Block Spam Calls with NoMoRobo.com

Picture shows a spam can with a red circle and bar superimposed on it.

Block Spam Calls with NoMoRobo.com

Are you frustrated by the complete ineffectiveness of the government’s National Do Not Call Registry?

When this registry went live in 2004, we signed up immediately. Nuisance calls dropped off remarkably. However, Congress never voted to allocate any actual money for enforcement – one suspects that certain powerful groups within Congress are personal owners of the spam-call generating businesses. In recent years, the spam-call industry has recognized that the Do Not Call Registry is a national joke and begun ignoring it with abandon.

Facing a Congress that actually seems to like spam-call generating industries, the Federal Trade Commission eventually realized that they were never going to get anywhere in terms of actual enforcement. As such, they decided to make lemonade out of the lemons. In 2013, they scraped together $50,000 and announced a contest for the best free-market solution to the problem. The winners were announced on 2 April 2013. NoMoRobo.com is the direct descendant of one of the two winners of the FTC prize.

How Does it Work?

The key hook that NoMoRobo uses to intercept the spam calls is a very simple feature that is offered by most land-line and VoIP providers in the United States: the option to ring a second phone number when an incoming call arrives. Say your carrier is Vonage and your phone number is: (512) 543-1234. One of the options in your Vonage account is the ability to designate another number that rings at the same time your number rings. Say you set up your account so that this second number is: (415) 987-6543. When anyone calls your number (That is: (512) 543-1234) then both your number and the other number (that is: (415) 987-6543) ring at the same time. Furthermore, both numbers receive the same caller ID information.

Picture shows a robot delivering a can of SPAM to the telephone number which in turn rings NoMoRobo as well as the home phone

How NoMoRobo.com Works

That is really all it takes. You sign up with NoMoRobo. Once you are registered, you logon to your carrier’s account and setup NoMoRobo’s phone number as your second phone number. The setup is really simple and only takes a minute or two.

Once you are setup, as calls come into your phone number, they also arrive at NoMoRobo simultaneously. However, since NoMoRobo serves a very large number of customers, they can see things that you can’t. For example:

  • They can see a single source number sequentially dialing its way through an area code.
  • They can see a single source number placing hundreds of calls per minute.
  • They can see a source number that other NoMoRobo callers have flagged as a spam robot.

If NoMoRobo thinks the call is spam, it simply answers its line, holds for a half second or so and hangs up again. That terminates the call. At home, you hear a single ring.

The single ring turns out to be much less intrusive than the persistent ringing of a spam call without NoMoRobo. In fact, I kind of like the single ring. It is sort of like sitting outside on a warm summer night, drinking a beer, and listening to the bug zapper fry insects. Each zapping sound yields a sort of visceral pleasure. Likewise, I now have found that I enjoy the sound of the single ring: “Another irritating spam call hammered by NoMoRobo!” Time to crack open a beer.

What About False Positives/Negatives?

Picture shows NoMoRobo's user interface for reporting a number (step 1)

Report a Number Step 1

Since you are still getting the single ring, you are also getting the caller ID string. If you have a reasonably modern home telephone, the calls blocked by NoMoRobo.com will show up as a series of “missed calls”. You can review these periodically to see if anything is getting blocked that should not be.

Picture shows NoMoRobo's user interface to report a number (step 2)

Report a Number Step 2

In either case, whether it was a call that should not have been blocked or a call that should not have gotten through, it is very easy to report a problem. You simply log on, fill in the details, and press submit.

We have been using the service for several months now and it is remarkably good. I haven’t detected anything that was erroneously blocked and we have had exactly one call that should not have gotten through – some annoying, local Texas political harangue. It took less than a minute to report the bad number.

How Much does it Cost?

For home phones, the service is free. NoMoRobo’s business model is to serve consumers free in order to collect the data about the bad actors. NoMoRobo will then charge businesses for the service, use the data provided by the large base of consumers being served for free.

