Monday, January 19, 2009


Why I don't hate Embarq any more - pt. 1.

My unhappy experience with magicJack had a happy side effect.

First, some background. Embarq, if I understand the muddy waters of the telcommunications industry correctly, is a local telecom provider and spin-off of Sprint Nextel. Embarq focuses on plain old telephone service, high-speed internet, and DISH Network satellite TV. Embarq offers bundled services to customers, with the "convenience" of one monthly bill and provides discounts to customers for adding additional services. Many moons ago, when I first moved to lovely downtown Podunk, I became a more-or-less dissatisfied customer of Sprint. I say more-or-less because I knew that life in Podunk came with some disadvantages.

Like no cable. And when cable showed up, no digital cable.*

Like ridiculous sewer bills.**

Like crappy cellular service.***

Like 1970's level phone service.

Sprint was a little higher than the Geetingsville Telephone Company (next town east) and the Mulberry Telephone Company (next town south) but, monopolies being what they are, there wasn't a helluva lot I could do about it, so I learned to growl and bear it. Since I had to have a landline in order to get on the internet, I was pretty much stuck with Sprint. When DSL came along, I was even more stuck with Sprint because Sprint owned the wires that DSL used to get me on the net.

We live in a small world, made even smaller than the internet. It was pretty easy to figure out that Sprint's prices were a little higher than everyone else's and the level of service could only be described as "smug." I wasn't going anywhere, and they knew it.

Time passed. A merger here and a spinoff there and - Voila! - I'm an Embarq customer. Nothing else changed, of course - the letterhead on the bill and that was about it. I'm still using the original Sprint DSL modem. As time went on, though, other things changed. Cellular service got better; 3G was introduced. Coverage got better. VOIP got better. It is now possible to contemplate breaking the local telecom monopoly and go totally wireless.

Sprint's own 3G network covers my home in Podunk. With speeds of 1.7M, it is possible to network the computers in my home to share the internet connection, including the use of a service like magicJack or Vonage to go completely wireless. On the Sprint network it is possible to stream 2 or three movies a week and download a lot more than the 75 or so songs a month I get from eMusic.

There is real competition now for the the local telecoms.

In a crowded market, about the only thing you have going for you is customer service. In our "service economy,"**** good service is rare. Customer service is offshore. Technical service is bad and getting worse. Companies either don't care or are relying on their competitors service to be just as bad. Or both. When the chance came along to streamline my services to try to save money and still get the services I wanted or needed, I jumped at the chance to dump Embarq and break away from a company I'd come to dislike. So this brings my story to the really bad experience I had with magicJack.

Part 2 later...

*Still no digital cable. **Sewer bills going up about 10% - thanks, IDEM! ***Cellular service still mostly crappy. Verizon and AT&T don't really service my home area. I get around it by purchasing my service in the next large town west and living off the extended network. This presents some opportunities for really crappy customer service - more on AT&T Mobility later. ****I notice that the "service economy" is morphing into yet another paradigm - more later.

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