Tag Archives: U.S. Cellular

OBi110 Voice Service Bridge: Works And Works Well. Pretty Neat. Setting Google Voice As Default Drive Me To Distraction, Though.

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

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Anura Guruge


Related posts:
>> VTech system a disaster — Nov. 10, 2013.
++++ Check category ‘Reviews’ for other related posts >>>>>


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As I stated in this post, I am redoing our whole entire phone infrastructure now that we ditched ‘U.S. Cellular‘ and went with ‘Consumer Cellular‘.

Since everybody has been raving about it I decided to look at Google Voice. I had never heard of it! Though we had a Magic Jack a few years ago, I don’t really pay much attention to VoIP mainly because I don’t really like to use the phone — unless I am having trouble with something. But, I tried Google Voice, and as with most things from Google (e.g. Google Drive), was BLOWN AWAY. They really do make things simple, but powerful. Talk about ‘click-and-play’.

Given that Google Voice (GV) gives you VoIP for ‘free’ in the U.S. and Canada, and I already had it just by the virtue of being a ‘Google’ user, I decided to get a BOX that would let me use GV over my home phone system. Found the OBi110 Voice Service Bridge fairly quickly on Amazon. It is exactly what I wanted. It aggregates, i.e., bonds, my existing TDS landline and GV1. So using the same handsets I can make and receive calls to/from landline and GV1. Pretty neat.

Had a OBi110 delivered today.

Basic setup was ‘OK’ and fairly simple. Had to redo some of the Web stuff multiple times before it worked.

But, when it said it was all done, IT WORKED,
and worked well.
Good sound quality. Clear calls.

I can make calls out on TDS or GV1. To select TDS I have to dial **8<number>. For GV1 I have to dial **1<number>.

Calls made either to our TDS number of GV1 number (with a Portland, ME prefix (as was also the case with Magic Jack)) rings on the handsets — transparently.

All of that was GOOD and worked as promised and as it should.

The only thing I don’t like is having to DIAL **1 to select GV1. I want it to be the DEFAULT, i.e., if I don’t dial **n, it dials out via GV1.

I know it can be done. Obi documentation says it can be done. But, couldn’t find HOW to do it or where to do it. Drove me nuts.

Online Chat was offline! Couldn’t find telephone support. When I finally did and called they were ‘offline’ too. I went on their forum and in desperation did a post offering to PAY someone, via PayPal, if they told me how to do it. It was up there for nearly 90 minutes. 45 people read it, BUT I didn’t get a single call.

Then I called up their Sales number. Got a very nice gentleman. Told him my problem. It was EASY to fix! But, he admitted that it was non-intuitive and is NOT documented. You make the change in the GV1 service NOT against the line option. But, took about 15 seconds to achieve once I was told where I had to make the change. So I am happy.

Good Box (so far).

Documentation, especially for the Obi110 which is the only device that supports a land line, could be better.

I will keep you posted.

Now that I can dial out, on GV1, without hitting any keys in front — I am happy.
Not orgasmic. Not even close. But, maybe happy as a clam (and I am not sure whether clams get orgasmic).

My new 5-handset Panasonic is here too. But, that is for tomorrow. One technology at a time.

VTech CS6429-4 DECT 6.0 & CS6409 Cordless 5 Handset System Proved To Be Disastrous. Handsets ALL Unregistered …

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

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Anura Guruge


Related posts:
++++ Check category ‘Reviews’ for other related posts >>>>>


Click to ENLARGE. That was my order. Delivered Saturday, Nov. 6, 2013.

Click to ENLARGE. That was my order. Delivered Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.


My review — which just echoes others and the unregistering is what I ran into.
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I have already wasted way too much time with this useless VTech system and as such will keep this short.

I am redoing our whole entire phone infrastructure now that we ditched ‘U.S. Cellular‘ and went with ‘Consumer Cellular‘.

I am getting an OBi110 Voice Service Bridge and am going to bond my TDS landline with a new (actually Saturday) Google Voice service.

The existing 4-handset cordless system we have was 7 years old and I decided to refresh the technology. Since the old one was a Panasonic I decided, on a whim, to go with VTech. Thinking back, other than kid’s toys made by them my last experience with a VTech phone was c. 1995 and I remember taking that back too.

The problem started with the 5th handset. Could not get it to register. It was Sunday. No VTech support. Of course checked the Web. Plenty of others had experienced the same issue but nobody could tell me how to fix it other than call VTech support or get another unit. I even opted to do that because I really wanted this system to work. Amazon, as I have said many times before, is very good to us. They contacted me asking me why I was asking for a replacement — and suggested I return the whole order! I told them that I wanted to persevere with VTech. They said fine and immediately started shipping me a replacement, CS6409 additional handset.

