Can You Hear Me Now?

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Remember the Verizon ads? “Can you hear me now … Good!”

The man in the ads was Paul Marcarelli. If he were on the Verizon network in El Paso County, he would most likely have a few choice words, and none of them would be printable here.

In mid-August a new cell phone company, Altán powered up their cell towers along the US/Mexican border, and Verizon customers have had spotty service since.

“I pay for this service,” said Juan, who lives in Fabens. “My bills are almost $200 each month and not all my calls go out.”

According to Verizon, they are aware of the problem. However, and this is just speculation on my part, they are aware but not doing anything to fix the problem.

“I call them,” said Guadalupe De La Cruz. “I call them, and then I am told they can’t fix this or know when they can fix this.”

Talking to tech support is not helpful.

“I made numerous calls with them and attempted online chat sessions,” said Amy, a soldier who lives on Ft Bliss. “They want me to navigate through these unrealistic hoops.”

I use Verizon for my personal and work numbers. If I make forty calls in a day, thirty will be dropped or not go through at all. My attempts at contacting customer service were laughable at best.

I had to explain, more than once, what the issue was. I was assured, each time, that I was going to be transferred to Tier 2 support only to discover I was just passed off to someone that was either in the wrong department or could only offer lower levels of support.

My next step was to reach out on Twitter. After explaining my situation, I received a reply that was less than helpful.

[Authors Note: Messages from Verizon will be in italics]

“Altan, a wireless operator in Mexico, recently launched service along the border using the same spectrum band as Verizon. This is causing interference for some of our wireless customers – especially those closest to the US/Mexico border. This may impact Voice, SMS/MMS, and Data services.

Since you are experiencing these issues, I will need to direct you straight to our Tier 2 team. I am able to transfer you directly. Before I do, can I address anything else? *JCA”

After half-an-hour, I was asked for more information. With each passing answer, I know nothing was going to happen.

“I thank you for the additional [sic] information, Steven. However, the ICCID number you have provided does not match what is carried on file. To clarify, have you recently switched SIM Cards? To complete authentication, will you please provide me 2 phone numbers you have called within the past 45 days? *AAG”

After assuring them I have the same SIM card since I started service, and provided some numbers I’ve called, they moved on.

I explained my situation: when I’m out, and about, calls drop, don’t connect, or I cannot hear anyone.

“We know it’s important that you are able to connect and use your service. To begin, do you have Wi-Fi Calling enabled on your device? *BGL”

This was the same problem I had when I called technical support.

The standard answer for Verizon is to use Wi-Fi calling. I had to explain, again, why that is not an option: “A) I only log into Wi-Fi at home; B) my problem is continued dropped calls and calls going in and out all over town; C) Wi-Fi calling only works when you are ON active Wi-Fi.”

Again, they wanted to push Wi-Fi.

“I know it’s very frustrating to experience the issues you’re going through with your service. I’d like to help you however I can. Utilizing Wi-Fi calling can very often alleviate the network issues you’re experiencing. Are you able to turn on Wi-Fi calling? *DLV”

Explaining, again, that the problem is not when I am at home, but everywhere else in El Paso, they wanted me to go through basic troubleshooting again. I had to turn my phone off, remove my SIM card, wait a few minutes, and put it all back together. They wanted me to reset my network connections and do a speed test.

That speed test, they wanted me to go out to an area I had zero service – no internet or voice service – and log onto Speedtest.net and run a speed test.

I asked them how I was supposed to do this when I have no service in those areas. I reiterated that service at home was not the issue.

“Thank you for the clarification, Steven. To provide you accurate troubleshooting assistance we need you in the location you are having the issue. Can you contact us when you are in the area?  *LRL”

That was my WTF moment with Verizon. It was quickly followed up by LRL.

“I see that you are near the Mexican border. Have you talked with our Tier 2 Tech Department?  *LRL”

This whole time I was not chatting with anyone from Tier 2 support!

“I was three hours on the phone with them,” said Mandy. “I was shuffled from one person to another with the promise that the next one I spoke to was going to be able to fix all this mess. I just gave up.”

Like Mandy, I gave up as well.

On January 19, 2020, I sent Ms Kate Jay, of Verizon Media Relations, an email, and I’ve had no reply.

Does Verizon care about its customers in the Borderland? The consensus is that they do not.

“Why should they make time for fixing this for us?” asked Josephina Robles. “I make calls to them, I make visits to the stores, and I get nothing from them.”

“They care only for the bottom line,” said Manny Robles. “I think a class-action lawsuit should be taken up against them.”

Verizon, your customers are paying for a service they cannot use. Like Lorena, and many others I’ve spoken to, I’ve paid ahead on my service as well. We want to get the service for which we are paying. Can you hear us now?

[This piece can also be found at San Eli News by clicking here]