More from: Internet

The Best Internet Deal for Consumers

If you are now or are considering buying Internet services from Frontier, you should be aware of their treatment of their customers. Also be aware that Comcast provides faster service 60/60 for $30/month (not 50/50 for $60) with no extra fees (not for non-existent “taxes” or any other fabricated excuse), and Comcast’s commitment includes FREE unlimited service for up to four (4) mobile phones, and FREE WiFi every time you are near a Xfinity access point. There is a reason Frontier is in financial trouble!

I feel that a huge problem with Frontier has been adding extra fees into telephone and other consumer charges, after making a commitment for services – typically increasing the consumer’s cost by $20 or more per month over the amount to which the consumer agreed. Frontier also charges “rental” fees for “required” equipment that they routinely (40%-50% of the time) do not deliver. I feel that at the very least their billing policy is unethical and very likely illegal.

I feel Frontier is brazen and unapologetic in what I feel is deliberate billing abuse. The two actual billings above are for essentially the same services. Comcast charges $30, period. Frontier a little more and then adds several hard to verify “taxes and other charges” the customer is supposed to simply accept without thinking. Frontier implies these “taxes and other charges” are required, but Comcast apparently is not required to charge them for the same service to the same customers in the same State. Both cannot be telling the truth, can they?

Frontier is the surviving fragment of the historic Baby Bells: it has the ultimate state-of-the-art technology buried under the hubris of the traditional and obsolete over stuffed management structure – the cake is really excellent but there is too much frosting for this cake to remain edible. If Frontier is not forced to modernize their business model we are in danger of loosing community access to the technology.

No individual citizen can compel Frontier to change. We had hoped Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill would do better than this with a class action to make whole all Indiana consumers who were involuntarily charged “rental fees” for routers that Frontier never delivered, or to restore money collected for “taxes” that are rightfully due from Frontier, not the Indiana consumer.

Mr. Nash is not “disputing his bill” he is asking Indiana to compel what he feels are abusive and/or fraudulent utility oligopolies to comply with Indiana and Federal consumer law as it would apply to any other Indiana business.

A side note or importance: Frontier keeps referring to a charge for a router, which for about half of their customers they do not even deliver but charge a monthly rental fee. Comcast also will provide a router and charge a monthly rental fee. Comcast’s router, by the way, allows any Comcast customer in range to connect to Xfinity WiFi. If you are in a place of business which buys Comcast services and has their router, your own Comcast login credentials allow you seamlessly to use that business’s WiFi.

While Frontier extracts the rental fee over their customer’s objections, Comcast has no problem if their customer would prefer to simply buy a compatible router and not pay any monthly rental fee. Companies like to collect rental fees because they never end and so represent a permanent income. If you buy a router outright you have a clear one time expense that does not give the company a perpetual income. Your payback period on a router is about one year ($89-$120 outright for a router vs $10 every month forever to rent).

The issue here is not a router, it is extra charges placed into the bill and represented to the customer as required by government instead of being honestly disclosed at the time the customer agrees to terms and honored in the billing. This is legally known as BAIT & SWITCH: the company promises one thing in their advertising then charges you something else. At the very best the company “discloses” the extra charges in tiny print that you are not supposed to notice. If you doubt my observation, buy services from Frontier and at the time you are ordering try to get them to commit to exactly how much these extra charges will be: you are morally entitled to know the exact amount in advance before you agree. You will be told it is about this much but we can’t really know until you are billed. And Frontier’s advertising will never say you will be charged $39 for Internet plus $18 for other charges for a total cost of $57. This would compare unfavorably with Comcast (and other competitors) at $30.

Picture of justice

Picture of justice

The document returned from Attorney General Curtis Hill’s office is as follows. Essentially, AG Hill decided Frontier should investigate itself and Frontier decided that Frontier did nothing wrong. Whodathunkit!

Complaint Number: 11561091 Company Code:

Customer Name: John Nash Phone: 2603730914

Thank you for referring the complaint of John Nash to our office for review. We appreciate Mr. Nash bringing this matter to our attention.

The Complaint states that:

  • Mr. Nash is disputing his bill for services with Frontier.

Frontier has investigated the above statements and offers the following response:

  • Our Frontier Residential Gateway(router) is Frontier equipment provided with every service order and specifically designed to work with our service. Our advertising and our residential Internet terms and conditions make it clear that our service includes equipment charges, such as the router charge, and neither our advertisements nor our terms and conditions provide any exceptions. A customer may choose to use their own router, but if the customer does, our router charge continues to apply. Also, we cannot support or repair the non -Frontier equipment.

  • Though infrequent, when a customer chooses to use a non-Frontier router, we see increased complaints and more difficulty with troubleshooting, performing online resets, and providing simple resolutions, so it costs more to serve that customer. Therefore, if a customer uses their own router, the charge still applies to cover these cost. Frontier cannot support or repair non-Frontier equipment.