A few minutes later I looked at one of my other 4 previously working handsets. I had set the date/time and the other settings. They had been good earlier in the day. Now I noticed that the day and time were wrong! I thought it was just that handset. I went looking for another. Same problem. Then I noticed that that handset was unregistered — i.e., no longer saying ‘HANDSET 3’. Looked at the original. You guessed it. Same problem. All 4 of the CS6429-4 handsets were unregistered. That meant I could not make or receive any calls. Tried to register a handset so I could have a working landline system. Would not register.

Picked up my cell and contacted Amazon. They immediately said return the whole system. They cancelled the previous return and immediately e-mailed me a return label for the whole system, 5 phones.

UPS came and picked that up. I wanted a new system. Did some quick research. Decided to go with a reasonably new and fancy Panasonic. Amazon was having one of their deals. The 5-set system was cheaper than the 4-set system. Ordered that. In the meantime had to reinstall the old system. Luckily I had not given it away which is what I had planned! Old system works (fine) — I just wanted a new system. New Panasonic has Link-to-Cell. I have read that that is IFFY! Not a deal breaker. I can actually also get Cell linkage with the OBi110 Voice Service Bridge.

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Nothing But Kudos And Lots Of It To ‘Consumer Cellular’.

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

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Anura Guruge


Related posts:
>> Forray with Straight Talk a disaster — Aug. 19, 2013.
>>
U.S. Cellular billing issues … — Sep. 20, 2013.

>> U.S. Cellular Web site & long holds

>>  … Sep. 19, 2013.


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As I have explained before we are not ‘big’ phone people. Yes, I use a phone but it is not my favorite means of communications. I prefer e-mail. We don’t use the phone much. We also only use the phone, the old fashioned way, to make calls. So we need a basic cell plan — just voice and a basic phone.

I have been with U. S. Cellular for a long, long time. Maybe since about 2000, maybe even before. To be fair they treat me well. I have been out of contract for years. But, their rates keep on going up and their customer service is hard to reach of late.

Deanna’s aunt who works for Walmart told me about ‘Straight Talk‘. That would have worked but I had a horrible experience with a dead phone.

I have been an AARP member for a decade. It is a good deal. The membership pays for itself just in hotel discounts each year. When I remember I insist on my FREE donut at Dunkin. I think it is funny that Dunkin gives U.S. seniors free donuts. That is probably the last thing they need. I never eat mine. I give it to the kids.

I had seen ‘Consumer Cellular‘ advertised with the umpteen publications we get with AARP for years. But, I kind of thought that it might be even too basic for us. I was WRONG.

I saw yet another ad. on TV the other day. Decided to check them out. Prices and terms & conditions seemed right. No contract. Family plan for just $10 extra.

But, it didn’t say, inexcusably, whether you could transfer your existing cell number — a must for us. I have had this number for over a decade. All my accounts have it.

I called the 1-888 number to check. Yes, they support number transfer — the so called number portability.

They were beyond helpful. Very pleasant. Spoke good English. No real pressure. AARP members have an iron-clad 45-day zero-risk guarantee. I went ahead and pulled the trigger on that very first call. Ordered two Motorola phones and signed up for a family plan with 500 minutes to begin with. Yes, some catches. No free calls whatsoever, even at midnight. No free incoming calls. But, I can increase minutes on the fly.

The phones arrived within 3 days. They charged within 4 hours. Called to activate the service and have the numbers transferred.

WOW. WOW! WOW!

Talk about simple. They transferred both numbers within minutes. The final two-way confirmation within the hour.

Service is provided by AT&T. Yes, initially when placing order we had to use the ZIP for Concord because their system said that Alton was not within the service area. Didn’t bother me or them. We knew that AT&T worked in Alton.

So, that is the story.

So far, so good. Very impressed. No problems. Deanna set up voice mail etc. on both phones. I am happy.

U.S. Cellular, Sheepishly, Admits In E-Mail To Billing System Errors & Issues! Amazing.

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

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Anura Guruge


UScellRelated posts:
>> U.S. Cellular Web site & long holds
>>  … Sep. 19, 2013.
>> U.S. Cellular 4G LTE Data …
>>Feb. 27, 2013.

>> U.S. Cellular Battery Swap …
>>Dec. 6, 2009.


Click to enlarge. This is just the top fragment. It was sent to me as an e-mail.

Click to enlarge. This is just the top fragment. It was sent to me as an e-mail.


