What you can learn from the Comcast call from hell

The case for recording your phone calls with customer service

If there is a hell, being stuck on a call like this one with a Comcast customer service representative would surely be one fitting punishment for those who sinned in life. Ryan Block, vice-president of product at AOL and a customer who wanted to simply disconnect his service, posted a delicious slice of his attempt to disconnect his cable service.

Audio: Have you ever had a cancellation as bad as this Comcast experience?

comcasthq“Why is it that you don’t want the faster speed? Help me understand why you don’t want faster Internet?” the Comcast customer service representative asks after Block tells him he wants to ditch the service. With cable companies aggressively trying to hold onto customers who want to switch providers or cut the cord altogether, it’s probably not the only time a customer service representative has fought valiantly (and, yes, infuriatingly) to hold onto a customer. “My job is to have a conversation with you about keeping your service,” the Comcast employee said. (A spokesman for Comcast apologized for the call and said it’s “not consistent” with how the company trains its staff.)

But the call also stumbles upon a new weapon being employed by consumers, much to the chagrin of some companies: make the call, record the call and post the call (for the world to hear). By recording conversations with customer service representatives, frustrated consumers can acquire powerful ammunition to have their way, experts say. Americans may be resigned to having their phone calls recorded for “quality control” purposes and being told that they may not do the same, if they decide to ask permission. But, experts say, if one party is already recording the phone call, there may be fewer legal reasons for the other party to also seek permission to do the same, particularly if recording the call means it’s no longer regarded as confidential.

The Comcast fiasco is a classic example of why companies don’t want you recording calls. While some customer service departments and call centers do use the recordings to train employees, what consumers say on the phone could also come back to haunt them later, says Glenn Conley, president and CEO of Metropark Communications, Inc., a voice and data communications company in St. Louis. Most calls between consumers and customer service staff are not just recorded for quality control, he says, but archived and used at a later date in case there’s a legal or policy dispute. “It’s more in line with covering what legal issues might arise down the road,” Conley says.


Continue Reading at WSJ / MarketWatch


Huawei Launches The World's First 1T WDM Line Card

[Nice, France, June 26, 2014]: Huawei, a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider, today launched the world's first 1T WDM line card at the Next Generation Optical Networking Forum, the most important optical conference in Europe. This marks a new milestone in the high-speed transmission field.

Thanks to the ever-growing pressure for more bandwidth, the industry's interest in developing terabit-level WDM line cards has continued to increase. The long-awaited line card finally made its debut at the forum, where Huawei demonstrated its performance on the OSN 9800, its flagship product. The line card delivered 800-km transmission based on common G.652 fibers and erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs), but without regeneration. It can encapsulate client signals of any rate into an OTN-based 1 Tbit/s channel for transmission.

The line card adopts the cutting-edge Optical Digital Signal Processing (oDSP) algorithm for processing high-speed signals. Switching between short-haul metro mode (ultra-high-capacity transmission) and ultra-long-haul backbone mode (ultra-long-haul transmission) is easily implemented through software-based modulation scheme reconfiguration. The short-haul metro mode reaches a capacity of more than 20 Tbit/s per fiber, nearly triple that of current mainstream commercial 100G systems. The ultra-long-haul backbone mode supports more than 10 Tbit/s transmission per fiber over a distance of 3,000 km.

"Huawei is able to provide a complete and advanced beyond-100G solution. Our strategy is to build information pipes as wide as the Pacific Ocean, to help operators cope with the upcoming digital tsunami," said Mr. Jack Wang, President of Huawei's Transmission Network Product Line.

As a pioneer in the 100G WDM field, Huawei has deployed over 200 commercial 100G networks worldwide and made several breakthroughs in the beyond-100G field. In 2012, Huawei conducted the world's first 2T field trial with Vodafone, achieving 2 Tbit/s transmission over a distance of 3,325 km. In 2013, Huawei unveiled a 40T WDM prototype, the highest capacity in the industry, at the OFC/NFOEC 2013 event in the US. At the end of 2013, Huawei and EXATEL Poland completed the world's first field trial of a single-carrier 400G system.

May 8, 2014
By Glenn Conley


Was Ma Bell the First Cloud Provider?

