviving with mediocre PCP care – there are better opportunities available..not every practice offers the sort of sub-standard care you are experiencing: give NMG a try.

When I switched to Newtown Medical Group I did so b/c I was looking to improve my overall health – not because I was struggling with any major health issues. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I switched around the same time my health took a jump off a high cliff – and it has been in free-fall ever since.

In the summer/fall of 2011 I was exposed to rabies, received a vaccination and at the same time was exposed to the flood waters of Hurricane Irene (which flooded our entire crawl space under the house, lapping at the doors). Soon thereafter I experienced what I thought was poison ivy on my left leg until four weeks later when not only had it not cleared up but it jumped to my hands and swelled them up like small balloons. My first annual physical at Newtown turned into, “quick, find out what is wrong with me” as life became quite miserable.

Newtown Medical Group did fairly extensive blood work, a biopsy, and sent me out for various consultations, eventually eliminating the rashes on my hands and legs. I continued to suffer leg pain while exercising which was mysterious and which would eventually (this spring) become constant and require me to take a medical leave from my employment at Cairn University. Once again, I’ve been put through batteries of tests, referred out to specialists, and had a bazillion appointments – and while I’m not better, I have full confidence in the team at Newtown Medical Group and at each step of the way have been pleased with their professionalism.

Lets talk a little more about what exactly impresses me about Newtown Medical Group’s practice:

  1. Friendly – Call in to the receptionist to setup an appointment or ask a question and the nurses are friendly and patient…much different than my experience at other PCP’s where they are oftentimes rushed, impatient, and indifferent with lots of blaring background noise.
  2. Timely – Don’t expect to spend large portions of your day sitting in the waiting room – Newtown is a timely organization. They can usually fit you in quickly for emergencies yet at the same time manage to keep the waiting room relatively low key – quickly moving patients into rooms with doctors arriving soon after nurses complete the preliminaries.
  3. Technological – Okay, there are some areas (::cough:: the website ::cough::) that could use some work – but overall, I’m very happy with Newtown’s commitment to technology adaptation in its practice. Each room is equipped with a computer which they use to record vital statistics and which contains comprehensive medical records of their treatments and interactions with each patient.
  4. Intelligent – I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Matthew Kulka twice, I’ve seen more of Dr. Suzanne Kettler Kelly than she’d probably prefer, and briefly met Dr. Jane Tantum when Dr. Kulka, Dr. Kelly, and Dr. Tantum all came in to consult on my condition during one visit last fall. I have been impressed with all of their professionalism and intelligence as I have had opportunity to interact with them.
  5. Patience – Don’t expect much chit chat during your appointment – at least that is my experience – but that doesn’t mean the doctor won’t spend as much time as necessary with you. While very business-oriented (talking about symptoms, etc.), the doctors also take the time to hear you out and think through what is going on – something I really appreciate. I’ve been in far too many offices where I’ve been pushed out without a full consideration…which only results in more return trips.
  6. One Stop Shop – Newtown does blood tests on site, making life a lot easier. They also have a cardiologist come in on a regular basis and are near St. Mary’s Medical Center – so if tests need to be referred out, they are usually nearby.
  7. Referral Network – The doctors refer you to specific providers they prefer working with and give you copies of the office’s business cards…this makes it really easy to find quality practitioners when you need to see a neurologist, rheumatologist, urologist, etc.

Seriously, they are that good. I really do refer people to them all the time…and I haven’t had anyone come back to me and say, “Dave, I’ve tried Newtown Medical Group and they disappointed me.” I’ve only had folks say, “Dave, I’m going to Newtown Medical Group and here is how they’ve been helping me with x condition I thought I was just going to live with forever.”