This is why it has been SO DIFFICULT, nearly impossible to contact U.S. Cellular for the last few weeks.

They are inundated with irate customers calling in about their bills. It has also crippled their Web site.

This is why I had so much trouble Wednesday evening and night trying to contact U.S. Cellular to cancel my service. On Thursday morning after an initial wait of 40 minutes and then a second wait of 10 minutes I finally succeeded in getting my account closed. Hurrah! I am so relieved and happy. Great weight off my shoulders. I was with them for over a decade and they did look after me quite well — my gripe was just with the expense.

I don’t know where I stand with my bill with them and don’t care. I had autopay with them until I cancelled that. Because THEY SCREWED UP they don’t seem to be billing me this month. That might work out. I will have to wait and see.

I will, of course, keep you posted. In the meantime IF you get a crazy bill from U.S. Cellular or have trouble contacting them you now know why.

That they could screw up a computerized billing system in 2013 tells you a lot about how inept they can be. We have had more than 50 years of SOLID experience with computerized billing systems. Today, a halfway competent team can develop a new billing system that will blend in with no hiccups. U.S. Cellular probably outsourced this to the cheapest bidder — most likely in Mongolia. U.S. Cellular management should be ashamed.

U.S. Cellular Having Website Logon Issues And Horrendous, 2 Hour(+) Hold Times On Customer Support Calls!

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

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Anura Guruge


UScellRelated posts:
>> U.S. Cellular 4G LTE Data …
>>Feb. 27, 2013.

>> U.S. Cellular Battery Swap …
>>Dec. 6, 2009.


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Click to ENLARGE and read error message from U.S. Cellular.



I had noticed that they were having Website issues a few weeks ago but hadn’t given it much notice. Everything I did with U. S. Cellular, who had been my cell provider for over 12 years, was automated and rote. So I didn’t really have to do anything. They auto billed my credit card etc.

Today was a different matter.

I finally pulled the trigger. I switched to Consumer Cellular (with my AARP discount). That was as smooth as could have been. Wow. Talk about simple, straightforward and great support. Bang, bang, bang. They transferred two numbers over from U. S. Cellular, activated the service and then confirmed, an hour later, via a text message, that the two-way cell phone number transfers had been successfully achieved. Nothing but kudos for them. Very different to my abortive attempt with Walmart’s Straight Talk. More about my great experience with Consumer Cellular in a later post.

Though my account with U.S. Cellular should automatically cancel within 24 hours, now that the numbers have been successfully ported, I do NOT trust U. S. Cellular.

I tried to cancel using the Website. That didn’t go well.

Around 7:40 pm I call 611. They did say that they had long wait times because of Website and billing problems! After 45 minutes on hold, with the same bloody annoying message claiming that they can prolong your life I was disconnected.

I tried again, while watching cricket at 10 pm. 50 minutes later I got to talk to a rep.

As soon as I said I wanted to cancel she said she had to transfer me! Back on hold again.

I stayed on hold till midnight. That was a full two hours.

During that time, while I also did some research into the fascinating 18-year long Trent Council of the 16th century, I:

1/ Used U. S. Cellular’s e-mail system to request a cancellation.

2/ Filed an online complaint against U. S. Cellular with the FCC.

3/ Filed a complaint against U. S. Cellular with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) given the recent success I have had with them.

4/ I also cancelled my autopay.

What more can I do?

Just a heads up. If you need to contact U. S. Cellular you might be out of LUCK.

Sorry.

100,000 Views Of This Blog Just In 2013 At An Average Of 423 Views Per Day.

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

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Anura Guruge


Related Post:
>> This Blog inches towards 100,000 views — June 15, 2013.


No this is not old news. The last 100,000 post was in mid-June when this Blog was inching towards 100,000 all-time views.

Since then we are approaching, and will reach it today or tomorrow, 100,000 for THE YEAR.

We are still in August and we have had TRIPLE the hits  for all of 2012.

Click to ENLARGE.

Click to ENLARGE.

It, as they will always tell you, has all to do with content and perseverance.

Here are the first 8 posts on this blog MINUS the ‘Windows 7’ posts that I moved to my Windows 7 blog (which has an all-time hit count of 184,400).

Click to ENLARGE.

Click to ENLARGE.

I started this blog, in anger, when I found out that Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinic (DHMC) had quite literally abused me in the posterior! I wanted others to know so they could avoid getting violated.

I was no stranger to blogging. I already had multiple, quite active, pope blogs.

After the DHMC post I didn’t do another until I had a run-in with U.S. Cellular. Again the goal was to give others a heads up.

