The Comedy of Errors Known as AT&T

Left Hand, meet Right Hand.

“There you are, your own number on your very own door. And behind that door, your very own office! Welcome to the team, DZ-015.”

Telephony NirvanaMy recent switch to AT&T Uverse had me feeling like a character from Terry Gilliam’s cult classic movie Brazil. Every step of the way we discovered a different department that operated some obscure nuance of the AT&T bureaucracy- yet operated as a wholly independent entity. The Uverse people can’t help you with wireless services, a traditioinal landline is another department, legacy DSL is handled completely separately and on and on.

Our house had been plumbed for DSL for more than ten years through Tulsaconnect. But times change and so does business and Tulsaconnect (any oldtimers remember Webzone?) had decided to exit the Internet Service Provider (ISP) arena to focus on their core B-to-B biz. Sad news, but no surprise.

I began reviewing the options such as Cox Cable, 4G Hots Spots, etc. We finally decided on signing up for the Internet service from AT&T Uverse. The U-Verse High Speed Internet Elite, to be exact.

Uverse is a high bandwidth service running over a combination of fiber optic and legacy copper cables. In my neighborhood the fiber optic runs up to a pair of boxes in a nearby park. From there it hops on to the lines known as POTS (plain old telephone system). And no, in the immortal words of Dave Barry, I am not making that acronym up. The bottom line is Uverse has enough bandwidth to provide your home data speeds up to 25 meg. And TV. And a voice line.

Since paying for TV is against my religion we opted for the 6 meg Internet service only. We were planning to drop the landline soon- so for the time being we would leave it as-is. Or so we thought.

My fun began with calling to order service. The voice at the other end asked, “What is the passcode on this account?” Uhhh… no idea. Nearly twenty years with the same phone number we had never set up any such thing. So there must not be one? Oh no, that answer would never do. They had to have some code to prevent a terrorist from randomly ordering services for a stranger? hung up. Called right back. This time, when informed we had no passcode, the voice on the other end asked for a number from our phone bill. Like the say: Ask 10 times and you’ll get 10 answers.

After placing the order it wasn’t long before the litany of silliness began. My first inkling came when I received three seemingly identical emails thanking for my order. It would be nearly two weeks before they could hook up the new service. The next morning our Internet access was shut down. All the lights on the modem appeared to be green and normal- but we were dead in the water. AT&T claimed since our DSL had been with a third-party it was turned off before the new service was turned on. It took two days to restore service temporarily.

The last straw came when the AT&T technician cut our wires to the pole- severing our landline. He then informed me that we would have to call in for a repair request. When we asked why he couldn’t just reconnect the wires he had so hastily cut we were told he didn’t have the relevant data on which wires went where. All he knew about was the Uverse cabling assignments.

This reminded me of the novice mechanic who yanks off all the spark plug wires then wonders which one goes where. I added Brazil to our Netflix queue and called AT&T to report a repair was needed. Estimated response? Three days.

Was it worth it?
The final result so far is acceptable. We still have no landline- but the Internet access seems to be fast and reliable. The 2Wire modem/router (or Residential Gateway as they call it) allowed me to customize the settings to tie into our existing Wi-Fi. Was it worth all the wasted time and frustration? Only time will tell.

Tips and Tricks:
In case you decide to upgrade to Uverse:

  • Ditch the landline first. If you are considering making the landline a thing of the past I would do it before you order Uverse. This not only eases the bureaucratic hoops, it also eliminates the need for splitters and filters in your wiring. You may notice they offer bundles that make the landline damn near free. But you’ll still be paying all the taxes and fees!
  • Keep your number. Also consider porting the landline number to your cell phone- it makes the transition easier, although you will bring along some excess baggage (robocalls, anyone?).
  • You will be required to create another email address using the domain. This is used as your Member ID to log on to review services and bills. Like we need another email to keep track of, right? Happily I discovered you can forward any mail sent to this address to your primary inbox.
  • During the initial registration process you will be prompted to download/install a variety of software. You may be lead to believe these are required. They are not. At that point in the process you are online. You should be able to connect other computers/devices to the Wi-Fi signal of the Residential Gateway.


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