4Info is a wonderful, and largely free, service that allows people to get all kinds of updates on their cell phones via text messages (note: they do charge for some of their content). I reviewed them on The Soap Boxers a while ago, and I am a big fan. I get lots of sports scores via 4info, and also get the result of every Troy Tulowitzki at bat.

Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, has launched a frontal attack against 4Info. As of Friday night, it began blocking calls sent via 4Info’s 44636 short code. This apparently is related to a Verizon policy about ads in text messages, although it appears that 4Info is being singled out, while other providers are not. 4Info’s CEO indicates that a new short code will be available perhaps as early as Monday, but I am concerned that Verizon will simply block the new short code as well.

It is important to note that the users of this service are fully aware of the fact that they will be receiving ads in the text messages. This is the reason why many of 4Info’s service are free – because the advertisers are footing the bill. The ads themselves are rather unobtrusive. At the bottom of a recent sports score is the ad “Gift ideas from Best Buy”, followed by a URL that will take you to that ad. Another message has an ad from Robitussin. I personally have never followed the link to any of the sites, but I have absolutely no problem with the ads. Knowing that Troy Tulowitzki hit a home run a minute ago is well worth the cost of seeing an ad on the bottom of my cell phone.

If you’re a Verizon customer, call and complain. If your neighbor’s teenager can send a thousand text messages a month to their friends, there is no valid reason to deprive you of your messages from 4Info. I suspect that this is an attempt at a money grab on the part of Verizon – in spite of the fact that people are already paying for text messaging (either a la carte, or baked into the cost of their packages). If you are thinking about switching to Verizon, take a moment to re-think your decision. Even if the 4Info issue doesn’t personally affect you, do you want to do business with a company that pulls these sorts of shenanigans? I certainly wouldn’t.

(at this point, we shift gears and become an anti-Verizon rant)

It really doesn’t surprise me that Verizon is the company in the middle of this. Honestly, I’m not impressed with the company. About a decade ago, I tried (and failed) to get DSL through Verizon. I work in IT, and have a very good working knowledge of networking. It was quite obvious that the problem was on their end. I spent hours on the phone with them one weekend trying to get the problem resolved. I was given the complete runaround, bounced from one area to another (and other times having me perform actions that obviously would not fix the problem). Of course, I had to repeat the information every time – this COMMUNICATION company apparently had no way to COMMUNICATE this information via some sort of problem tracking system. Finally, I gave up and canceled the order. I went back to dial-up.

I was given two options for returning the DSL modem. They could send me a box through the mail, or I could drop it off at the local Verizon Phone Mart. I decided to make it easy for them (big mistake) and save them the shipping by dropping it off at the store. The people at the Verizon Phone Mart seemed a bit perplexed at what to do, but took the modem.

A week later, I got a call from Verizon Phone Mart. They still had no idea what to do with the modem, and wanted me to pick it up. I told them that I’d contact the Verizon DSL people and ask them to contact the store. When I contacted the Verizon DSL people, they agreed to contact the store and assured me that this would be no problem. Awesome. Problem solved, right?

A week later, I get another call. The Verizon Phone Mart never got a call. Yeah, the DSL people essentially blew off someone in their own company. So I picked up a modem and arranged for Verizon to send me a box (at their expense).

And then there was the billing. For months afterwards, I was billed for service I had canceled. Every month I’d call, and the charge would be removed – only to appear the next month. Finally, one month, in an avalanche of strange credits on my bill, the charge went away and never returned. Of course, they even made a mistake on this bill. They actually credited me slightly too much. I’m normally a pretty honest guy – if a cashier doesn’t scan an item, I’ll point it out. This time, however, I kept my mouth shut. I was afraid that if anyone tried to fix this, they’d make a massive mistake and my bill would be messed up for the next year. I might be willing to spend hours on the phone convincing them that they owed me money, but I certainly wasn’t willing to spend hours on the phone convincing them that they owed ME money.

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