Aug 13, 2012 at 8:29am
How to pause cable, phone services
Spending the next six months away from home while my wife starts her medical residency.
What are my options for suspending my telecom services during that time?
It depends - not just on your choice of providers, but sometimes on where you live.
Comcast, the largest Internet provider in the U.S., only offers a suspend-your-account option in markets with many seasonal residents, such as Florida.
Jenni Moyer, corporate-communications director for the Philadelphia company, suggested that subscribers elsewhere, such as the Santa Cruz, Calif., resident who sent in this question, could either downgrade to a lower service level to keep Comcast e-mail active or ask to have the usual re-connect fee waived after closing and then opening an account.
At Verizon, the rules are a little more straightforward: You can suspend services such as Fios Internet or TV from one to nine months.
Spokesman Harry Mitchell said the New York firm charges customers subscribing to a bundle of its services a $19.99 account-suspension fee, while those who use only one would pay $24.99.
AT&T allows customers of its U-verse bundle of Internet, TV and voice service to suspend it for up to nine months, but at a cost of $5 a month.
Mari Melguizo, a publicist for the Dallas-based company, said most voice and DSL subscribers can also pause their service, "generally for up to six months at a reduced rate," but the exact times and fees vary by state.
Time Warner Cable also limits this option to particular markets (for instance, New England), so you'll have to ask if yours is included.
DirecTV lets customers pause an account at least twice in a 12-month period.
Dish Network, however, charges $5 a month for its "Dish Pause" service.
Note that you may have to call to get your account paused instead of making this change online - even though it costs more to handle a customer transaction over the phone than online.
If you'll be residing elsewhere for a while, have an e-mail account besides the one your Internet provider hands out and don't have anything precious stashed on the DVR, it may be easier to cancel service.
Wait for the inevitable please-come-back offers, and you may find that the monthly rate on a new account may be cheaper, at least for the first few months.
You may also find that you've got a better offer on the table from a competing firm - if, that is, you are among what seems to be a shrinking minority of Americans with a choice of high-speed Internet services.
Tip: "Free Public Wi-Fi" still a scam
If you're using Wi-Fi on the road, you may see a "Free Public WiFi" signal pop up.
That may sound attractive, but all it really indicates is the presence of an old, unpatched Windows XP computer.
Microsoft originally set up XP to, in some conditions, create an "ad hoc" computer-to-computer wireless network named after the last signal it had successfully used.
Somewhere, someone tried to use a "Free Public WiFi" signal and had the computer then try to recreate that network; somebody else tried to join this new signal later; the rest is history.
Microsoft shipped a patch for XP years ago, but this bogus Wi-Fi keeps showing up.
Considering how many XP machines I still see in daily use - Microsoft won't end its "extended support" for that operating system until a little over two years from now - I see no reason for this problem to go away anytime soon.