Ditching Time Warner (partially)

I wrote earlier about my experience with Time Warner, and how I was able to actually wrangle a better deal on phone service after my initial promotional offer expired.  This time, I was not as lucky.  At the end of my promotional year, I received an e-mail from Time Warner announcing “We are pleased to extend you additional savings”.  “Whoo-hoo,” I thought; they must be responding to competition offering internet phone service for as little as $10.00 a month, and they must therefore be reducing the price I pay.  As I read further, however, I was disappointed to find out that the additional savings actually amounted to an increase of $5.00 a month — the additional savings were from the “list” price for phone service (which I am sure few, if any, people actually pay), albeit at a rate of $5.00 per month less than the discount I had been receiving.

I called Time Warner, expressed my displeasure that their e-mail announcing I would be saving money actually was sneakily disclosing a $5.00 per month increase, and reminding them that in the past year they already had increased my monthly internet access fee by $5.00, and that they had introduced, and shortly thereafter doubled, a modem rental fee that was now up to $6.00.  I expressed the opinion that these increases (totaling about 20%) were enough for one year, and that I would like to continue paying the same amount or else I would have to consider buying my own modem to save the monthly rental fee and looking at other phone service providers.  After a lot of wrangling and attempts at up-selling me combination packages and higher speed internet service, the best the rep said she could do was give me a $3.00 a month credit for six months as a good will gesture.  I confirmed that I was not on any sort of contract and that I was free to both obtain my own modem and discontinue my TW phone service.

After perusing the compatible modems on the Time Warner web page, I found a new Motorola model for $68.00 plus tax on the Wal Mart site; it was shipped to my local store the same day.  In one year, it would be paid for by the savings on the rental fee (sooner, if TW has the nerve to raise the fee again); as long as it lasts after that, it will be free.  Finding suitable phone service was a little tougher; I started by looking at Basic Talk, at $9.99 a month, but found it did not allow one to forward calls, which was a deal breaker for me (when I go out, I like to forward my home phone to my cell, so I don’t have to give out my cell number).  Ultimately, I decided to take a chance on VOIPo, a company I had never heard of, which, if accessed through the NextAdvisor web site, offered 26 months’ service for $185.00, prepaid, including all taxes and fees, for a total cost of a little over $7.10 per month.

Replacing the cable modem wasn’t difficult, though Time Warner makes it harder than it should have been.  If you have Time Warner phone service that you wish to continue, you have to get a device from Time Warner  (for free) that connects to the modem; you also need to buy a splitter and some cable to connect it to the modem.  Since I had decided to discontinue my Time Warner phone service, I left my home phone forwarded to my cell and just hooked up the modem.  According to the web site, all I had to do was call Time Warner, read off the MAC address (a code consisting of letters and numbers on a tag affixed to the modem), and the new modem would be activated.  However, the phone number the web site listed did not allow me to get through to a human being;  use the local number instead (518-869-5500).  Also, if you are using a cell phone (which you will have to, unless you have old-fashioned wired phone service), you may want to attempt this at night or on a weekend, as the inevitable holds could deplete your monthly cell phone minutes.  The web site also is a bit misleading, as it suggests activation is instantaneous; actually, I was told it would take 30 to 60 minutes.  In my case, it took a while longer because of a problem on the Time Warner side, which eventually (after several more phone calls) was rectified.  Even after your new modem is working, you may experience problems with some web sites, which get overwritten by a Time Warner page listing the MAC number of your modem and suggesting you need to activate it, even though you already have.  I learned from a Google search that you can solve this problem by clearing your browser’s cache, which did the trick for me after I restarted my computer.  After I was satisfied that everything worked, I returned my modem to Time Warner’s Colonie Center location.  I had to wait a little while to see a very laconic and bored agent, but at least he didn’t attempt to up-sell me.

Changing phone service was not too bad.  I enrolled on the VOIPo site, paid for my 26 months by credit card, and shortly thereafter began receiving e-mails outlining the remaining steps.  I filled out a request to have my present number “ported” to the new service, which would take about 10 days (there’s a form you have to fill out and either scan and e-mail back or fax back, with a copy of your latest phone bill).  I received in the mail an adapter that I hooked up to my router and to my phone.  I received a temporary number to test the system, and it worked.  I could forward calls to my cell; unlike the Time Warner service, which charged extra for voice mail (and which I therefore did not have), VOIPo’s service includes voice mail with a nifty feature:  when you get a message, it e-mails you with the number of the caller and an attached .wav sound file of the recorded message.  Therefore, if you have a smart phone, you can retrieve messages and listen to them without wasting cell phone minutes.  I did have a few problems getting everything working, but each e-mail I sent was answered promptly, accurately and comprehensibly within a few hours, even on nights and weekends.  It was a refreshing change from dealing with the service reps at Time Warner who respond with scripted answers that may or may not be relevant to the question you have asked.

The number I had been using with Time Warner was “ported” to my new service on schedule.  After I verified that, I called Time Warner to discontinue my phone service with them.  After several unsuccessful attempts with different service reps, I finally got a supervisor who told me that the phone service would automatically terminate after the porting process was completed.  I checked on the web site, and saw that indeed it had been.  Therefore, I suggest that if you do switch from Time Warner to another phone carrier, you wait until a day or two after your porting date and check the web site; only if it still shows you are subscribing to phone service will you have to endure Time Warner customer service hell.

Unfortunately, no viable alternative to Time Warner’s high speed internet service exists in my service area.  However, with a little work and a small financial outlay,  I was able to deprive Time Warner — whose business practices and customer service I despise — of about half of what I had been paying them each month, while getting phone service with more features that has so far been entirely satisfactory.


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