Monday, February 21, 2011
Help Me Howard: Phone Number
Your phone number, is it really yours or does it belong to the phone company, and if you wanted to switch phone companies can you take your phone number with you? Great question, which is why we have Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum is an endroconologist with nearly 4,000 patients depending on her.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum, Cooper City Endocrinologist: "Very busy, very busy. We try to keep them healthy. We try."
Three months ago, Lorena was a very happy doctor as she moved her practice from Hollywood to Cooper City.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum: "Very excited. Brand new office. My office took a lot of time and a lot of effort, but very excited to be here."
But of course nothing ever goes as planned, and Lorena's problem came when her old phone company refused to release her phone number to her new phone company.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum: "It's important for me because I have had that same number for the last 15 years."
During the dispute over her phone number, her old company did agree to forward her calls to her new office, but that should have only cost a few dollars a month.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum: " In the meantime, they keep billing me $559 a month for forwarding the numbers and not releasing them."
And not only was she being billed $559 by her old phone company, she had to pay the new phone company over $200 a month for the new service.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum: "Three months of hell, it really has been three months of hell."
Lorena says she could not sleep well at night worrying about her practice and her patients. Living in fear that the phone company would take her number away leaving her patients unable to contact her.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum: "If they need their medications, if they need to make an appointment, if their is a medical emergency that needs to be attended right away, they need to know how to reach me."
Her new phone company tried to work with the old phone company. Lorena says she complained over and over asking them to let her have her phone number, then finally the conversations came to an end.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum: "She refused to talk to me and said FCC guidelines and rules and regulations said she couldn't talk to me anymore because once we signed with a different company they couldn't speak to me, but if they can't speak to you how can you talk to them to get your number? You can't."
Lorena then gave up, and before her line got permanently cut off called Help Me Howard to see if the phone company could refuse to let her keep her office phone number.
Howard Finkelstein: "If it's a hard line coming into your home or business you can change phone companies and keep your number, if you stay in the same area. But if you move to a different geographic area, sometimes as little as a few miles away, you may lose the right to keep the number. Fortunately, in Lorena's case she has the right to keep her number."
But before we were able to make things better, things got worse.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum: "My phones were cut off at 11 a.m. on Wednesday."
Lorena called me on her cellphone, I immediately called Windstream, her old phone company. They promised to fix the problem and give them credit, they moved quickly. Three hours later her phones were turned back on. Her number turned over to her new phone company, finally.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum: "It took Patrick to get involved and Channel 7, the media really, to put the pressure on so that we could get this resolved, and I can't express my thanks enough."
Windstream also took corrected the $559 bills they had been sending Lorena.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbau: "Thank you, any problems just give me a call."
Lorena can now devote all her time to her patients and on Wednesday we got her phone number problem corrected. She got to do something she hadn't done well in a long time.
Dr. Lorena Lewy-Alterbaum: "Wednesday night was the first night I was able to get home and sleep after three months."
If you are moving in the same area and your phone company tries to block you from keeping your home or business number, file a complaint with the public service commission. If its a cell phone number, when your contract expires they cannot stop you from taking that number to a different company. If they do, contact the FCC.
Ailments left your ears ringing. Wanna dial in for a cure. Call us we're not doctors, heck we can't repair a phone, but we will connect you to someone who can.