Internet Service Providers (ISPs), wishing to resell Covad or Northpoint Digital Subscriber Line service, (DSL) via the Bell companies's existing copper telephone infrastructure, had numerous problems getting started, because the Bell companies felt low-revenue DSL would hurt their traditional data business. And, for sure, it did. This was heavily reported by all of the news media during 1999.
Digital Select, now owned by Primus Telecommunications (PRTL), continued to sign-up resellers as if the Bell resistance to DSL would soon just "go away". Of course, it did not. My company, like many other second-level resellers, was delayed in its effort to enter the DSL market by more than eight months. We committed to and spent many thousands of marketing dollars preparing for the sales effort that would, according to Digital Select, shortly follow. Additionally, we leased an operations center/server farm site, due largely to Digital Select's insistence that it was close enough to the Bell Central Office (CO) to expect circuit speeds in excess of 1.54 Mbps. The operations center is just 1.1 miles from the Bell CO, so it seemed reasonable. But, the speed actually attained was only 1.04 Mbps -- fully one third less than their salespeople led us to believe. Nevertheless, once the Bell companies got what they wanted, installations began. Needless to say, there was an enormous backlog of unfulfilled orders.
Eight months earlier my company contracted to become a reseller of DSL service under Digital Select. As a reseller (not an "agent"), it is our responsibility to sell, support, bill, and collect from our customers for the DSL service. Digital Select (Primus) bills and collects only from my company. We are required contractually to be the customer's point of contact. If the customer has a technical problem, our technical people must be on the front line and are only allowed to communicate with Primus. We are prohibited from communicating directly with Bell, Covad, or Northpoint. Further complicating and frustrating our support effort, Primus continued to misrepresent their level of support on weekends. They mislead customers by allowing them to hold on indefinitely after calling the toll-free support line (800-900-7567). We actually tested this over 30 times, using our power dialer. No one EVER answered, except during the two weekends in early 2001 when their network switch put them completely out of service. In fact, we believe this supposedly "billion dollar company" does not provide any on-site NOC support of any kind on weekends. Still, problem resolution must come from Primus's technical department. If and when resolved, we are to return to our customer with notification of a restoration of service, or whatever the resolution to the problem turns out to be. If my customer has a problem after 5pm Friday, it has been my unfortunate experience that it will not be resolved until midday Monday, at the earliest.
You'll recall from prior sales memoranda, one of our customers signed our sales order during September, 1999. Finally, the Bell delay ended during 2000. Companies were able to promote their readiness to install DSL. We told our customer it would take at least a month to be operational, which is what Primus told us. But, after the debilitating wait imposed by the Bell companies, our customer could wait no longer. They sought out other providers, not understanding there were still only two actual DSL providers everyone else was reselling. Our customer called Southwestern Bell. They were told they could be installed in just three weeks. This actually meant Southwestern Bell could install their part of the DSL implementation in three weeks. Then, Covad still had to install their part. I was simply telling them the truth, "it will take longer due to the backlog of unfulfilled orders...". Naturally, our customer believed the almighty Southwestern Bell. Nevertheless, our business relationship was still strong, so they waited until Covad was able to complete the installation for Primus.
Following a period of largely uninterrupted service (except for a few hour-long router problems and other short-term outages), our customer experienced a complete DSL outage, due we were told by Primus, to a Bell network problem. Other customers of ours were unaffected, so it seems to have actually been true. Once alerted to the outage, we immediately opened a trouble ticket with Primus.
The first two times an employee from our customer called us for an update, we immediately called Primus for a status. Nothing had yet been resolved by Bell. And, we knew that until Bell fixed their telephone line problem, there wasn't anything Primus or my company could do about it. The outage continued, so we began calling Primus every 60 minutes ourselves in anticipation of receiving additional calls from our customer. Our customer's employee was insisting that nothing was being done by my company, so he decided to call Primus himself. Even though I, the President of my company, was the only contact Primus could, according to our contract, talk with, the employee simply told the technician who answered that I worked for him, and the technician was to fix the problem right away. Primus failed to inform us that they were in direct communication with an employee of one of our customers, and that the service was actually restored right during a conversation with him. The employee felt his effort was the reason for the restoration of service, instead of the coincidental timing of his call and Primus's failure to inform my company.