QuickBooks Can’t Connect to Bank of America

Symptom

You have had QuickBooks 2014 (or earlier versions) setup with online banking connecting for a long time. Everything has been running fine. Suddenly, one day “Bank Feeds” simply stop working. QuickBooks displays this error message:

Error message shows please try again in a few days,

QuickBooks Fails to Connect to Bank of America

Really?! Try again in a day or two?! OK. You are busy. Or patient. You wait a day or two. Same problem. You wait another day or two. Same problem.

Contacting Support

When you contact Intuit support, they will have no idea why this problem is happening…although they will suspect it is because you have done something wrong. However, you are in luck! Not only does Intuit have a dedicated helpdesk for supporting Bank of America customers, Bank of America has a similar dedicated helpdesk for supporting QuickBooks customers.

  1. The Intuit dedicated helpdesk for Bank of America Customers will spend an hour or so explaining to you that the problem is definitely caused by the stupid people at Bank of America changing their website constantly.
  2. The Bank of America helpdesk for QuickBooks Customers will respond by spending an hour or so explaining to you that the problem is definitely either in the poor design of the QuickBooks software or in your inept use thereof.

Meanwhile, you are still dead in the water.

What is Actually Going On?

The problem is in the stone-age software communication protocol between these two major institutions. That is, apparently they don’t have one. Instead of using something modern, architected, and designed for electronic business-to-business communication, these two giant companies communicate by having Intuit use a web-scraper to try to decipher Bank of America’s customer website. For anyone who understands anything about software development, this is an astoundingly primitive approach.

In any event, although there may be any number of ways in which a minor tweak to the Bank of America website can break Intuit’s web-scraper, there is one trigger that will break it without fail and cause the error message shown above. That trigger is any change to your business credit cards. I have had this problem three times in four years for our little business:

  1. When I added a business credit card for a summer intern
  2. When I cancelled that intern’s credit card at the end of the summer
  3. When Bank of America got worried about security breaches at Home Depot, Target, et al and spontaneously reissued my credit card – even though my account was not actually having any fraud issues.

The nasty thing about the problem is that the QuickBooks bank feed doesn’t stop working just for the single credit card in question. Rather, once there is any sort of change in the constellation of your business credit cards, QuickBooks completely locks up and refuses to communicate with Bank of America at all…instead displaying the useless error message shown above.

How Do I Fix It?

Fortunately, it is not hard to fix. Don’t waste your time calling the Inuit or Bank of America helpdesks. What you have to do is completely deactivate online banking and reactivate it again from scratch. If you are a small business with only a handful of accounts, this process will only take a few minutes.

Deactivate Online Banking

The first step is to deactivate online banking for all of your Bank of America accounts.

Open the Chart of Accounts

Open the Chart of Accounts

For each Bank of America account, Right Click and Select Edit Account

For each Bank of America account, Right Click and Select Edit Account

Deactivate Online Services

Deactivate Online Services

Click OK to Dismiss Warning

Click OK to Dismiss Warning

Reactivate Online Banking

Select Your Main Bank of America Checking Account and Setup Bank Feeds

Select Your Main Bank of America Checking Account and Setup Online Banking

Click Yes and Let QuickBooks Re-Initialize

Click Yes and Let QuickBooks Re-Initialize

Select the Correct Bank of America

Select the Correct Bank of America

Click Continue

Click Continue

Enter Your Bank of America Online ID and Password

Enter Your Bank of America Online ID and Password

Relink Your Accounts.

