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AT&T U-verse Problem #2

AT&T U-verse Problem #2

Our family seriously contemplated trying out AT&T U-verse system because Time Warner Cable in Southern California has some serious issues.  A sales man came to our door selling U-verse systems.  I decided to sign up even though I seldom buy from anyone who walks door to door.  The sales man changed his prices at least five times during our conversation.  I should have tossed they guy out but he had just started working for his company, New Image Marketing, a few weeks ago.  He was young and it was obvious he was feeling his way with this sale.  After I signed the contract and he left, I had a discussion with my son and wife.  My son suggested I dump the company because we found out that the highest Internet speed was not on special, would cost a lot more.  My conversation with my wife revealed that she heard that the installation cost would be free, the contract showed it being free but it also showed a “Service Activation Fee” of $36 which was not talked about.   Each day, I was getting more concerned that I did not know the complete charges that were in the contract.  I decided to go to a local AT&T store and have someone review the contract.  At the store, a young lady helped me out and told me that the store could offer a much better deal.  Instead of a six month discount of $43 off the contract she could do it for one year.  I asked her to cancel the contract and I would sign up with the store offer.  She went on the phone for over one hour and was hung up on once by a corporate support person.    I was in the store for close to two hours watching her working the phone to cancel my order.  She could not get it done!  She gave me her personal phone number and asked me to call her the next day.  I did call her the next day and she said that she can not cancel the order.  She said she would not give up and to call her the next day.  My wife told me to call an 800 number revealed in an e-mail we received from AT&T confirming our order.  I called the 800 number and tried to cancel the order but got a run around with absolutely no accurate information about the order status.  I went on the Internet and looked up my order and it said “Pending”.  To shorten this story up a lot, I will tell you that there was no way to stop the installation.

The installer showed up and he was just as nice and accommodating as the store employee.  He tried to install the U-verse system but we were too far from the main fiber optic box so our Internet speed did not meet the contract requirements.  I told the installer that I did not want the installation at the vastly inferior Internet speed.  Now I watched this wonderful guy make call after call and waiting long periods of time to get the order canceled.  His time was vastly wasted in this simple effort.

My experience with AT&T front line personnel, store sales and installer was spectacular. They were darn near perfect and did a wonderful job of raising the reputation for the company.

Let me list the apparent deficiencies if not alleged incompetence of the AT&T U-verse system management:

  • There is no dedicated phone lines for store sales persons to transact customer business.  I find it incredible that store employees must use the same phone numbers as ordinary customers.  Store employees need to be efficient for the customers and to generate personal commission sales.  For them to scale down their commissions due to corporate alleged corporate mis management is most revealing of a monopoly utility mind set.
  • There is no dedicated phone lines for AT&T installers.  They must call the same phones as ordinary customers.  You have an installer who spends three hours at a customer location and then needs to cancel or process an order.  He has to wait long periods of time?  His overhead is huge.  He drives a well stocked expensive truck, is paid a decent wage and needs to service as many customers as possible during his shift.  He needs to be made more productive so the company assets he embodies can more quickly move along to service more customers.
  • It is simply appalling that AT&T can not reveal on their Internet sites that any particular customer address is able to achieve a particular Internet and TV quality signal.   We have been told that the line men and women who are responsible for the signal lines have the maps as to node distances.  The store employee and the AT&T U-verse web site should offer any person the ability to enter an address and view the full range of Internet speeds prior to any contract being signed.

In summary, AT&T management seem to be willing to waste employees time resulting in driving up company costs.  These added costs trickle down to the us, the customer, and nothing can be done about this waste because AT&T is a monopoly that is not properly regulated by intelligent business decision making or the government.

 

Update:  Almost precisely one month after putting up these posts we lost our land line phone.  It seems an AT&T person  pulled our feed wire at the change over box.  It took three days to get someone out to fix it.  The repair technician told me that it looked like someone thought it was an unused wire.  I asked the repair technician if this might be malicious, due to the blog articles, and he replied that it cost the company a lot of money to send him out to do the repair.

