Verizon Fails to Serve Public Interest

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-04-30 Print this article Print

What I got instead was an earful of anger from customers of Verizon Wireless when they read my column on April 27. Some of these people were new Verizon Wireless customers who planned to cancel their service. One was a small business that had purchased a 4G mobile hotspot as their means of Internet access. They were effectively out of business during the outage. The rest of the comments were people who simply expected better of a company that made its name on the quality of its network.

What these people got instead was nothing. The 4G network didn't work on their ThunderBolts, and their 4G mobile hotspots didn't work at all since they didn't have a means of falling back to 3G or even the primitive 1X that the ThunderBolts had. Through this whole time there was not a word from Verizon Wireless.

Their customers, unless they were Twitter subscribers who happened to intuitively know that they needed to follow a specific Twitter feed out of the many that the company uses, had no way to find out until late in the day that the 4G outage was known, that a fix was in the works, or that it had finally been restored.

Verizon Wireless, by not stepping up to the responsibility of being a public carrier, simply chose to punt. Or perhaps, Tweet. It was not an acceptable response.

The problem with being a public wireless carrier is that you have a responsibility to serve the public interest. You are expected to provide emergency communications; you're expected to provide communications where and when you promise; and you're expected to let people know when-for whatever reason-you can't do that.

On one hand, Verizon Wireless takes its responsibilities seriously by doing things such as providing temporary cell sites to areas such as Alabama which was stuck by the worst tornado outbreak in state history. This is a good and important task for which Verizon Wireless should be commended. That's happening, because Verizon Wireless is letting everyone know through a flurry of press releases, stories on the news wire, and postings on its Web site.

But now that Verizon Wireless has demonstrated that it knows it has a Website, and that it knows about the news wires, you have to wonder, why didn't the company feel compelled to tell its own customers what the problem was? For that matter, why didn't it tell its own customer service staff about the problem? I've heard from many Verizon Wireless customers who were either blown off by customer service, received made up and wildly imaginary stories, or simply got the shrugged shoulder response.

In the process, Verizon Wireless performed a great disservice to its customers, and to the public at large. But in the process it did something much worse-Verizon Wireless lost the trust of its customers. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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