HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY
I want to talk about hacks and non-scams this week, but first I want to clarify a point I made last week about Frontier. Several of you have contacted me on my commentary.
I was really speaking to Internet service only when I referred to the troubles I have had on behalf of customers with Frontier. In general, whether it’s Comcast, Cox, Charter, etc. – I think the customer will have a better technical Internet experience (faster / more reliable) than with the phone company, especially when you own your own router. Areas that ATT had upgraded to fiber optic, prior to the sale to Frontier, and the very limited fiber optic areas that Frontier has added — may be an exception. These neighborhoods make money for the phone company. They will pay attention to you. If Frontier has come through for you when issues came up, by all means stay with them. However, if you are on an older “copper phone line” based Internet plan and want to do streaming video and fiber optic is not available — cable may be the only way. Cable services are generally not cheaper (after the first year or first 2 years promo you may get), but in the case of Comcast you get many ways to consume your content including watching TV on iPad, computer, and smart phone. Comcast’s phone service is internet based (as is Frontier’s fiber optic, non copper, service). This means that you may not have service during a power outage. However, you can answer home phone calls and check voicemails from your smart phone with Comcast’s Xfinity Connect app.
I want to acknowledge that some customers had their e-mail accounts hacked in recent weeks. The incidents were all unrelated. The outcomes can be devastating and quite embarrassing. E-mails get sent out on behalf of you, asking recipients for a favor. Of course, gift cards to specific stores are requested. Sadly, gift cards were purchased and in some cases the #’s were given out to the scammers. Passwords had to be changed. Recipients had to be contacted. One good thing that came out of this was that I learned Comcast has a way to retrieve recently deleted e-mails. I haven’t been too high on using an @comcast.net address in recent years, but if that is how you like to e-mail — by all means — keep doing it. One client was hacked and had all recent messages deleted. Through the Xfinity Connect web mail interface, clicking a special button provided the option to restore these e-mails. Hackers love to take your contacts and delete them. I like the idea of syncing all contacts with an iCloud or Gmail account. If your contacts REALLY matter to you, you should also make manual exports of your contacts on a periodic basis. I can’t say it enough, but please do not use the same password for multiple e-mail accounts. Turn on 2 factor authentication for your accounts whenever possible.
I don’t know if you have shopped a lot at B&H Photo and Video over the years, but I have. I have purchased many Macs for clients from them. Not only does this NYC superstore have the designation of being an Apple Authorized Reseller, they have an extensive supply of photo and electronics equipment. I often refer to B&H as the “Best Buy of NYC”, but that doesn’t really do them justice. They are local and prices are usually very competitive. I will continue to use them in the future. UNFORTUNATELY, I received an e-mail on Monday from their CEO which was placed in my spam folder. It seemed very scammy. Basically, Mr. Horowitz wanted to give customers a preview of the real e-mail he would send out the next day about his special plan to help us all avoid sales tax. As you may or may not be aware, a Supreme Court decision in 2018 mandated that online retailers must collect sales tax, even when they don’t physically operate in given states. Consequently, B&H was negatively impacted by this. The initial email from B&H was a bit uncomfortable and generated a lot of chatter online. On Tuesday, I received a second e-mail from the CEO. It was also routed to my spam folder. Essentially B&H rolled out its own store credit card, called Payboo (who came up with this name?). With all purchases made using the card, shoppers will receive a statement credit equal to their sales tax. Some stores offer 10% off your first purchase. Some do 0% financing for 6 months. The sales tax refund scheme is B&H’s way of leveraging their financing arrangement. I think this announcement and the multiple e-mails could have been handled differently. Yes, I will continue to use and recommend B&H. I’ll pass on Payboo.
In a previous discussion on streaming I mentioned that a $70.00 a month cable internet package (or better) would be a appropriate option for “cord cutting”. As I always strive to provide accuracy in recommendations, I want to tell you that the current (stand alone) price for the Performance (60/5) internet package with Comcast is 74.99. I was within a Starbucks drink of the price. 🙂 Comcast does charge a bit more if you only have one product with them, but you do get that freedom of not being bound by a bundle or a contract. Also by being an Internet only customer with the cable company (or Internet / TV, no phone), you can save $13 per month by purchasing your own cable modem. I don’t want to leave out the phone company either. I recently reviewed Frontier’s pricing and it seems they are offering a 45/6 package for new customers for 24.99 and a faster package for 29.99 per month. In areas where they have true fiber to the home, the speeds will be even better. I have some clients that get by with less speed doing 1 stream at a time but I would like to err on the side of enough enough bandwidth. Fast phone company service with your own router — can work.