AT&T U-verse Problem #1

AT&T U-verse Problem #1

AT&T embarked upon changing out vast areas of their network with a new fiber optic send system to improve upon their aging twisted wire technology called POTS (plain old telephone system) starting about 2007.  The company provided fiber optic hub boxes out from their old block house switch barns and called it U-verse.  The fiber optics trees out from the old switch building into committees called fiber to the neighborhood (FTTN) so as to push forward a much better technology.  They were loosing customers with their old system and needed to instill a significant upgrade.  The theory being that fiber optics offers low signal loss, zero cross talk and huge bandwidth, ideal choice for a robust modern technology improvement.  Problem is they could not afford to provide fiber all the way to your house and business, a huge and vastly expensive undertaking for buried community utilities and also expensive for pole/aerial delivery.  Verizon tried that by putting fiber optics on top of the old twisted wire systems that used poles but had to charge huge amounts of money, like $80 a month for Internet.   That system could not be sustained because the customer was not willing to pay the high cost.  The AT&T method is quite literally, in many ways, short of the Verizon system.  AT&T put fiber out to the street somewhere, hopefully close to your home and business, and then switched over to the old existing copper twisted pair for the final run into your home.   This system is called Fiber To The Cabinet (FTTCab) or fiber to the node (FTTN).  You can spot these devices because the show themselves as two metal cabinets side by side on a side walk close to your home.  One is the fiber box and the one next to it is the POTS box.  They are tied together with an underground U shaped pipe.  This is not ideal for a number of reasons.  First, the last and final leg of the signal delivery is the old twisted copper pair connections or POTS.  These connections had to be renewed by sub contractors because the old system connections were not that reliable.  You might have seen crews of workers opening the old twisted wire boxes and reconnecting the wires.  Second, the twisted pair wire is not as capable as the cable company coax for making a good high quality run into your home.  Cable companies add amplifiers along their coax lines to boost signal strength and maintain bandwidth.  At this moment, AT&T is not adding twisted pair amplifiers into their lines but rely on the closeness of the fiber to cooper change over locations FTTN.  Another issue is that the old existing cooper wire system uses large multiple strand cables that go from box to box in the ground or from pole to pole from which they string out each customer’s signal.  Each box is called a node.  Your home or business can be down from the FTTCab a large number of node connections which imparts added points of electronic resistance loss.

Another problem inherent in the final leg of signal delivery is all the advantages of fiber disappear.  Cross talk, line resistance and decreased bandwidth are significant factors.  The bandwidth problem is handled with a special technology called DSL.  DSL uses much higher send frequencies for digital signals and filters to separate out the high  frequency digital signals from  voice  signals.  In the home you will see two wall connections.  One will be for DSL and the second PHONE.  With the U-verse system you will see a CAT connection labeled U-verse and the other will be for your phone.  The prior DSL system had been replaced with ADSL2+ and VDSL or very high bitrate digital subscriber line.  Both system offers very good up and down digital speeds but the benefits degrade with distance from the fiber change over to POTS wiring.

Another problem for AT&T is the final installation in home or business requires an installation technician to come out, rewire existing connections and test the line.  It is true that cable companies may need to come out to some customers, but that is an option.  The point here is that with cable TV, there is an option for a technician to come out but with U-verse an installation technician is REQUIRED.

AT&T has, at this writing, five levels of Internet service from 24 Mbit/s down to 3 Mbit/s.  If you go into any of their stores you can order any speed you want if you are willing to pay for it, up to 24 Mbit/s bits per second  down speed and up to 3 Mbit/s bits up speed.  Problem is, you must have your house within 1000 feet of the change over box to get the maximum speed.  Our home was 2,900 feet from the box and thus we could only attain Elite service which was second from the bottom.  The installer told us we could only get 12 Mega bit speed down due to our distance from the change over box.  We understand, also, that our TV signal may be affected with a loss of pixels on the screen.

Standing back from this AT&T system and compare it with the cable company, one can see that the cable company has a huge advantage over the AT&T U-verse system for homes that are past a certain distance from the change over box.  Our cable company offers 20 Mega bits down speed and 1Mega bit up speed for ALL homes within their system.  The AT&T offers a variable delivery.  They can NOT offer top level service like the cable companies can to all their customers.

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