Relink Your Accounts. Use the Pull-Down Next to Each Account to Assign the QB Account. All Accounts can be Re-Assigned in One Step

Online Bill Pay

If you are using online bill payment, some additional steps may be needed. That is, there are two ways to pay recurring bills:

  1. Initiate the bill payment from QuickBooks – Enter the bill in QuickBooks. Pay the bill in QuickBooks. QuickBooks uploads the information to Bank of America. Bank of America prints and mails a check. Later when the check is cashed, the item appears in your QuickBooks bank feed and QuickBooks recognizes it.
  2. Initiate the bill payment from Bank of America – Use the Bank of America website. Select bill payment. Setup the supplier information. Pay from the website. Bank of America prints and mails a check. Later when the check is cashed, the item appears in your QuickBooks bank feed. The first time, you have to assign a vendor and account number to it. In subsequent months, QuickBooks should recognize it and automatically set the transaction up for you.

We had started with the first method because our accountant liked it. However, we had problems with the primitive interface between QuickBooks and Bank of America garbling/truncating address information and causing Bank of America to send checks to nonexistent addresses. As such, for some suppliers we had started using the second method. After the most recent round of fixing this communication problem, the first method stopped working – obviously some additional setup is required. However, I decided that rather than messing around figuring out out to re-setup the first method, I would simply transition the few remaining suppliers to the second method that seems to work better anyway.

Preventing it from Happening Again

You may not be able to completely prevent this sort of problem from happening if Bank of America makes a change and you try to synchronize the QuickBooks bank feeds before you are aware of the change. However, if you are aware of the change because you initiated it (adding new card, cancelling an old one) If you are careful to change all of the associated account setup information in QuickBooks BEFORE trying to synchronize bank feeds, you should be able to avoid this problem.

Making Your U.S. iPhone 5 Work in Singapore

Update 24 August 2014 – New Information in Green

There is a lot of misinformation floating around on the web about whether an iPhone 5s purchased in the United States will work in Singapore or not. If you have an unlocked iPhone 5s purchased in the United States, it will definitely work in Singapore. All you have to do is head to the nearest SingTel shop, buy a nanoSIM card for it.

The Model Number Confusion

If you look at Apple’s support website, you will get the impression that there are all sorts of different models of iPhone each of which only work in a certain region of the world. At first glance, you might be tempted to think that these “models” have different components in them. You would be wrong. If you look carefully at the bottom of that website, in a tiny little font you will find some mumble words about phones perhaps working in other places, don’t call us, good luck. There are not multiple iPhone models. This is the same marketing-restriction nonsense that we have seen with DVD “region codes” Every DVD player in the world runs on universal chipsets that are fully capable of playing any DVD on the planet, that are then “crippled” to work with only one region’s DVDs. I know this, because I own a Pioneer DVD player that was sold through business partners in the United States – with Pioneer providing them with clear step-by-step instructions on how to NOT disable (“Be sure not to disable the crippling using these steps!”) the crippling on the pain of having the warrantee for the unit voided. That is, unless said business partner restored the factory settings before sending the unit in for repair. The clue that something similar is going on with the iPhone 5s is that the website lists a large number of models that seem to have different frequencies, but if you examine the list for the United States model, you will see that the United States model’s frequencies are the superset of all the other models. With a proper SIM, the United States model will work anywhere in the world.

Unlocked Phone

One thing you DO need, however, is an unlocked phone. That means that you pay for the phone separately from the service. I purchased my phone directly from the Apple Store as an unlocked phone and it was rather expensive. I believe that Virgin Mobile and/or T-Mobile also provide options to buy unlocked phones on an installment plan. That is, they sell you a phone on an installment plan that is separate from their service. You are free to stop using their service, but you still have to pay off the cost of the phone.

Getting the SIM Card

OK, you have your unlocked iPhone. Head to your nearest SingTel store – almost every mall in Singapore has one. Note, however, that you will need to go to an actual SingTel store, not to one of their business partners. You will need to bring your passport.

