Monday, July 21, 2008

The Ballad of Jeff, Michelle & the AT&T U-Verse

AKA: why we haven’t posted in a fortnight, even though we have pictures & stuff to say.

Like most everyone else in the US, we are feeling the pinch of the economy. So a couple of months ago we decided to take stock of our expenditures and see where we could lighten the load. We had satellite tv for $56 a month, and cable internet which we were paying $60 a month for. We felt that surely we could do better, and sure enough, Jeff found that AT& T had DSL for half that. Great.

So I called AT&T and told the nice lady what I wanted. She proceeded to ask me some questions and then began extolling the virtues of AT&T U-Verse: a fiber optic connection that could provide our tv, phone and internet all in one for $69 a month with a $200 cash back bonus, free installation, and no contract. We signed right up.

Here’s how this works: AT&T contracted with outside vendors to have fiber optic cable run to most neighborhoods, and then the service rides plain old copper wire into your home. There’s a “gateway” – sort of a super modem- that everything runs through. If you lose service you lose both tv & internet. The install tech explained that if your service drops, you have to unplug the gateway & then plug back in, then you re-boot the tv…but this was not something we were going to have to worry about.

Two weeks into our new service, it was dropping at least once a day; and it was when it dropped & refused to come back up at 9:30 at night (right in the middle of a movie) that Jeff lost his ever-lovin’mind. At that point, he ripped the tv box out of the wall, put the dish receiver back, and was up on a ladder with a flashlight in his mouth un-doing the fiber optic connection and re-attaching the satellite. I was then told to get rid of the U-verse tv, get the satellite people out to fix their connection, and get a AT&T tech out to fix the internet connection. Truthfully, I wasn’t sorry to see the U-verse tv go: I didn’t like the DVR nearly as well as the satellite DVR, and it turned out that we did have a satellite contract, so that $200 cash back would have to have gone to get us out of our contract early.

Here we begin the long parade of AT&T techs:

Tech #1 checked our wires, checked the speed, and discovered that the modem was set to Samoa time.

It still dropped 2-3 times a day for 1-2 hours each time. Place service call

Tech #2& 3 (they’re a matching set) discovered we were still using cable that had likely been around since the Eisenhower era, and switched us to Cat 5 cable.

Dropped daily 2-3 times for a couple hours each time. Place service call

Tech #4 removed and replaced a little gray box at the MPOE that was fried, and checked for interference on the line.

Now drops once a day…for 6-8 hours. Place yet another service call.

Tech #5 – Mario. Now I have nothing but nice things to say about Mario, because God bless him, he bent over backwards and tried valiantly to do everything to make this piece of $h!t work. Mario began by reviewing what everyone else had done. Turns out fixing the fried gray box is a temp fix at best- if there’s something else wrong on the line it’ll fry it again. So Mario begins running lots of tests, and calls out a line tech (one of the guys who climbs up the poles) to start testing the pairs. This takes 2 days.

Fixed! Runs great 24/7…for 3 days. I call Mario who made the mistake of giving me his card.

Tech #5-Mario. Mario wonders if the dial tone from the phone line is causing interference, and arranges to take our dial tone down for 24 hours to see if the internet works then.

It doesn’t. It still drops randomly for 2-3 hours at a time at all hours of the day & night. Then it falls into a pattern: it drops everyday between 10:45a & 11:30a…and doesn’t bother to come back until after 6pm. I call Mario. Mario calls the line tech. We play phone tag for a week.

Tech #5- Mario. Mario shows up at 6p on Friday having finally gotten permission from dispatch to come back out. He starts testing the jack in the house and looking at the modem configuration and calls in another line tech to re-rest the pairs. Jeff starts teaching them about computer/modem configuration. Line tech #3 informs us that Cat 5 cable is only good for 100 ft at a time, so we have a problem. They decide to have us go wireless– just as well because techs #2&3 actually stapled through the Cat 5 that they ran in several places. A hole is drilled into our bedroom wall and the wireless router is installed. Hurrah hurrah- it works!!

For 2 hours. Jeff invents new swear words while ripping the router cable back out of the wall. Then he called the cable provider to arrange for us to have cable internet installed again on Wed.

I called and cancelled the U-verse today. It would have been great if it had worked, although not as good a deal as we hoped because it turns out that phone was not included in the price. Also turns out that a lot of people thought phone was included; and a lot of people are having the same problems we are. So, 2 months later, we’re right back where we started.

I’ll blog more on Wed …when I have internet that works again.


Donna said...

I have great gobs of contempt for AT&T. Mario might be their only employee who actually cares one iota about the customer but I'm sure he'll be fired as soon as they figure out what he's up to.

We had a contract with them for cell phone service and after a month or two, they moved their tower and our signal completely disappeared at home and work. Did they let us out of our contract? Nope. We had to pay $150 for each of our three phones to cancel and subscribe to Verizon.

Next time we dealt with them, we were moving into this house. We went without phone and DSL service for more than a week before figuring out that they activated the 2nd line and not the primary line to our house. They didn't tell us this - we figured it out on our own. Now, the phone only rings in our office and the jack in every other room of our house is dead. Would they switch it over? Nope. Not unless we paid a totally new installation fee.

They're jerks. Every one of them. Except Mario.

Our blog: Double Happiness!

Kayce said...

ARGH!! I so think these companies do this stuff to us so they can see us freak out! I hope this ends all too soon!