Then Windows 7 came along and I really got hooked on it – especially since I had this PC, handbuilt, for Windows 7. I started blogging incessantly about Windows 7. I also found many tips on how to get the best from Windows 7 and even how to fix some bugs. Suffice to say that these posts became very popular and remain so — since some of the bugs, such as the appearance of the annoying padlock, still persists. So I created a new ‘Windows 7’ blog and moved all the Windows 7 posts from this blog to that and then did my Windows-related posts on that blog. That blog still gets 100+ hits a day though I stopped posting on it way back in 2011. Just don’t have the time.

In February 2012 we started homeschooling Devanee because she was getting bullied at Alton Central School (ACS). Homeschooling proved to be a popular topic. That explains the spike in popularity in early 2012. Then the Olympics. My few Olympics posts were a hit. That is when I started posting here on a daily basis.

My ‘popes-and-papacy‘ blog has had 625,000 hits since 2010. That is another blog that I have now put to pasture. My ‘papam’ blog, also inactive, has had 184,000 hits. So 809,000 hits on just these two pope blogs.

Add the 133,956 from here and the 184,472 from Windows 7
and we have 1,127,812 hits!

Well all these hits hasn’t really made me rich — though of LATE we are seeing some ‘bennies’.

Just wanted to chronicle this, because that is what blogging is meant to be. Thanks. Cheers.



Yes, we did hit 100,000 on Saturday, August 24, 2013 as I had assumed in my earlier post.

100Kreached



First Forray With Walmart Straight Talk, Phones & Service, Was A Total Disaster.

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

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Anura Guruge


UScellRelated posts:
>> U.S. Cellular 4G LTE Data …
>>Feb. 27, 2013.

>> U.S. Cellular Battery Swap …
>>Dec. 6, 2009.


We are not big phone users, I even more so than Deanna. Anybody who has tried to call me would have realized that I am in no way tied to my cell. Unless I am at this PC and my cell happens to be close by, my cell and I are usually not in the same place. I can go for days without ever picking it up. I have never texted and have no desire. Though I was involved with computer support for decades I refused to carry a pager. E-mail is my preferred means of communication. We have an 800 minute plan (or similar) with U.S. Cellular and typically use about 200 minutes a month. But, we pay $80+ a month to U.S. Cellular — and that is not because I am calling Sri Lanka (which I don’t do often). I have been with them for about 14 years! We also have a TDS landline (and pay for two) which we hardly ever use.

straighttalkSo every once in awhile I get on a kick to reduce our cell bill. Last week (or the week before) we had a visit from two of Deanna’s aunts from Maine and Maryland. The one in Maine has been a department manager at Walmart for 7 (or 9) years. She told me I should switch to Straight Talk with the $30 a phone plan. She had been using Straight Talk for a number of years — albeit with the $45, unlimited plan. So, I checked it out — with some trepidation. Once I determined that they support cell number transfer I decided to give it a try, especially because Deanna’s aunt was getting a good (AT&T) signal at the house. So, as ever, I did some poking around. The ONLY way I could beat my U.S. Cellular rate was to go with this $30 refurbished phone plan — which included the first month free. It was essentially a free refurbished Motorola phone with the first month of service. I had Motorola phones for years and was kind of partial to them. We currently have LG phones that look just like old Motorola phones. Plus, Motorola used to be a very good client.

STphoneSo I ordered two of the $30 refurbished phones last Wednesday. They came in the mail Saturday. I charged them for about 8 hours. Noticed that one phone didn’t start charging for about 10 minutes while the other started immediately. My antennae went up. Last night before I went to bed, i.e., around 1 am, I checked both phones. They were both fully charged.

This morning I went to activate them and transfer the numbers. Was NOT good. I was NOT impressed.

1. Said that my Alton zip, 03809, was NOT supported! That really got me mad. I had never seen a warning that this service was only available in certain areas. I decided to take a chance and gave it a Concord ZIP. It took that.

2. Then I got a Server Error and lost all of the data I typed. By now I was not amused.

3. Finally entered all the data required to transfer the cell number and hit enter. Nothing happened. Checked the phone. It was DEAD as a doornail. The other one was fine. There was NO way I could bring this one back to life. I plugged it back in. Nothing. Yes, I could have swapped batteries, but I would still have ended up with a dead phone.

Nothing happened with my activation, transfer etc. because the phone wouldn’t power-up. I am not impressed.

Yes, immediately got an RMA from Walmart online. No hassles there. I can return the phones at any store.

But, I lost an hour. I am not amused.

A pox on Straight Talk.