  • Mr. Nash requested to upgrade his Internet service to the Fios 50/50 speed. The upgrade took place on September 6, 2019. Once the upgrade took place the customer should have received a new modem, which he did not.

  • Frontier advised Mr. Nash that the price would be $53.99 per month for the Fios 50/50 speed. The Frontier agent did not advise the customer that he would receive a new modem or that he would see the $10.00 router fee on his bill. Frontier did not send Mr. Nash a modem like they should have.

  • Mr. Nash has disconnected his account due to the new modem fee.

  • Frontier issued a credit of $9.99 for the shipping and handling of the new modem since the customer was never sent one. Frontier also issued a credit of $10.00 for the router fee charged on the September bill.

  • Frontier spoke to Mr. Nash and explained all of the above.

We trust that this information will assist you in closing this complaint. We regret any inconvenience that Mr. Nash may have experienced as a result of the above matter.

Frontier Specialist: Tami Lee Department: Customer Relations

Telephone Number: 1-844-320-4445 Ext 1122543 Fax Number: 1-518-773-3717



Washer Won’t Spin

We’ve had an interesting year so far — multiple issues from car problems to broken clothes drier, to broken electric window operators, sick with pneumonia six weeks with no access to healthcare, and on and on. Tonight the clothes washer has been broken for most of the week and no money to hire a repair person to come fix it, oh yes and the rear view mirror now broke off the windshield so now I must buy a repair kit and glue that back on.

So what I will share with you now is how I dealt with the clothes washer in about 20 minutes tonight. First, the problem is it would not spin or pump out the water. This left my wife’s clothes soaking in slime until I pulled them out and dropped them in my shower to drain, which meant I lost my shower for now. Sponge baths temporarily helped prevent a mass evacuation from my office, but I want my shower back. So what to do?

Looking on the Internet for a Kenmore Washer model 110. I found lots of articles and youtube videos on changing transmissions on Kenmore Washers. Even found a Word doc on the layout and part numbers. The videos all were about tearing the whole machine apart, which just didn’t sound right. It simply stopped working all at once — no grinding noise, no sound of anything even trying to spin.

So finally I saw a youtube.com video that made me think — how to change a lid switch. http://youtu.be/AOHJ_Q1p85w This also proved to be overkill, however it pushed me in the right direction! Ozcams razor — use the simplest solution: so after I had unplugged the washer from the wall outlet I could simply slide my hand under the right top side (inside the tub) of the machine and feel the switch dangling in pieces from its mounting screws. Had I done that with it plugged it would have lit up my life good as I’d be the shortest path to ground right through my body and the machine cabinet.

As shown in the photos below, it was a simple process to identify the problem, remove the failed switch, and now all I need to do is order a replacement switch and install it when it comes in. I expect that will cost about $2. It needs a switch for safety, so don’t run your washing machine without one. Hope this helps someone!

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Content Filters

(Note: this was written in 2013 – years ago, so links may or may not work.)

Reviewing web content filters: the box that scans incoming web pages, reads them, and allows acceptable content or blocks/drops unacceptable content based upon rules you set. Notes:

  1. Must read the pages, not merely scan URLs
  2. Must break open encrypted packets and scan, otherwise it is all wasted time
  3. Must not rely upon the device being used to view web pages — must be installed in the line connecting the LAN to the Internet, so it cannot be bypassed by any end user. It cannot be a mere proxy (cloud) that trusts the person being limited does not circumvent it: it must be hard wired into the building LAN so that it is impossible to evade.
  4. Preferably OpenSource so it is subject to peer review.
  5. Preferably no per seat licensing attempts to exploit
  6. Linux / BSD / Unix OS

DSCN2693

Web search possible results

Five Content Filters, Tech Republic http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/five-apps/five-content-filters-suitable-for-both-home-and-business/

Potential candidates which supposedly read the actual web page and block unacceptable content.

  1. Net Nanny http://www.netnanny.com/ — relies on intintegrity of the end user’s PC, Windows, not in LAN, costs $39.99 per seat for licenses
  2. K9 http://www1.k9webprotection.com/ — only works on Windows or some mobile devices, apparently to be installed onto the actual device and not inline in the LAN, and they want $12.50 PER MONTH PER SEAT to use it. graphic
  3. Safe Squid http://www.safesquid.com/content-filtering/linux-installation — downloads at http://www.safesquid.com/content-filtering/documentation. Seems to be free. Good Linux command line install instructions. Not sure if it scans each web page or not: looks like just a firewall with a URL blacklist (menus have nothing about content filter, key words, weights, etc). Think it might be intended to be installed inline however it comes in Linux and Windows versions. Look more at this later.
  4. DansGuardian http://dansguardian.org/?page=documentation — It was a good project, but not maintained. People in volved started a pay-per-seat for-profit project called SmoothWall that has superceeded it. It does read the pages, but it did not break open encrypted packets when I used it last.
  5. OpenDNS http://www.opendns.com Looks promising. It is a web based service BUT it works by changing the DNS lines in your firewall to point to OpenDNS. Unless the end user can break inot my firewall/router it will help. They provide a white paper on their approach here. Free with VIP subs available for $20/year. Graphic here. I’ll look more but this is potentially a high efficiency solution, so I subscribed. Summary from the web site at http://www.opendns.com/technology/ reads