Blog 10 A - Head Directly to Cashier

Blog 10 A – Head Directly to Cashier

Once at the store, don’t be dismayed by complicated systems for taking a number to talk to a sales associate. You don’t need to talk to a sales associate. You can just head to the cashier directly.  The cashier will take care of everything including swapping the SIM for you. Note that unless you are never going back to the United States, you want to be sure not to lose the nanoSIM that you were using previously. Normally, the SingTel cashier will put your old nanoSIM back into the little card case that the SingTel nanoSIM came in. Put that somewhere safe. You will need it when you get back. The SIM card costs S$38 (about US$ 30) Note that the card comes with $30 of credit as well as a special 7-day, 1GB data plan. By the way, I should also note that the service I received at the SingTel stores so far has generally been excellent. The staff are very pleasant, cheerful, competent, and helpful. They are a pleasure to work with.

Make a Note of Your Phone Number

Your new SIM card gives your phone a Singapore local phone number. It is written on the card. However, if you every forget it, you can find it again in Settings->Phone

What about All My Apps and Contacts?

The only thing that changes when you swap SIMs is your phone number. All your contacts and apps are still there. Your contacts will simply work…provided you have been disciplined about how you entered them in the first place. The key point is that you need to enter all phone numbers starting with “+” and the country code. For example, U.S. phone numbers need to be entered with “+1”, Singapore with “+65”, Japan with “+81” and so on. If you have entered your contacts this way, the phone will be smart enough to figure out what country it is in, what prefixes it needs to dial and so on. Of course, the downside is that placing international calls is REALLY EXPENSIVE…so you don’t want to actually use this feature. However, it is comforting to know that it will work in an emergency.

Understanding the SingTel Prepaid Accounts

The SingTel prepay system has a “Main Account” and then any number of other special purpose accounts like “Free texting from Argentina on Thursdays” most of which are entirely useless. This will be important when you get to purchase a “Top Up” card.

This is the Reload Card You Want

This is the Reload Card You Want

The basic approach to keeping your phone running is:

  1. Purchase a $10, $20 or $50 “Hi! Prepaid Card”  but NOT any of the others like “$22 DataTalk”
  2. Activate the card. This step will transfer that amount to your “Main Account”
  3. Log in to SingTel’s website.
  4. Purchase a DataPlan. This step will activate data for your phone and give you a certain amount of credit. The cost of the DataPlan is deducted from your “Main Account”

I work in Singapore for 28 days at a time. I find that one $10 and one $20 card is enough to cover my needs for a 28-day cycle.

Topping Up Your Account

As mentioned above, you can purchase the top-up cards from the cashier at any convenience store, 7-11 and others that are all over place.

  1. Don’t expect the cashier to understand these cards. They don’t. Even worse, they will answer “yes” to any question you ask them about these cards, potentially causing you to waste money on a card that doesn’t do what you need it to.
  2. As I mentioned above, you want the $10, $20, or $50 cards. However, I have never been able to find the $50 card anywhere. That means your choices are only the $10 or $20 cards.
  3. You don’t want any of the other odd denomination special promotion cards that SingTel sells because these only add value to the “Free Texting from Argentina on Thursdays” accounts and do NOT add value to your “Main Account”  They are a complete waste of money!
Scratch Off to Reveal Codes

Scratch Off to Reveal Codes

Once you have the card, find a quiet place to sit down. Turn the card over. Scratch off the little foil strip on the rear. There are two numbers, a 10-digit number and a 6-digit confirmation code. Call the number shown on the card, follow the voice prompts, and key these in. Very easy.

Purchasing a DataPlan

Once you have topped up your “Main Account”, purchasing a data plan is easy. I think there is a way to do this directly from the phone, but I prefer to use SingTel’s website.

  1. Bring up the website
  2. Enter your phone number.
  3. SingTel will send a 6 digit code to your phone.
  4. Enter that code.
  5. Purchase the data plan.

It is that easy. Since my trips are always 28 days, I buy one 30-day, 1 GB plan for S$20 each trip.