As the sole point of contact for my customer's telecom and data services, Primus should never have allowed the employee to communicate directly with their Network Operations Center (NOC) technicians. This is the substance of the first breach.
I immediately contacted Primus management and demanded three things:
1. Primus must contact my customer's employee and explain the coincidence;
2. Primus employees are not to contact my company's customers under any circumstances without my knowledge and consent; and
3. Primus must not allow any employee of any customer of ours to contact Primus directly under any circumstances.
The head technician at Primus, who has been the only really helpful person at Digital Select or Primus over the years, took this unenviable responsibility upon himself and contacted our customer's employee, attempting to straighten things out. However, it didn't work. The relationship with our cusjtomer further crumbled. Clearly, Primus had no business getting into my company's business.
Since these unfortunate events, the customer has terminated DSL service with us and are in the process of moving the rest of their business to other companies. This may also harm our customer. We have an unique arrangement with this customer for the use of our dialers. This relationship is unavailable through any other company. They will be forced to start all over again. My company may, as a result, be named in a future lawsuit, as may Primus, if something can't be done now.
Contract Breach #2:
On April 26, 2001, DSL service to our operations center in Maryland was terminated by Primus without authorization by anyone from my company. Primus claimed that the cancellation was based on a fax received from me during February of 2001. I have a copy of the fax they point to as responsible for the termination available for inspection.
Please allow me to amplify this point. Because we never sent any kind of notice of cancellation for our DSL circuit, Primus simply continued to bill us. I have enough experience with Primus's cancellation processes and procedures to say with reasonable certainty that they never received a fax canceling our circuit in February or at any other time from us or anyone else outside of Primus, unless it was provided to a third party by someone at Primus; a serious criminal act. Moreover, because I am the sole possessor of all orders and cancellations for all orders sold by my company (a long-standing policy of mine), and Primus is the sole recipient of the DSL orders and cancellations, the possibilities are few.
When one closely scrutinizes the fax in question, a procedure which must naturally take place within telecom provisioning departments all over the world, it is instantly obvious that it is a fraud. A quick call to us to determine its authenticity never occurred to them. It appears that someone in provisioning or some other part of Primus was on a mission to harm my company. This fraud could only have been perpetrated from within Primus, because the fax's creation required the cutting and pasting of a graphical image of a fax, found only on a fax server or by scanning a received fax. My company does not use a fax server for this very reason. Our forms are all handled manually and sent on plain paper using conventional fax machines, which clearly print our fax number and a time and date stamp on each outgoing fax. Also, there is no reason to put ourselves out of business.
Our law enforcement and financial auditing contacts have told us that we probably need look no further than Primus for the original fax that was used to create the forgery (we also have identified which fax was used to create the forgery), unless it was destroyed; another serious criminal act. The fax, at one time, was received by Primus. Even a casual review shows clearly that the handwriting on the left side of the form is identical to that on the right side; a physical impossibility, of course. A very simple graphical cut and paste job produced the forgery.
First, I cannot understand how Primus can continue to allow this to occur! Does this mean that just anyone can send in a fax to cancel anyone else's service? And, second, even after all of the outages and problems we had with Primus, I still ordered another SDSL circuit (prior to this discovery, of course) for our sales office in Dallas. It was supposed to be a 384Kbps/384Kbps circuit, which turns out to also be a fraud. We hadn't attained those downstream and upstream speeds until we accused them of an additional fraud, at which time their general counsel advised them to make sure we got what was ordered. We were been relegated to 192Kbps downstream and 16Kbps upstream until we screamed loud enough.
Current Customer Status and Expenses Incurred to Date For Network Re-engineering
Finally, we had to get another carrier because it would have taken Covad three weeks or more to restore service. So, we agreed to and obtained service from a wireless ISP. We are not yet a reseller of this service, so it is far more costly than buying our own circuit from Primus at a discount, which was guaranteed to us as a one-time benefit for signing the reseller contract.
Due to the Primus termination, our customer base may all demand compensation. We have had to scramble to keep them calm, instead of spending our time out there getting NEW customers. The opportunity cost is significant. Fortunately, we've recovered to a degree, as of this writing. But, we lost quite a few customers; like a government agency and others. Our backlog of customer complaints took months to sort out. Additionally, we were forced to delay billing for 30 days while we restored accounting for all customers.
Go ahead. Just ask me for a recommendation to use Primus. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Primus Telecommunications