    “We’ve established that DNS is used in almost all online activities, helping you get to where you want to go. But traditional DNS doesn’t discriminate the good from the bad. Regular DNS doesn’t know the difference between http://www.paypal.com and a forged clone site, aiming to trick you into providing your sensitive personal information. OpenDNS not only knows the difference, but also gives you the tools to decide what to let in, and what to block.  Think of it like a firewall for DNS. Using DNS as a filtering mechanism has powerful implications: phishing websites can be blocked from tricking users into giving up sensitive data and malware websites can be prevented from infecting computers.  Moreover, it’s not just about preventing security threats from loading.  Infected computers usually use DNS to try and “phone home” to a master computer for instructions, often leaking out confidential information, passwords, and files from computers.  OpenDNS prevents that from happening, too.”

    The bottom line is change your DNS settings to use the OpenDNS server addresses as your DNS server settings and save/apply:208.67.222.222, and 208.67.220.220. Piece of cake.
    Apparently there is more to this than meets the eye. I had my wife browse to sex dot com and she said she got pictures, lots of pictures. Ah. An email came to the address I provided when registering. First I must confirm my identity. Then enroll my IP address. Then select my level of filtering. Then wait 3 minutes for it to take effect. Works. It is clearly a URL filter, but that is better than nothing until I find a content scanning filter.
    One benefit is that URLs are submitted and rated by members through an averaging process (voting).

  6. Smoothwall Express http://www.smoothwall.net/ — looks like IPCop to me, a firewall. No apparent content filtering. Maybe content filtering is in their per seat license product. I requested pricing information on their contact web page, but have not heard back yet. I’ll update when I have more complete information. This could be a nice content scanner in addition to the OpenDNS URL scanner, but the pricing may be too high for a public charity serving the poor to afford. Their sales asked when I could chat and I suggested Monday 10/7. NOTE: I talked with the Smoothwall rep Tuesday 10/8 and there filter definitely does break open encrypted packets and examine the content.
  7. IPCop http://www.ipcop.org/ — it is only a firewall. We use it now and it works nicely. Free, no artificial limitations to coerce you into buying something unlimited. But no content filtering.

The Outlook is Dead: Long Live The Outlook.COM

Microsoft is pushing everything to the cloud. Of course, informed business persons are concerned about any public disclosure of their proprietary data and very cautious of exposing customer private information protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Microsoft has been pushing a new approach to office applications http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Latest-News/Microsoft-Outlookcom-Email-Unlikely-to-Catch-Google-Gmail-722916/ so that all things are “in the could” — that is, residing outside the protection of your companies servers onto servers owned and run by someone else who you cannot control. Also, private company data placed on the Internet is always in jeopardy of unauthorized disclosure should hackers succeed at breaking into the “cloud” server on which the data resides. Apps served from the Internet “cloud” are similarly at risk as they could possibly be hacked to include backdoor code to send your private information to an unauthorized third party.

As the government increases its invasion of privacy, even collecting any private customer information that they desire by merely sending a letter to your ISP (without a judges knowledge, consent, or approval) and demanding all your records (requiring the ISP to deny even the existence of said demand letter “because revealing any information about this (illegal) demand for information could harm our national security”), businesses rightly become even more skeptical of the safety of placing trade secrets and customer information on the Internet “cloud”.

However, Microsoft Office, including Outlook, has been the “premier” office app suite for years. Serving apps exclusively from the web allows Microsoft to sell subscriptions for regular monthly income and drastically reduces their support costs — they do all the updates to one copy of the software which is served to everyone from the “cloud”. In the next version of Microsoft Office Outlook as a program that runs on your computer under your control is apparently being deleted and replaced by the web site Outlook.com.

Businesses have been slow to give up having their office software running under their own control on their own computers and switching to “cloud” served apps, such as Google Apps. However business have been using Web Mail in some cases and are recognizing the advantages of accessing information from mobile devices. This could be a small step toward gaining acceptance for removing owner control of all apps and changing all business software to be hosted on web servers and merely rented on a monthly basis.

Whether the death of Outlook will matter, or not, remains to be seen: people may simply accept the improved Hotmail.com renamed to Outlook.com and made to look more like the Outlook mail client businesses used to have.

In time I think the change to strictly rented office apps will progress, even if businesses do not agree with it or like it — if they are going to continue to use Microsoft the answer will be “Resistance is Futile: halt and be assimilated”. If the objections are strong enough there is always very nice #OpenSource software alternatives to #Microsoft 360 and #cloud.