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31 January 2006

Time Warner Cable in Maine

Before R left for the Caribbean, we investigated what it was going to cost to talk long distance.

We currently have a great plan from Time Warner Cable - $39.95 a month for unlimited long distance in the US and Canada - as many of our friends around the country know.

However, St. Kitts is a foreign country, so we called to find out the price.

$.49 a minute.

Isn't that insane? Even calling Germany, which is much farther away, is only $.08 a minute. I guess it has more to do with infrastructure, though, and less to do with distance.

When we got that price quote, we quickly went online to Speedy Pin, which is a terrific site with super cheap calling cards. We were disheartened to find that no matter what, talk isn't cheap when it's someone in St. Kitts you want to talk to.

So the first phone bill came on Friday, and I was having a mild freak out before I opened it. We talk every day. Usually for about 20-40 minutes. Ugh. This was going to be a doozy.

I opened the bill, and low and behold, nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

In fact, my bill was $30 lower than normal because of a promotion I signed up for in the fall through my school that I had completely forgotten about.

I knew it couldn't be right, so I logged onto the website, and went to my account page that would show me all of my calls.

There, under unbilled charges, were $17 of calls to St. Kitts. Just $17. Under $20.

Hmmm. I was suspicious.

I noticed two things:
  • First, the calls all took place between January 16-January 20
  • Second, the calls were all to R's landline, not her cell.

    The bill date ended January 20. R didn't get her landline working until January 16.

    I had been calling the cell phone since January 5, when she got it. Between January 2-5, I had been calling her friend's cell phone, yet none of these calls were showing up online.

    R said to just wait - we're going to get slammed with the mother of all phone bills come February.

    I let it go at that and decided to wait in dread, too.

    Then, this morning, I was checking my statcounter, as I do every so often to see how many hits per day this site is getting. I also like to keep a list of the countries that people who visit my site are from. Today I saw St. Kitts for the first time, and I laughed because R is very good about checking on the blog, since it was supposed to be a dual project originally (although it has morphed into me doing 99% of everything, and she only does the occasional post). So I clicked on the St. Kitts link to find more about my visitor (I can get the time visited, where the visitor came from, the browser used, screen resolution, IP address, etc.), and it said that this person had only visited for 1 minute and 14 seconds. Now that is strange - there is no way she could have read everything in under two minutes. I clicked back to see if there were more visits from St. Kitts that I missed, and I noticed that there was one for Antigua/Barbuda just 3 hours earlier. Hmmm.

    Another thing that I noticed that while it indicated the visitor was in St. Kitts, the ISP was in Miami, Florida.

    Huh? My mind started immediately thinking about the phone bill and the fact that the cell phone charges weren't showing up. The company that provides her with the cell phone is also the company that does her Internet.

    At 8:30 am, she'd be on campus. That is the time of the Antigua/Barbuda visitor, who has the exact same browser version and screen resolution as R. I need to ask R if she remembers checking the blog from school Sunday morning. That's the only way to clear this up. I also think that it was R because I can check the referring link (the site someone came from), and if it says No Referring Link, that means that the person knew the URL or had it bookmarked, usually indicating I know the person or it's a regular reader. I don't have any regular readers in Antigua or Barbuda; in fact, I've never had a visitor from anywhere in the Caribbean before except for some island off the coast of Venezuela.

    So I called Time Warned Cable. I got Marjorie, a nice lady, who happens to be from Park Ridge, IL, near where I grew up. She mentioned this when she noted a call to Libertyville, IL, on my transcript. She was looking at my transcript of January phone calls because I wanted to see if more showed up for her than what I was seeing online. TWC has no record of me calling R's cell phone at all for the month of January. Only the land line. It doesn't show up under international or domestic charges. I felt dumb complaining; it's not that I want an exorbitant phone bill or anything. I just want to be prepared.

    I asked if it was a possiblity that it's a US number with a St. Kitts area code.
    Marjorie seemed perplexed.

    I asked if that's why maybe R's mom in Germany couldn't call the cell phone (she wasn't using the US pre-dial numbers).
    Again, Marjorie didn't know.

    I asked if it were possible that these phone calls would later turn up in a bill down the line. She said she no. I asked if it was possible. Again, she said no. She also said that I shouldn't worry.

    Uh...ok. I re-explained my theory about the ISP being in Florida. She said it was possible, but the calls weren't showing up anywhere.

    We eneded the phone call with her asking me if I'm sure that I called that number from this line.

    Oh, I'm pretty sure! R and I have already had two major international fights over the phone about the forthcoming bill.

    She said don't worry because according to their records, I haven't made any calls from my phone to that number. I again asked if I was going to get slammed with a bill later on, and she said no, that TWC can't charge me for calls that they have no record of. In retrospect, I should have asked her to put that in writing, but TWC has been good to me since I've been with Maine.

    I'm not trying to get away with something, but why spend a bunch of money on calling cards if calling R is actually a free Florida call? That must be it.

    So what do I do now? Do I relax? Or do I call with wild abandon?

    What would you do?

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