Established customers usually aren’t respected. Want to get new customer pricing? Cancel your services for a few days (few weeks when you go on vacation) and then have your spouse sign up as a new customer. . I can confirm this strategy worked with a family member, but YMMV (your mileage may vary).
For those of you in the West Hartford Center area and nearby neighborhoods — you actually have one more choice for internet — a true fiber optic provider that has moved into the area. The company is called Go Net Speed. I would strongly urge you to consider them. They offer a 150 MB/s connection for $50 a month and no junk fees. This may be your one chance to break free of the monopolies. https://gonetspeed.com/ . They hope to build out more areas soon. Fill out the form to request service in your neighborhood.
Cord Cutting Part 2: How Much Speed Do You Need?
Last week I covered what cord cutting was, some of the main providers (Hulu TV, You Tube TV, Sony Play Station VUE), and what you should expect to pay (around $40 per month for Hulu and You Tube).
You will need streaming video box to play your live TV replacement service. Costs range from the $40’s (Amazon Fire Stick + Roku player) to $200 (Apple TV box). Unless you have a compelling reason to go with the Apple TV, I think the Amazon Fire Stick or Roku would work out just fine for most of my clients. Keep in mind that Amazon and You Tube still are not getting along right now, so if you want to subscribe to You Tube TV, I would go with a Roku. With any of these services, you can watch live TV at any time on your computer, smartphone or iPad (I’m not going to say “tablet” because with the standard iPad being $329, its unwise to look elsewhere).
How Much Speed Do You Need?
If you are on a DSL internet package from 2003, that won’t work. However, most of you are likely capable of streaming HD video. With multiple concurrent internet users in my home at any one time, I would probably feel comfortable with of an internet speed of 40 mbps or more (which means 40 megabits per second in the download direction). I see cable internet speeds frequently advertised for 150 or 250 mbps, but if there are just two people at home, you really don’t need to pay for that much speed. You certainly can if you like. I have some cord cutting customers getting by on 22 mpbs from the phone company. It works! Cutting down to Internet only (or internet plus phone) should cost you about $45 to $60 with the phone company and $70 with the cable company for a serviceable option — for the Internet portion of the bill. (Extra savings: if you only get Internet from the cable company, you can save a ton by owning your own cable modem.) The streamers I am helping don’t have much concern about a home phone, but you can still have one as a cord cutter.
It is true that with the cable company or the phone company, the sun sets on some packages offered. I had a client tell me recently that she was told by her cable company that she could never get her package back if she changed. Another client, who is not a candidate for streaming, recently changed her package to get the Home and Garden channel. She was upset when she lost one of her favorite channels. In a subsequent conversation with Comcast she was told that there was no option of reverting. While they may be full of bloated bills and price gimmicks, the cable companies (like Verizon, for example) are not so evil that they proactively cancel customers on “grandfathered packages.” If you are in a contract, you may be getting a 12 month or 24 month discount for being on a given package. That discount expires, but there is a good chance you can keep your package, even if it is no longer offered to new sign ups. Keep in mind, your provider may make it difficult for you to stay on that package. The price could be jacked up or features could be removed, seemingly on a monthly basis. On the other hand, you may be able to ride along the easy road with it forever.
Truth be told, when you decide to be a cord cutter, multi-service packages from one provider don’t matter much. Internet is the only thing that matters. You will be getting your TV elsewhere.
Maybe you just want to try Amazon Prime Video (since you are paying for it already). Maybe Netflix is super appealing to you. You may just want to rent some movies from time to time. Be a streamer! Or you may be sick of the $200+ bills and want to take 100% control of your live channel subscription experience. A “free TV” antenna may be good enough if you don’t care about anything more than local channels. With a Roku box (and the like) you can get a really good traditional pay TV replacement service for about $40 a month. If you don’t like the menus and setup on Hulu Live TV, you can go to YouTube TV the next month, and so on. You are not locked down. You have choices. Welcome to 2019!
I’ve dealt with this a couple of times now so I wanted to bring it to your attention again.
The AT&T support “scam” is not new to me. I am going to use quotation marks around that word because I can’t say whether it was true fraud or just deceptive business practices. The story goes something like this. A local internet customer (either with Frontier or now the cable company) has an old @att.net, @sbcglobal.net, or @snet.net e-mail address. They have problems with the account. These e-mails were provided through a partnership of ATT and Yahoo in the past. Frontier did not take over the e-mail accounts and legitimately, they are not servicing them. So, the customer such as calls ATT for support after searching for the phone number on the internet. I have to stop right there and say that they may not have truly reached ATT. Therefore, “ATT” doesn’t really want to deal with it so they recommend an outside firm that charges anywhere from $200 to $800 for support with the ATT e-mail account and perhaps other computer issues. In my opinion, the ATT employee that made this referral may have been doing this unofficially, without the blessing of ATT. Either way, it is shady to me. The calls may be routed to India. The customer gives them access to their computer.