Swapping Back to Your U.S. SIM

You will need a paper clip. I was a little surprised not to find anything like a “SIM Swap Tool” online. A paperclip will work. However, popping the SIM out with a paperclip does require a bit of finger strength. Someone with arthritic hands might have difficulty.

Popping Out the SIM

Popping Out the SIM

Power the phone completely off. Place the phone on a flat surface. Insert the paperclip into the small hole on the right side of the phone. Push in until the tray pops out.

Swap the SIM

Swap the SIM

Remove the tray, swap the SIMs. Push the tray back into the slot. Power the phone on again. That is all there is to it.

Personal Hotspot aka: “Tethering”

Update 24 August 2014

Does tethering work? That depends on how you do it. Wireless LAN “Personal Hotspot” tethering does not work. Even worse, it looks sort of like it might be working and wastes an enormous amount of your time as you struggle to try to figure out why you can get Google to come up once, but after that nothing seems to work. Don’t waste your time trying to make your iPhone 5 provide a personal wireless hotspot in Singapore using Singtel prepaid service!

The good news, however, is that there is another way that works amazingly well and that is to tether your iPhone using USB. I am using it from a shopping mall right now and the performance is blazingly fast and rock solid. Here is how to make it work:

  1. Go to the Apple Store (or Challenger in Singapore) swallow hard, grit your teeth, and pay the outrageous price for an official Apple USB to lightning cable. Don’t waste your time and money on cheaper, knock-off cables – they won’t work.
  2. Install iTunes on your notebook computer.
  3. Setup iTunes to manage your iPhone. That is, connect your iPhone and go through all the rigamarole to get them trusting each other, backing up, synching, etc…

With that, you are ready to go. When you are ready to use the service, make sure your iPhone is setup for “Personal Hotspot” = “On” <even though you won’t be using a personal hotspot!> Plug in the phone using the official USB cable. iTunes will start and within a few seconds you will be connected.

You do need to pay a little attention to what you do while you are connected this way. I generally buy the 1GB 30-day data package for S$20 and that provides more than enough data for all the e-Mail, web browsing, Facebook, photo posting, etc… that I want to do for four weeks. However, I do NOT try to stream any 3-hour HD movies or anything stupid like that.

Power Supplies

Do I need a special power supply for Singapore? Do I need to carry a transformer to convert 220 volts to 110 volts? That would be “No” and “No”. Even the tiny little cube of a power supply that Apple ships with the iPhone is actually capable of running on pretty much any power in the world. All you need is an adapter plug. Singapore uses the same plugs as England. What I actually do is carry a small U.S. power strip with me. I use the adapter plug to plug the power strip in to my hotel room wall socket. I then plug my iPhone, iPad, and notebook computers into the U.S. power strip. Not many hotel rooms provide three separate sockets for customer use (although hotels are waking up and that situation is improving) and the British plugs are the bulkiest in the world. The entire arrangement ends up a bit more compact by doing the British-to-U.S. conversion in just one place.

On-Line Top-Up of Your Account

On-Line Top-Up Does Not Actually Work

On-Line Top-Up Does Not Actually Work

Gee, all that fiddling around with prepaid cards sounds like a pain. Can’t I just get on a website and charge it to my credit card? In theory, you can. However, when I tried to do so, it did not work. Note that this may have something to do with the overall chaotic credit card situation in Singapore. Unlike most other places, Singapore does not seem to have unified credit card processing services. Most restaurants have at least three separate swipe terminals, some have as many as five or six. Even worse, the ability of those swipe terminals to actually charge things to United States cards is very erratic. The connections between Singapore’s credit card processing systems and the big ones in the United States seem to be pretty wobbly.

Other Kinds of Plans

The prepaid plan works perfectly for me since I go to Singapore for consulting and I can simply directly add the prepaid costs to my expense report. There is no question of charges for other time when I am not in Singapore. It works perfectly for me. That having been said, SingTel does definitely offer regular monthly plans. If you are staying for a longer period of time, one of these may fit your needs better than the prepaid plan – and also possibly provide official support for tethering as well.

