HOWTO: Not have an unpublished number and still pay for it

I start this post off by saying I've been a TDS Metrocom customer for almost five years now.  When we first moved to Madison from Chicago, I chose them since it was the only DSL option at the time, and when combined with their voice service, it was a very affordable package.  In the four years I had DSL service in the Madison area I had many colleagues who had nothing but trouble with the service they were getting from their respective CLEC's - meanwhile TDS's DSL was rock solid.  I only had two outages in that period.  The first was when my modem went out.  They had a replacement modem to me in about two days and I was back online.  The second time I lost connectivity, it turned out the central office where they co-locate was struck by lighting.  In talking to the field tech that came out, things there sounded pretty bad and they had to replace most of their headend equipment.  Even still, I was out for only two days.  All the while their customer service was great.  Friendly people answered the phone who were empowered to actually solve your problems.  At the time, my contrasting comparison was Sprint PCS.  Not only were their customer service reps not very friendly, they were empowered to answer the phone... and that was about it.

When we moved to Brookfield I was happy to hear TDS Metrocom still serviced my area.  I placed the order to cancel our Madison service and establish DSL and voice at our new place.  We also decided we really wanted an unpublished number.  They had a tech out the second day we'd moved into the new house and she couldn't get the DSL to work.  The dial tone was working, so she had SBC run a trace on the line.  We were 21,000 wire-feet from the CO, which was the edge of their DSL technology, but there were five load coils between the CO and our house (the deal breaker).  A couple days later, I got an apologetic call from TDS saying they could not give me data service and asked if I wanted to keep voice service.  The price was similar to what SBC was offering at the time, so I said why not and kept them. (and then made the dreadful call to get internet from Time Warner).

Fast forward to last night.  We got back from vacation and I'm getting the mail, I thought it was high time I picked up the phone books off the front yard and at least throw them away (since we end up using the web to look up most numbers).  On a whim, I decided to flip throught the white pages to a) see how many other folks in the greater Milwaukee area had the last name 'Dysart' and b) make sure we weren't listed.  The answer to 'a' was two, and one of them was me!

I called TDS this morning to inquire why after having given them just under $75 over the past 14 months my number was in the SBC WhitePages.  They seemed as confused as me.  I was told the issue was going to be forwarded to the directory listing department and that they would get back to me.  Fair enough, investigations do take some time, but how about crediting me all the money I’d been paying for a service they failed to deliver?  That would have to wait until the investigation was over.  How long was that going to take?  “About a month”.

Up until that moment, I was the biggest TDS Metrocom proponent.  Early in my career, I’d done consulting work for a sister company of theirs, Aerial Communications (also owned by TDS, the parent company of TDS Metrocom, who also owns US Cellular) which through the massive consolidation of the last decade is now part of T Mobile.  I happily supported the hometown company (TDS is based in -Madison, WI), but this, to me at least, is a huge breach of trust.  It’s also one of those genie-in-the-bottle situations.  They can’t go collect the several million phone books that are in peoples houses already (and in cases like mine, sitting on their front lawn), nor can they easily recall the data sent to countless directory assistance companies around the world.

About all that can be done at this point is changing our number, which is a pretty big inconvenience, but ultimately is what I am going to do.  I will probably also do so by switching to another phone company.  Most likely Vonage or some other VoIP provider (although our alarm and Tivo make that a bit challenging) since wireline carriers still can't seem to come close to touching their price, much less features.  I wasn’t happy with TDS Metrocom last night when I discovered my name in the book, but I’m even less happy with their response.  It took me less than two minutes to see my number was published.  I could care less how it happened; I just want my money back.  I certainly hope they do the internal investigation as to why this happened, but don’t make me wait for that.