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The great Verizon Network Extender rip-off

Gibbs discusses a reader's problems with Verizon's Wireless Network Extender

Backspin By , Network World
June 08, 2012 12:37 PM ET

Network World - A few months ago I started writing about my saga of getting AT&T U-verse DSL service established at the new location of the Gibbs Universal Industries Secret Underground Bunker.

In response, I got a letter from a reader, Ben Myers (Harvard, Mass.), which began: "I read your DSL column in the latest Network World, and I marvel at the complete ineptitude of AT&T in managing its (your) DSL connection. I provide support for a lot of Verizon DSL customers around here, both business and consumer, and Verizon seems to have gotten it right with DSL."

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Wow! An ISP that has made someone, and a techie to boot, happy? A rare situation indeed ... but hold hard ... is Ben completely happy? Nope, he is not ...

Ben went on to relate his own tale of anger, frustration, and abiding disappointment over Verizon's wireless service. It all started with his home office being a cell service "dead zone."

We've all experienced these odd pockets of "bad air" and there's frequently not much to be done about them. They exist in our home and offices like little wireless cones of silence.

Ben decided to fix the problem and so acquired a Verizon Wireless Network Extender made by Samsung. Verizon describes this device thusly: "The Network Extender enables you to make calls from indoor locations where outdoor cellular coverage does not reach." OK, sounds good. "Use Your Verizon Wireless Phone / There is no need for a new phone. The Network Extender works like a miniature cell phone tower in your home."

Fantastic! So what could be wrong with this solution?

Ben summed up his feelings with, "It is a good concept made [bad] by a combination of lousy technology, ham-handed marketing, and plain dishonesty."

Ben reports it was simple to set up. "You plug in the power, connect up an Ethernet cable, and hang a GPS tracking sensor on a long wire near a south facing window. The device displays some red and blue LEDs at first, but once it gets a GPS signal, an Ethernet IP address and a go-ahead from the Verizon mothership, all the LEDs go to blue and (wonder of wonders) you can make and receive cellphone calls from most anywhere in the house."

Great, but as Ben points out, the Extender uses your broadband Internet connection and uses voice over IP instead of cell service, which makes both Ben ... and me ... wonder, "Why do I have to pay as much as $250 to help Verizon offload its cell towers AND increase my cellphone calling minutes?" A good question indeed. Anyone got a rationale for this? Anyone?

But wait, there's more! Here's the rest of Ben's tale of frustration: "When the extender works, everything is wonderful, and the household and its workers run smoothly. Well, late last week, the thing crapped out, displaying red LEDs signifying errors. Sometimes it would come back up by itself and run for a while, and other times I would do the old unplug-wait-a-minute-plug-back-in dance. And sometimes it would return to normal after 5 minutes, more often not. To its credit, Verizon tech support people are both knowledgeable and helpful. It is a telling point, though, that in navigating through their voice response maze, one sentence asks pointedly if are calling because your Verizon Wireless Network Extender is displaying red LEDs. Aha! Must not be only me. One of the Verizon techs sympathized with the fact that my extender was past its one-year warranty and gave me a number to call at Samsung."

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