Beware of this phone company issue...
unwritten, unadvertised "no modem" policy on its "Unlimited" service
On February 14th, 2003, we filed the following information with the Better
Business Bureau of South Alabama:
Z-Tel (www.z-tel.com) claims to offer "unlimited" local and LD
telephone service for a very reasonable flat monthly fee. Calls within
a local exchange are dialed (xxx-xxxx) and all other calls are dialed
(1-xxx-xxx-xxxx). Their website, welcome materials, and all 3 customer
service representatives we spoke to (prior to joining the service,
1/27/03) did not make *any* mention of restrictions in what type of
calls were to be made. Their "Terms and Legal Agreements" contained
only one sentence that could be remotely construed in support of their
position on this issue....
The issue? On February 13, 2003 we were contacted by Z-Tel's "Fraud
Department" and told that we were in violation of their AUP because our
computer modem was dialing an ISP with (1-xxx-xxx-xxxx)!!! We were
advised to "ask our ISP to give us a local dialup number." We received
the same advice from all operators we talked to at their "Customer
Service" center. The "supervisor" admitted, when asked directly, that
the one sentence in the "Terms/Legal" document was the basis for this
policy, and that although it was not written down as such anywhere, the
"Fraud Department" was in fact enforcing a "no digital data over LD
line" policy whenever it became aware of such usage. Furthermore, the
likely reason for the policy was simply that because people tend to
leave the computers "online" for longer periods of time than they "talk"
(use voice communication via telephone), Z-tel would face "excessive
billing problems." (IOW, they can't make any money that way...)
I would agree that Z-Tel has the right to limit usage on their system
as they wish, but they are misleading individuals like us, who purchased
their services expecting to find a "one source" solution for local and
LD telephone service while dialing the internet in an nearby telephone
exchange. Once again, THE POLICY DIDN'T APPEAR IN OUR DOCUMENTATION OR
ON THE WEB AT THE DATE WE SUBSCRIBED! MISLEADING! (more details -
We will make further information available at a later time.
Please note that we have taken this action to influence this company to make this policy known,
and not as a legal action or in any hopes of recourse or restitution. We intend to pay their bill,
and abide by the policy, but it is our considered opinion that this policy should be announced clearly "up front."
When Unlimited Ain't
February 13th, 2003
I was out at a client's location...in the sticks, at least from a cellular telephone
standpoint. When it did ring, I moved toward the window and managed to get enough info
to hear that I needed to call the 'fraud department' of my new local, intra-LATA, and inter-LATA (IOW,
my *everything* provider) telephone service ASAP.
I placed the call with the client's telephone. Surprisingly, it was
answered right away. I wonder if the fraud department gets many calls.
After I hung up, I decided that I either hoped they didn't, or hoped
that they got so many that they'd run screaming out of the office in terror...
Me: My name is Kevin Kinsey, I was told to call the fraud department..."
They: Uh, yes, just a moment....ah, yes, Mr. Kinsey, you have been dialing a long distance number with a digital
Hmm, I think, 'aren't all modems analog...isn't that the point?
Me: Well, yes, I guess so, my ISP is in another city...
They: Well, you can't do that...
Me: I can't do what...???
They: Ok, Mr. Kinsey, you are not allowed to send digital data over the long distance lines...
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