AT&T and Verizon Alternatives

When the Bell System monopoly on telephone communication run by AT&T was broken into “Baby Bells,” also called Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) in 1982, the monopoly on phone service seemed to be at its end.

The original anti-trust action by the Department of Justice was initiated in 1972, but legal wrangling stalled the final breakup until 1982. Thirty plus years later, I often wonder whether the quality of service has improved.  A quick online scan shows throngs of unhappy customers’ voices have echoing across forums and consumer advocacy sites.

Freedom From Telecom Bullies

Verizon is the other major player in the space, selling its phone service under the FIOS brand.  They also bundle internet access and TV service and deliver it over a fiber network. Verizon was initially known as Bell Atlantic, one of the aforementioned RBOCs. In 2000 it merged with GTE and re-branded itself with the name we know today. Now, with millions of customers across the country, Verizon too has been inundated by hordes of unhappy customers who complain about phone service and virtually every other service Verizon offers.

Fortunately, the telecom landscape has evolved in recent years and now provides businesses many alternatives to those two incumbent phone companies. The VoIP revolution has transformed the industry, so I’d like to suggest a few companies that we feel comfortable recommending to business clientele looking for a change.

Here are our top picks:

ShoreTel

ShoreTel targets mid-sized and larger companies, generally those that need 25 or more phones. The ShoreTel Connect product is a VoIP system that can be run as a managed service from the cloud, or as a system with its own hardware and servers that you manage at your place of business. Or, if you have multiple locations, you can install Connect as a hybrid deployment where certain locations are managed in the cloud while others are managed on site. The product supports IM, VoIP, conferencing, web sharing and video. Its allows users to move from an IM to a phone call, to an online meeting then to a desktop share that can include video, all with a single click.

Ooma

Ooma began as a VoIP provider for residential customers, then expanded into business services with a clear customer demographic: small businesses that need 25 or fewer phones. Ooma works with any traditional phone (of the curly cord variety), eliminating the need to buy IP phones. You can easily set the system up to ring remote extensions off premises, including employee cell phones which is useful for sales, service and other workers who spend time outside the office. This short video leads you through the basic setup process.

Broadview Networks

Broadview Networks, discussed elsewhere on this blog, serves more than 200,000 users every day with its OfficeSuite cloud phone system. It provides not only excellent quality VoIP phone service; Broadview also lets you communicate with hi def video, web and audio conferencing, and toll-free service.

As network speeds increase and technology becomes more refined, the marketplace for VoIP continues to grow and become more relevant. Contact us with any additional questions you might have relating to finding a suitable alternative to the incumbent phone companies.

Product Review: Verizon’s “Premium Technical Support” Service Solves IT Problems For Remote Workers

Remote Tech Support Is A No BrainerWith the recent, tectonic shift toward remote working, businesses have had an unforeseen challenge arise: providing IT support for those users.  With the astronomical cost of headcount, training and infrastructure for in-house help desk centers, small and medium sized businesses often find that the smartest move is leveraging a turn key, third party solution.

Verizon, with its outstanding FIOS service, has taken steps to fulfill that need.  Its Premium Technical Support plan gives any FIOS business (or residential) customer 24/7/365 tech support that includes:

• Configuration troubleshooting for your computer or device (including tablets) to address issues like slow performance, browser configuration, networking connections, data backup and more
• Evaluation of and attempts to correct software, operating systems and networking issues
• Virus, malware and spyware support
• Software and peripherals support for network, video and sound cards, memory, hard drives, CD and DVD readers and writers, printers, scanners and networking equipment

The company says it premium service “…is intended to address networking and other technical support issues outside the supported scope of Verizon’s standard technical support.”  You can find the entire agreement here. Your employee must be a Verizon customer for HSI or FiOS, TV or Voice to purchase Premium Technical Support. It’s currently priced at $14.99 per month, cancelable at any time.



I tested the service when I spent time in New York and found the technicians friendly and competent. They’re all based here in the U.S., and they provide service for Apple, Android and Windows OS.

Once your employee signs up he or she will get a password to Verizon’s expert site at expert.verizon.com. Take note, though. This service is for residential customers. Don’t try to sign up your entire remote workforce under your company’s name because the program doesn’t extend to businesses. Each employee needs to enroll individually.

Is Outsourcing the Help Desk Your Best Choice?

For small and mid-sized businesses, Verizon’s $17.99 per month plan offers a lot of value.

Happy Remote WorkerHowever, if you have concerns about confidential or proprietary information stored on your employee’s device, take time to review the agreement to understand how the Verizon technician treats such material.

Also note that it’s sometimes necessary to change settings on the computer, some of which could cause custom software made for your business to stop working. If there are specific settings that must not be changed, you’ll need to make your remote employees aware of them. A short document spelling out any such issues would help your employee communicate those matters to Verizon before the technician begins making adjustments.

Too, when settings are changed, you may want to get a report on what was changed. Registry changes, for example, can fix problems as well as introduce new ones.

I hope you find this helpful. I feel it’s important to share information on IT issues; it’s part of what we do.

Finally, I am not suggesting that Verizon is the very best solution. You can find dozens of other “managed service providers” (MSP’s) that offer similar services via a simple web search. Many of them also handle break/fix problems with hardware. However, if you want to look further into details of the Verizon plan, you can reach their team at 866-785-8145, or on the online form here.

Addition Resources

Terms of Service