Streamlining our monthly information costs, part 1: the cost of Freedom.

Monday, December 6th, 2010

AT&T is now the duo of the former Bell South and SouthWestern Bell. AT&T, in any legal construction, no longer supplies telephone service to my neighborhood which is a 3 wood to Duke University. I may live in Duke Forest but I do not live in the remote woods. Verizon, the former GTE, used to supply POTS to our home but sold such service to Frontier on 1 July.

Telecom industry tumult is not news as we all know that cell phones are replacing land-lines at a high-speed rate. Still, I have enough conference calls with never to be seen clients and colleagues that I want the best quality and most reliable service available. My outlook was reinforced again at lunch today when my client-guest called me on my AT&T iPhone which failed to ring in my pocket.

What truly inspired me to action was the realization and arithmetic, amidst the annual December flurry of birthdays (2) and Xmas debts (too many), that we’re spending too much on unsatisfying information services. Today, I’m beginning a campaign of calling my communications vendors to learn how we rationalize my monthly information costs. What will follow will be a roster of my results, a report in several parts or, at least, several calls.
Music Man Poster

2pm: Called Frontier, the former Verizon. Spoke with polite and knowledgable agent in Indiana. My current monthly fee is $47.99 for the Freedom Value Plan. Of course, one must weigh ‘what is the value of freedom?’ before hasty action, but I’m over that as I now ask ‘what is the value of value?’ or maybe ‘how can one become freed from value?’ and, especially, ‘do these guys have any value or values?’ Why the diatribe? Because my $47.99 plan gets to a bottom-line of $64.68 per month because of the number of hands along the way who require their share of the deal, aka Vig.

We politely compared which plans were best for me with the sense of foreboding at my end akin to the beef-cow brainstorming about ‘which ax would be better’ in conversation with the slaughter-house customer service rep. In my case, I was waiting for the up-sell to digital phone service, their version of cable service (FIOS) and in-home wiring maintenance plan which has to be the up-sell trick of all time. Have you ever heard of a phone wire going bad in a modern home? And should you pay $72 per year for the reassurance that the chap in the helmet will show up to trace-out that unreliable system?! If so, how often should I replace my car’s steering wheel?

We concluded that I could lower my bill by $25 per month if I dropped the unlimited long-distance. Upon further review, I learned that long-distance in my brave new world would become forty-five (45) cents per minute to any number outside of my calling zone. Not area code, calling zone or Central Office. My number begins with 493 after the area code. Dial out of this 493 zone, pay 45 cents per minute. Hmm? Could add up, I thought. Especially, if I want to telephone someone whose house that I cannot see from my upstairs window. As I balked at the math, like it would cost $4 to call Dominoes, Mrs. Hoosier opined that as my life may have future changes – Right Here in River City – she offered me my current Freedom package at a discount of $20 per month!!

That’s the kind of Value and Freedom I’m talking about. Just like that. Well, not exactly. I did receive the ‘which ax’ up-sell presentation which did not last so long because Frontier does not offer Internet access to my neighborhood nor the snazzy television package. In the end, about 15 minutes later, I reduced my land-line phone bill by $240 per year without a change in reach or features. I wonder what the cable company will say tomorrow?!