If it were me, I would want a professional to examine my computer to see if there were any traces of access that “ATT” or the other firm still had to my computer. I would back up my data and then I would do a “clean install” of Windows or mac OS for security purposes to truly eliminate all threats. This procedure takes 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
Most “Mac-like” Windows Laptops
I had this conversation with a client lately. We were trying to come up with Windows based alternatives to the Mac Book Air. While there may be others worth of mention, here is my list, in no particular order.
Microsoft Surface 2 Laptop (currently available at a bargain holiday price)
And if you want an alternative to the $2700 15 inch Mac Book Pro, check out the Dell XPS 15 ($1500-ish models are worthy alternatives).
Saving on Services
For a couple of years, I’ve told you that it is possible to save big on your home communications package (ie. with the cable company) if you know how to do it. If you just have one service with them or signed a new agreement 2 months ago — there is not much hope I can offer you at the moment. However, I have been at peace with my cable company (Comcast) since 2014 by making some sacrifices and making 2 year agreements. The package I have with Comcast is called Internet Pro Plus. I get a very fast Internet package, digital economy TV (which includes all local channels, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, CNBC, Bloomberg, A+E, USA, History channel, Food Network, and others), plus HBO. My TV package does not include regional sports networks, ESPN or Fox Sports. Home phone does not matter in my household, although we do pay for that with a separate provider at $40 per year (WOW!!!). I do not pay a modem rental fee with Comcast. I have my own modem and router. With 3 TV’s, I pay a total, including taxes of $112.xx per month. If only 1 or 2 TV’s were involved, the price would be less. If your bill makes smoke come out of your ears, there may be something you can do about it.
I have a real client example of serious savings. I recently met with a client who was receiving TV, phone, and Internet from Cox (generally a fine company in my opinion). However, their bill almost made me fall over. It was about $323 a month. Unbelievable!! That’s a car payment. While my best success has always been negotiating with Comcast, I suggest we give it a try. I was able to get them savings of $36 per month. That comes out to about $432 per year. They were thrilled.
If you think I may be able to help you in this area, let me know about your current package.
Today’s topic should give you some food for thought – Can you trust the local phone company? Are they still relevant as an internet provider?
This article signals to me that Connecticut’s local phone company is “on the ropes.” How long can they keep it up?
I would like to share a couple of anecdotes. I have one customer who was promised 6 mbps (megabits per second) by the phone company and is barely getting 1. At times their service is so bad, they have no connection at all. Another client is being promised 12 mbps, but may only get 8 or 9 on a good day. They also have no other hope of wired internet service internet service in their neighborhood. Ma Bell customer #3 is stuck with with 7 mbps of internet speed and the cable company is nowhere to be found on their street. As a point of comparison, you need to know that typical cable internet speeds are 50 mbps and higher. The vast majority of my customers have cable internet.
The speeds of 6 or higher that I have mentioned, if consistent, are fine for basic Google searching, e-mailing, and a low res video here or there. However, these slow speeds really hamper the playback of high quality video streams on services like You Tube, Hulu, and Netflix. Furthermore, major software updates can be a real time warp.
I worry about the local phone company’s neglect of copper phone lines. It seems like they are committed to their fiber optic areas, but some neighborhoods will never be upgraded to these high speed lines. Wireless may be the only option for old phone lines that are beyond repair.
Just wanted to give you a heads up that if you are an AT&T DSL customer — you may be getting a notice from them in the very near future.
I’m getting wind that letters are being sent out to customers in Connecticut about transition from DSL internet to U-Verse internet.
This is not a great cause for concern — its only the technology behind your internet that is changing. You may notice a slight speed improvement as well. I had alerted you to this change several months ago and while I don’t have a phase in date for each community in CT — the transition is coming. It actually makes a lot of sense — in areas where they offer U-Verse (the next generation of ATT phone, TV, and internet) — why should they offer two products that do the same thing?
ATT sends a lot of junk mail — but I guess you’ll have to open every envelope now and I will too.
Essentially the letter is going to say something like this:
Your ATT DSL service is being transitioned to ATT U-Verse internet service. You will get a new modem in the mail in X # of days. You do not have to pay for this modem and you can keep your current price for another year.
I think those last two details are great. Technically they do not have to give you the modem for free because you are not under contract with them. I don’t think you absolutely need to call ATT to find out when your transition is going to happen, but if you receive the letter they will provide this number for you to cal 1-877.377.1686.