T-Mobile Alternative

Update 24 August 2014

Since I first wrote this post, T-Mobile has introduced a service that provides global roaming including data roaming without extra charges. This service is a great idea – finally someone in the industry putting down the “Stupid Juice” bottle and thinking about what the customers actually need!  I am using this service and it does indeed work in Singapore. Nevertheless, I still swap SIMs when I get here for two reasons:

  1. Network Performance. T-Mobile’s partner is M1. It works, but the coverage and speeds are not nearly as good as Singtel’s.
  2. Local Number. By swapping SIMs I have a local number which I have in fact printed on business cards. It is a lot handier to have a local number if you are going to spend a lot of time in Singapore.

T-Mobile’s initiative is exactly the direction the industry needs to go (put down that Stupid Juice bottle!) and I am an enthusiastic supporter. Nevertheless, it is a really challenging and complicated undertaking. T-Mobile has to sign up partners in something like 70 countries, work out revenue sharing agreements, technical support arrangements, and so on. It is still a little wobbly. It will probably be a few years before it really gets to the “It Just Works” level. For some people, however, the T-Mobile plan might be a better approach. Note: you have to get the right T-Mobile plan. That is, this sort of roaming works only on their post-paid, monthly plans. It does NOT work on any of their prepaid plans and not all T-Mobile employees are sufficiently up to speed to guide you to the correct plan.

Wireless Internet Service by Clear

We ended up not having wires to our office at all. So how do we get internet service? We get internet service quite easily from two 4G wireless LAN modems provided by Clear.

– – –

May 2012. During the Spring Semester we had hosted five interns from the University of Texas part-time at our house. We knew that we wanted to have ten interns full-time during the summer and that we would never be able to host them in our house. We would need to rent genuine commercial office space. After some initial looking around, we got hooked up with a commercial real estate buyer’s agent named Matt Watson at Austin Office Space.  Matt helped us find and negotiate the lease on a very nice office and was giving us general tips on how to get setup as we scrambled to get ready to have ten paid interns starting Monday, May 21st.

Picture of Remnants of Previous Wiring

Remnants of Previous Wiring

One of the first things Matt clued us in on was the fact that the landlord would want absolutely nothing to do with the wiring in our office. They would be happy to repaint, re-tile, remove doors, whatever – these things could be negotiated. Computer and telephone wiring would definitely be out of scope.

Initially, this behavior seemed puzzling, but only a few seconds of thought yielded the obvious reason for the landlord’s skittishness: liability. No landlord would want to be responsible for any loss of business caused by failure of computer or telephone communication. As a result, the landlords leave it to each tenant to arrange for wiring and each tenant does so – leaving no records of what they did for the next tenant. Examining our office space, we could see archaeological evidence of multiple generations of incompatible and uncoordinated wiring.

Matt recommended that we contact Stacy Talent at Telco Data for a quote. I did so and Telco Data sent out a supervisor who discussed what I thought we would need and put together a very meticulous and professional written quotation.  For our particular requirements, the proposed cost was a bit more than two-thousand dollars.

Picture of Telephone Wiring Closet

Telephone Wiring Closet

Next problem: find an internet service provider. Every office building has a central telephone wiring closet. The service providers bring their cable to this closet. Your cabling provider runs the cable from the closet to your office and hooks you up. After a few unsuccessful attempts to get the landlord to tell me which internet service providers actually had service to our building, I began to realize that the landlords view these wiring closets as something similar to the Embassy of North Korea – they are not sure what goes on in there and they really don’t want to know.

OK. Let’s get on the internet and see what we can find. First stop: the website of AT&T. I Googled “AT&T Business Internet” and found the seemingly convenient “AT&T Small Business Internet” site. Clicking through their site, I found my specific address and even the floor of my building. Great!  I ordered a 6 megabit service. Great! Pressed go. Phew. All setup.

