Tuesday, July 17, 2007

SunRocket and Consumer Recourse

I confess: Yesterday I could not stop hitting my browser's refresh button and watching the carnage unfold on dsl reports.

It does seem some subscribers did the math and realized SunRocket, nor likely Vonage, are tenable the way they are/did business. It's true, given how they're structured, the more people they sign up, the more money they lose.

I am not defending SunRocket, but:

The other interesting observation was of the customers that were very, very upset at the sudden loss of service. Talks of calling the FCC or other government authorities were bandied about. What these people don't realize is that the government does not owe them anything. For one, VoIP as structured, skirted the tax structure of traditional telecom - this is where the deals came from. No tax, no government regulation = no recourse. With the imposition of some regulatory fees came some recourse, but much of this was because the telcos granted area monopolies were seeing their best customers skimmed off by VoIP, and thus successfully argued that this eroded their ability to provide at-loss telephone service to out of the way places.

Remember - a normal telco, say Verizon, is granted a monopoly in an area in return for not turning down customers. This means if you live somewhere where they need to string wire to you, they cannot charge you more than the guy in the downtown apartment. In return, nobody can go anywhere else. Those calling for government intervention circumvented the system, in almost all cases, knowingly. "So you left for the high seas to get away from your navy and customs people, and when the pirates come, wonder where your navy is?"

Now, you can knock SunRocket on consumer laws, but most of these only take effect in the case of outright fraud, are difficult to prove, and moreover require there be assets in that company to allow the damages to be paid. Which means that if you do take them to court, even if you win, no matter the size of the judgment, there probably won't be enough to take to even pay your lawyer.

In the end, people, knowing what they're in for, can either accept the risk of going with VoIP (or this new-fangled thing called the Internet - your virus checkers are up to date, right?), or return to the traditional, sheltered telco environment. It's a free country - you're free to complain too.

Just be sure you've got your number porting paperwork in.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Dan said...

I printed out my SunRocket Invoice, as you suggested in your previous post. Thanks for the advice, no more than 20 minutes after I printed the invoice, it was removed from their system.

But I've been calling around to different VOIP providers and all of them seem to agree, getting my old number back is "iffy" at best.

On slashdot I read about people using "true" VOIP providers such as les.net, anyone have any information on this type of service?

4:43 PM  
Blogger jaydub said...

Not sure about what one would mean by "true".

There are a bunch of smaller players in the space, and all are pretty much structured the same: your ISP backhauls the IP traffic from your Gizmo/ATA to one of their "POPs" (telco term - point of presence), which then decides how to deliver your call - either via another voip "leg" to a big carrier, to the ATA you're calling if it's an "on-network" call, or to an interface to the legacy phone system.

My interpretation of the word "true" would be similar to "pure" in this case - that means you can only call subscribers on the same system or a system the subscriber is "peered" with (i.e. has a call exchange agreement). You would not be able to call or get calls from the legacy phone network, and this is probably not what you want. Skype started this way.

The savings to the customer from VoIP come from the company not having to own the vast infrastructure that's behind the two copper wires running to your house, and from getting around the regulatory process.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

From what I understand it goes like this:

You can use a "SIP" provider like les.net to make internet calls to regular phones (PSTN), and it's extremely cheap. But "SIP" doesn't allow you to *receive* calls from PSTN. To receive calls you need a "DID" provider.

The "SIP" and "DID" providers don't necessarily need to be from the same company, and getting these services at a low level like this can save you a lot of money.

Anyhow, thats what I gathered from reading posts about VOIP all day. I got a lot of time to read things since my phone isn't ringing :)

5:39 PM  
Blogger Adam Nollmeyer said...

anyway I can take my SR number and port it to a DID provider, or can I only pick what a DID has in stock?

Or could I park my SR and then roll it to a gizmo project number or my GC #?

Adam (at)nollmeyer.net

5:51 PM  
Blogger jaydub said...

Dan,

You can do that, but you're trading headache for cost savings.

Warning, technobabble follows:

If your ATA is behind a NAT device (a "router" in laymanese) the ATA will continuously send REGISTER messages to its registration point, in order to be able to receive return messages. An INVITE to initiate a call will arrive at your NAT device, and unless you're forwarding ports, your NAT device will not know what to do with it and discard it.

In short, you could get a headache.

6:29 PM  
Blogger jaydub said...

Adam,

Just sign up with a new provider, VoIP, mobile, traditional, show them your invoice and something that proves the number at SR is indeed yours, and they should be able to port it for you in 1-45 days, depending on their and the carrier's level of competence (and the prevailing winds on Mars).

6:31 PM  
Blogger info said...

I just purchased a cheap prepaid cell phone from t-mobile as temporary housing for my SunRocket phone number. Eventually I want to port that number to magicjack as the representatives stated I would be able to do that in September. $30 phone + $35 magicjack device = cheap band aid. Thoughts?

7:06 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Info,

T-mobile? Sounds like what I need to do. I need somewhere to park my number. How did you go about ordering it?

8:02 PM  
Blogger Max Alexander's Dad said...

Here's a porting problem I ran into:

First, contacted Comcast (tripleplay !!!) and tried to port my SR household number (previously LNP'd from Verzon)to their Voip service (since I already have Comcast high Speed Internet and basic Cable).

The answer was "your number won't port - we don't know why).

Next, I contacted Verizon Wireless, and initiated a port of the SR HH# over to one of my existing cell-phones (swap old cell number with my SR HH#).

They discovered, after comparing my account name (in Verizon Wireless vs. SunRocket), that I use a middle initial and "JR." on my Verizon account name, but I omitted both when I signed up for SunRocket.

This name mismatch blocked the LNP port.

Verizon Wireless was kind enough to edit my account info on their side in order got the port request to successfully go through their automated system. Now, just have to wait up to ten (10) days for the port to go through.

The moral of the story ... porting a perfectly good old number from SR may not be easy - you may need a "customer focused" service agent on
the "pull" side to work through the red tape.

With nobody available at SR to help sort this stuff out, it may turn out to be difficult.

I'm still scratching my head as to why Comcast wouldn't have escalated the port request to sort the issue out - they just lost an easy opportunity to gain an ex-SR customer.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Just Me said...

Well, that was quick.

The good news is my DSL account is still in the system so I didn't loose my e-mail address I've had for 8 years. The bad news is I did loose my phone number :(

Doesn't look very promising I'll get it back since my invoice is now missing, maybe Google Desktop has it cached.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Lidstrom said...

There could be some possibilities, if there are lawyers out there willing to dig for it. A company that couldn't pay bills and went under without notice taking lots of customer money with them, might have some interesting payroll numbers to look at. If the Board was paying management excessive amounts of money, they could be on the hook for some of the debt. If they knew they were going to pull the plug but insisted the company continue to accept new customers, they could also become personally liable. There are still a few ways to pierce the veil of protection commonly afforded to officers and directors.

7:57 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Okay here's what I did.

I applied for a regular land line again and signed up with Onesuite.com SuiteAdvantage for my VOIP and prepaid long distance needs. Onesuite is a pay as you go prepaid phone card and voip service. For the voip there's a $2.95 monthly fee for the service that will get you a phone number and voip features.

I don't think I will go back to all voip phone service again. I need a more reliable service and maybe just make voip as a back up. Prepaying $200 was also a bad idea so no more prepaying for 1 year of servoce for me.

5:06 AM  

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