In the early days of telecommunications all of our phone lines came from Ma Bell.  I contend that Ma was
actually the first Cloud provider.  She would have a nice telephone guy come out to our business to install some “lines”, we could pick up the single line phone, and Voila magic dial tone would come from the Ma Cloud.  These Centrex or Plexar lines became less popular over time, since they were not feature rich and the costs of PBXs became cheaper than the monthly cost of Ma Bell’s cloud Centrex lines.

Over time Ma Bell retired and many of her babies grew up to provide all types of services.  I’m sure Ma is very proud, but business people are stuck in a confounded position of keeping the control and power of a PBX in place verses the monthly Centrex like services known today as Hosted PBX. macloud

Hosted vs. Owned

With a central cloud voice server, multiple offices and branch locations can quickly and inexpensively be added to the enterprise.  Hosted PBX does this naturally, but an owned PBX may require additional hardware and complexity to accommodate multisite.

Mobile workers are more pervasive in today’s work force, and having a central cloud voice server waiting to quickly register all types of smartphones, tablets, and laptops to the voice network is becoming the norm.  Traditional PBXs have a hard time working with mobile workers but can emulate a central cloud voice server by adding complex hardware and/or moving to a co-location facility (CoLo).

Some PBX features are available on hosted PBX systems, but just like the early days of Ma Bell’s Centrex lines, the features are rather limited.  New,  elegant, and color SIP phones can be very helpful in adding features to a Hosted PBX solution, but if a business is needing full PBX functionality the recommended path would be to invest in a feature rich PBX.  Some businesses can choose to make their own PBX act like a hosted PBX by partnering with an Interconnect company who also offers CoLo/Cloud facilities.  This will provide the best of both worlds.  A business owns the PBX solution, but it is operated as a central voice server from a cloud environment.  Multisite and mobile workers can attach quickly to the voice network and retain the full functionality as desired. 

As today’s business decision makers review the mountain of cloud or no-cloud telecommunications options, certainly a hybrid approach should be considered.

  • Hosted PBX – Lower cost of entry, great for multisite and mobile workers, limited local equipment required, but no ROI and has limited features.
  • Owned PBX – Higher cost of entry especially for multisite, local equipment needs with full feature sets and a true Return on Investment.
  • CoLo PBX – Higher cost of entry but designed especially for multisite and mobile workers with the full range of PBX features and a true Return on Investment.

Hosted PBXs and CoLo PBXs both enjoy datacenter protections like power generator redundancies, cooled environments, and ultra-security, however, owning and housing your own PBX may in fact be less expensive over all.   Ma is ringing the dinner bell… what will it be?

Glenn Conley 
Metropark Communications, Inc.

June 18, 2014
By Glenn Conley

More Things Affecting Small Business

Going into the summer budgets, we get 3rd quarter questions about incentives, discounts, or any extra possible savings. One nice depreciation deduction is now 5 years old but this year has taken a serious reduction. It’s called Section 179 of the US Internal Revenue Code. I know that doesn’t sound very sexy, but what it does is allows you to deduct the cost of certain types of property on your income taxes as an expense, instead of requiring the cost of the property to be capitalized and depreciated. It’s limited to personal property that is considered tangible and depreciable and purchased for the reason of conducting business, such as a new phone system. There is a dollar limitation too. It started out at $500,000 in 2010 through 2013 which stimulated small business to purchase new products, but has been reduced to $25,000 plus an adjustment for inflation, in years after 2013.pennies400

I know that all of us have been flooded with inflamed news over deserters, redskins, global weather changing, VA, and on and on, but let's make sure that we try to hold on to our last few pennies before those go bye-bye.  Last week I saw a very small press release from Congressman Pat Tiberi from Ohio saying that the House passed a bill which included both Democrats and Republicans called H.R. 4457 by a vote of 272-144. It was called America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act and it was designed to create stability for small businesses by making the dollar limitation $500,000 permanently plus allowing for inflation. It now goes to the Senate for consideration. Oh boy…

Other considerations for our small business owners to breath in, this week we are faced with the price of electricity and energy just hitting an all time high in May 2014 and the federal government collected $414.23 Billion in revenue in April, which is the largest total ever for a single month and also set a record for the most revenue collected in the first seven months of any fiscal year.

It's my recommendation that our Representatives and Senators in Congress make sure that Small Business owners be allowed to use as many incentives as possible to ensure we are not hurt, and limiting the Section 179 amounts will most certainly hurt small business.

Glenn Conley 
Metropark Communications, Inc.