The next day, an AT&T representative called me. Had they said 6 megabits? Opps. Their Bad. They meant 384 kilobits. Oh, and it would be really expensive and require and extended contract. Ten people sharing 384 kilobits?! I cancelled my order on the spot.

Let’s see, Time Warner Cable had been blanketing the airwaves with advertisements claiming to be the absolute savior of small business phone and internet world – let’s call them. They wanted $259/month for a 15 megabit service. Gulp. And there would be a two-year minimum contract. GULP! Oh, and it would be at least 6 weeks until they could dispatch a tree sloth to connect the service.

6 WEEKS!?!  I was now five days away from having ten $15/hour interns standing around unable to do any work!  My blood-pressure went through the roof! What was I going to do?!

Clear's Convenient Coverage Map

Clear’s Convenient Coverage Map

I am not sure how I became aware of Clear. I think it was a radio advertisement they were running. It might also have been a billboard they had up in the area.

I got on Clear’s website and the first thing I found was Clear’s very convenient coverage checking tool at: http://www.clear.com/coverage

I entered the address of our office and found that there were nearby towers all around. Our office is on the top of a hill. I looked out the window and found that I could see one of the Clear towers at exactly the location shown on the map as shown in the screenshot above to the right.

Clear 4G Wireless Internet Modem

Clear 4G Wireless Internet Modem

Next I called their sales line. The customer service rep discussed our needs, the number of people in the office, the type of work we would be doing and so on. He recommended that we sign up for two wireless modems on the “4G Internet Plan” as shown on their Home Internet Plans page.

Next he gave me the codes I would need to setup the modems and got my shipping address. About twenty minutes later, he had my credit card number and the modems were on their way.

The modems arrived the next day. We have two window offices and we setup one modem in each. Setup took about 10 minutes for each modem.

We ended up with two wireless LANs – AsattePress1 and AsattePress2.  We average about 5 megabits of throughput on each LAN. Users can connect to either wireless LAN. Most machines will choose the one with the slightly stronger signal. In each room, we connected a printer to the modem using an ethernet cable.

We have now had the service for almost a year and are very satisfied. At first I thought that  the service might have trouble in bad weather, but the few heavy rain storms we have had seemed to have surprisingly little impact on the service.

The only problem we have experienced is that every 4-6 weeks we will come into the office in the morning and find the service down in the weeds. That is, the links will be up, but throughput will be down to a crawl. The first time this problem occurred, we called Clear technical support and were told to power off the modems for five minutes. We did so and that cleared up the problem. Powering off for ten seconds is not sufficient as such a brief interruption gets handled at the lowest link level of their equipment. By powering off the modem for five minutes, you give the higher level service time to notice that your modem is no longer there. When you power the modem back up again after a five-minute absence, you get a full reset that clears out the clogged up routing equipment.

Early in my career, I actually designed telecommunications switching equipment for a living and my opinion is that Clear needs to lean more heavily on their equipment suppliers to clean up this problem. That is, the answer rolls off the tongue of the Clear helpdesk reps the instant you describe the problem – obviously this problem happens a lot. The need for the end-user to perform a power-switch-reset to clear a routine and repeating problem is the symptom of amateurish equipment design. Well-designed telecommunications equipment should be polling for service quality automatically and detecting and correcting these sorts of “down in the weeds” performance problems before the end users ever notice them.

That having been said, the problem does not happen very often and it is easy to fix. I just pull the plug on the modem and go have a cup of coffee. By the time I finish the cup of coffee and plug the modem back in, the problem has corrected itself.

There was an initial charge for the modems (I seem to remember $175 each) but there is no extended service contract. Including taxes, we pay just a little over $100 per month for both modems.

Overall, I would strongly recommend that any small business owner give Clear a close look before submitting to the pricing extortion and poor service of the traditional wired internet service providers.