Now most of you probably don't know much about what goes on in the US military community. So I'll have to preface my complaint with some history. I hope it makes sense. (Because it's hard to explain unless you're living in it.)
In the military a base is monopolized by one company for cable, internet, or phone services. As long as you live on base, you have no options but what you're given. Which company has the monopoly for a base varies from base to base. How the company gets the contract for a base is by offering their services for the lowest price to the government. (I'm not entirely sure how this works, since us lowly folks who use the services don't get a price cut. I am assured though, that the government pays less ultimately.) Sometimes the services are top-notch and sometimes they are very very bad.
I live overseas (Misawa, Japan, if you're interested) and I live on a US military base. There are two areas where people live, "Main Base" and "North Area". North Area is smaller and has fewer people. I live in the North Area and we get no love.
When I got to Misawa Air Base, Softbank was the winning bidder for the Internet (DSL). They had great customer service, but a really poor product in North Area. Every 4 or 5 months my internet would crap out on me for a few days to a week. I had to unplug all my phones, turn off my router, wait a few hours, and hope it fixed itself. Sometimes it did. Sometimes I just had to wait for the weather to stabilize. (Seriously if it got cold or warm suddenly, or started raining heavily the internet crapped out.) Sometimes if it was really bad I called Housing Maintenance (Softbank didn't touch the houses, that was the Military's job) in hopes that they could figure out what the problem was.
For 3 and a half years I have suffered with this. The North Areas wiring must have been installed during the 50s or 60s and was never meant to be used for high speed internet. As far as I know Softbank had no authority to change wiring on the base (or interest, since North Area had so few people). They were, however, nice enough to charge us a lower price due to the poor quality of Internet we got.
This past year Verizon won the bid for the base. They claimed faster speeds, even in the North Area, and more phone service frills (voicemail service, call waiting, call forwarding, call blocking and caller identification). All for the "low" price of 99.00$. (Our phone service, by the way, does not include unlimited long distance within the country and only on base numbers are unlimited. Though we do get 100 free minutes a month for Stateside calls. Oh, and we don't have cable, we have AFN which is run by the military.)
The community seemed split, some were ecstatic, others were skeptical. I fell in with the skeptics. I'd heard the horror stories from other bases when a new company took over and "improved". Generally it meant a year or two of unreliable service. I knew what was coming, but it doesn't mean I had to liked it.
I gave them about a month to get things sorted out before I started getting annoyed.
My first complaint is that their billing system sucks. Where are my April and May bills? Why did my June Bill only come with a phone service charge? I ended up paying for Internet too anyway, just because I don't trust their system to figure out it's butt from it's head. (The Verizon Rep I went to pretty much felt the same way and recommended I NOT use their auto-pay service, lest I end up getting double charged.)
My second complaint is their phone service. I have no way to opt out for all the phone "frills". Their frills are awkward to use and annoying. (I hate their voicemail service. I want to use my answering machine again but somehow Verizon prevents it.) In conjunction with the phone service, I'd also like to have confidence that when someone off base calls me, their phones calls will get through! How many times do I have to hear from someone "I tried to call you but I kept getting the operator..." Ugh.
My third complaint is that I'd like consistent internet service. Verizon DSL *is* faster (which is wonderful) but consistency-wise it's worse than Softbank. Sometimes the internet is gone completely, sometimes it's slower than dial-up, and sometimes it's on and off again within a few hours. My husband is taking college classes online is now having to go to work to upload his finished assignments. (He's Active Duty and they don't use Verizon's internet they use something else. Something fast and reliable. Lucky!) At least with Softbank there was a set number of things I could do to fix my internet problems, but none of those work with Verizon.
My forth complaint is keep your appointments! A friend moved from North Area to Main Base (bigger house for bigger family) and called in advance to set up an appointment so a Technician could come and switch their services from the old house to the new one. The day (Friday) of the "big switch" the technician never showed up! They called several times to figure out what was going on and in the end got told "Well, the Technicians have all gone home. Call back next week and we may be able to get you in by Wednesday or Thursday." No one apologized for the mistake. They were without a phone and internet service for 5 days because of someone else's mistake.
My fifth complaint is that they need to be better staffed and have better management. By June almost all the staff had quit, leaving only one customer service guy and one technician for the whole base. I have never felt so sorry as I did for that one, lone, customer service representative. He was a nice guy (compared to the women, I'm kinda glad she quit) and he was trying his best, doing the job of 3 people. They hired another CSR but they still need more than TWO CSRs to cover the entire base. I haven't heard anything about the Technicians, though I'm sure they're trying to hire more. (Good luck with that, Softbank had a horrid time keeping their Technicians, and they were better to work for then Verizon!)
Lastly, it's entirely unfair that we're paying 99$ for services that were either half delivered or so unreliable that they were worthless. Unless you go and ask specifically to have your bill reduced--and hope they won't haggle too much about it--you're expected to pay full price. If they had any integrity at all they'd at least lower the April bill for everyone (since we all suffered, there were no isolated cases). But they don't.
Stupid federal cheap-skates. Stupid Softbank. Stupid Verizon! We're moving back to the States this year and I can't wait. This time we're living off base. And we're getting cable internet!