Cutting the cord and falling into the abyss

Melvyn Magree

We received so many unsolicited calls on our land line that we stopped picking up the phone until we knew who the caller was.  Too often, no message was left.

I received almost only junk email on my cpinternet account through our CenturyLink account.  Besides offers of garage door openers and of sex, I received messages in Japanese and Turkish.  Very rarely did an old contact use this account.

Besides, our nominal 7Mbps speed was often under 4Mbps.  We were eligible for an upgrade to 12Mbps, but we had to call an 800 number to find the details.  Once upon a time, Qwest, the predecessor to CenturyLink would state on its website how much 256Kbps, 512Kbps, and 1Mbps would cost, exclusive of taxes and fees.

A digression on telecommunication taxes and fees: the telecommunication companies (telcos) can’t give these accurately because the vary widely from locale to locale and narrowly from month to month.

We also had an iPhone 4s through Virgin Mobile (VM) because we got a deal a few years ago from Best Buy.

Along the way, we started using cell phones through Consumer Cellular: you can’t miss their ads, especially if you are an AARP member.  Consumer Cellular (CC) stated on its website the exact cost of each service and its level that you requested.  You could change these at any time, either up or down.  I eventually bought an iPhone 5s from CC.  They piggy back on the AT&T network (at 3G rather than 4G).  Not only could I use the iPhone in Brimson, but I could use the phone as a hotspot for my iPad or MacBook.

With all of these providers, our total monthly payments seemed to be getting out of hand.  I did a small spreadsheet to compare using only CC instead of multiple providers.  If we bought another CC iPhone, our costs would drop about a thousand dollars per year (not including monthly payments for new phone.  Even then, we would still save hundreds of dollars a year.

One problem was our wireless printer.  How would we access it without our DSL modem?  I pulled the phone cord from the modem and found that the printer still worked.  The DSL modem was our router, even if it was not connected to the phone system.

We ordered a new CC iPhone 5c, and when it arrived, we set it up for my wife’s use.  We could also use it as a hotspot, and so she wouldn’t have to depend on my iPhone if I was elsewhere.  Also, because it worked in Brimson, we could use our phones as walkie-talkies.  We would have much better reception, and nobody else would be listening to our calls.

Except, we couldn’t get her phone to work because we couldn’t transfer the VM number without an account number.  None of our VM bills had an account number, only the phone number.  We had to call VM, and of course, the first person we talked to couldn’t do it.  We were switched to someone who suggested we might get a better deal.  Unmentioned was the cost.  After I don’t know how many minutes, we were told our account number.  Then we called CC with it and they activated my wife’s iPhone.  We didn’t have this hassle when we dropped our land line at our cabin and put it on a Home Base wireless system.

Next step was to call CenturyLink to cancel our phone and DSL.  Again, we were routed to someone who tried selling us faster service.  We declined, and sometime in the next day or two the phone no longer worked, but the modem still accessed the network.

Ah yes, we had separate ISP, CPinternet, from the bad old days when we had only 56Kbps dial-up (56 Kilo bits per second for those too young to remember dial-up).  When we started with QWest at 256Kbps we kept CPInternet as our provider.  CPInternet really had great customer service, too.  Then CPInternet was bought by Hickory Tech of Mankato.  Then Hickory Tech bought Enventis and assumed its name.  Still great customer service.  Then Consolidated Communications of somewhere bought Enventis.  I didn’t have much need to call customer service, until we wanted to cancel our ISP connection.  My first attempt got the automatic wait message of something like “Enventis is now Consolidated Communications”.  On the ninth reiteration of this, I hung up, and tried another time.

Then new problems started, some of them my own doing.

The printer works from my wife’s iMac, but not my MacBook, the one I tested printing from.

I attempted to reset my wife’s old iPhone to erase all our data before recycling it.  It needed the password for her Apple ID.  We thought we knew it, but all the variants we tried were rejected.  I spent over a half-hour with Apple Support trying to resolve it.  Terry cheerfully assured me that he had seen many problems like this.  Unfortunately, he had to admit defeat and suggested we take it to a Genius Bar in an Apple Store.

In all my attempts to reset her phone, I picked up my iPhone and clicked reset.  Ah! My Apple ID.  My password worked.  Dummy!  You just reset your own iPhone!

I’m running out of space, but I’ll give the short story on the next problem.  We used up our quota of CC data and were automatically cut off.  I finally figured out that my iPhone was still trying to load the one program that was no longer available from iTunes, over and over and …!