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Last Updated: May 16, 2014

 


 

Maps are great for finding things that you already know are there. If you want to know where a Target is in your area it's easy enough to pop over to Google Maps and search for Target. Unfortunately, maps are really bad (incapable, actually) of telling you what's provided in your area. Availability.net strives to offer a comprehensive list of what services are available broken out by zip code. That way, if you want to know what you can get in your zip code you can simply go to that page and find out.

 

AT&T Fighting Fines For Throttling Customers’ Data


Posted: August 27, 2015 by David Curry



Despite the company’s recent success in gaining approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to complete its purchase of DirecTV, AT&T has suffered from a string of legal decisions and regulatory violations that have resulted in sizeable fines. Both the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have taken aim at the telecom firm over what they claim are illegal and unethical practices related to AT&T’s data usage policies.

The FTC’s case began last October when the commission made clear that they were going to sue AT&T for “deceptive and unfair data throttling.” In particular, the lawsuit focuses on customers who have unlimited data plans on their mobile devices. AT&T discontinued the plans years ago, but around 20% of its customers have been grandfathered in and retain the cap-free data packages. However, according to the FTC’s suit, AT&T has actually been imposing a limit on these consumers. This has been occurring in two ways. For those customers with older 3G phone models, a 90% reduction of their speeds took place as soon as they hit 3GB of data during the monthly cycle, while those with LTE phones saw a similar reduction in their speeds after hitting 5GB per month. Ultimately, the crux of the FTC’s lawsuit is that such actions are in violation of the contract signed by unlimited data plan customers. While AT&T claims that no such violation exists, they have modified the language in their contracts to state that throttling will only occur if the user is connected to an overloaded cellular relay.

Around the same time that the FTC’s case got underway, the FCC saw an increase in the number of complaints from AT&T customers who were irritated that their connection speeds had been slowed down. This led the commission to accuse the telecom provider of violating a transparency rule that was part of the Open Internet Order passed in 2010. Although the FCC has known about AT&T’s data throttling policy for the last four years, it was only recently that the number of unhappy customers prompted Chairman Tom Wheeler to level a massive $100 million fine against the mobile service provider.

AT&T is not simply accepting its fate and has vowed to fight the $100 million fine in court, claiming that customers knew full well that their data speeds would be throttled after reaching a certain quota and that no harm came to customers as a result of the slowdown. There is no doubt that AT&T is going to stand its ground for as long as it can on the issue, knowing that the judge in the FTC case may cite the FCC’s actions as a precedent. The telecommunications conglomerate has filed a grievance against the FCC stating that the current fine is excessive and that, at most, AT&T should have to pay only $16,000, even though its policies were not illegal.

 

 

 

Comcast Customer Service Is Still A Work in Progress


Posted: August 20, 2015 by David Curry



For years, Comcast has been hounded by complaints about under-performing TV and internet service and almost non-existent customer support staff. In an effort to reverse course, the telecom behemoth announced earlier this year that they were promoting a new VP for customer experience. When Charlie Herrin took over this role he admitted that it would be a long undertaking and that results would not be instantaneous. He certainly has his work cut out for him, especially after embarrassing incidents in 2014 included a customer service representative berating someone attempting to close his account and a frustrated user being charged $1,000 after canceling his inconsistent service. The first part of 2015 hasn’t been any better, as Comcast held the top position in the annual Customer Service Hall of Shame rankings.

Herrin’s first step toward addressing the customer service issues was by making the initial interaction for new Comcast customers as pleasant as possible. This meant narrowing appointment windows for when the cable guy would arrive to set up the service. To help this process run smoothly, the company launched an app that allows customers to track the location of the cable man in real time. This way, there’s no need to put off that quick trip to the store to fill a prescription, whereas before, customers were left sitting around for six hours, never sure if they could run a quick errand for fear that they would miss the installation provider and have to make a new appointment. Despite these improvements in being able to track service technicians, Comcast isn’t stopping there. They are also instituting a new program where a customer receives a $20 credit if a technician arrives late to a scheduled appointment.

The next part of Comcast’s plan is to improve the quality of customer service providers, both over the phone and at their stores. An essential component to this transformation is hiring an additional 5,500 representatives to lessen wait times. Each of these new employees will undergo increased technical training, as well as workshops designed to improve their interpersonal communication skills. We all know that these skills will be put to the test, so we commend Comcast for recognizing that what they have been providing their employees in terms of communication and anger management techniques has not been enough.

The last part of the customer service turnaround involves physical store locations. In addition to more capable individuals running the places, Comcast is working to make it easier for customers to exchange cable boxes, pay their bills, and receive additional information about their accounts. Some locations have already received a facelift and include additional seating, video screens that show the customer's number in line, and a special counter specifically set aside for returning and exchanging cable boxes. Furthermore, Comcast has made an agreement with the UPS Store so that customers may now return their cable boxes to any of their locations without penalty.

All of these changes certainly sound good, but Comcast has made similar, albeit less ambitious, declarations of improved customer service in the past. Until tangible results are evident, Charlie Herrin remains on the hot seat.