AT&T Issues…Again…

I used to have a blog entry on AT&T on my old website. It was so large that when I moved my blog to a new site I didn’t want to move so much content and I thought my issues with AT&T were mostly over after years of varying problems. You might wonder why I stayed with them for so long but when I moved to this house they were my only viable option for internet. Still, it took 2 years of fighting to get things to a reasonable place. At the end of this blog entry I will post what I have from the original blog.

When I moved to this house I also had no cell phone signal on my Verizon Phone, and AT&T offered me bundle pricing options if I got my Internet, Land Line and Wireless service through them. Except that, but the time I decided to switch to AT&T and my contract was mostly up with Verizon, they stopped doing the bundle pricing on the cell phone service and didn’t honor their original offer. That compounded by issues with the phone caused me to switch back to Verizon Wireless and pay a huge early termination fee.

I still had internet service as well as a land-line, but back in 2013 they snuck a cap on my “unlimited” bandwidth and just watching one show a day on Netflix was putting me over the limit and incurring overage charges on my data plan. This article captured some of my plight from my old blog. I nearly discontinued my service and finally did temporarily discontinue Netflix when this happened in early 2014:

Important Changes Are Coming to your AT&T Internet Service

As part of AT&T’s ongoing commitment to deliver the best possible internet experience, we’re making service improvements to benefit all of our customers.

Within the next 45 days, your current service will change to AT&T U-verse® High Speed Internet service. You’ll be able to enjoy faster Internet speeds and where available, take advantage of next–generation communication and entertainment choices!

In order for your new service to work you’ll need new equipment — which will be provided to you free of charge. Since there are impacts to your AT&T High Speed Internet service, you, the account holder, need to contact us now to ensure a smooth transition.

Here’s what it means for you

Internet

Your current AT&T Internet service will change to AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet service.

We’ll guarantee the price of your current plan for the next 12 months
We’ll match or beat your current Internet speed1, and you can take advantage of exclusive offers for speeds up to 24MBps
You’ll still have all the same great features you do today and your email addresses won’t change
Your monthly bandwidth usage allowance will increase from 150 GB to 250 GB per month

Now I was a little concerned because U-verse is inherently more expensive and I went through this once with them before I moved here. It’s just that when I moved here U-verse service wasn’t available at that time. Now they were telling me that I had no choice in the upgrade, but that there would be no equipment fees. Except they lied!

When they connected me I was being billed for equipment at a monthly rate. When I contacted them they told me that I wasn’t in a zone that was eligible for the discount. Well that didn’t go over too well since the email and printed letter they sent via USPS clearly used the word FREE. So, as I did every year before I once again had to spend a week or so battling on the phone trying to get things fixed. And I eventually did. Fast forward to May of 2016 and I got the following notice:

Dear Chris,

The High Speed Internet Equipment Fee discount will no longer be applied to your account because you don’t meet the required criteria:

• The customer must occupy a property address under an AT&T Connected Communities agreement; or
• Be employed by owner or owner’s agent in a customer-facing position on the property; or
• The U-verse service is in a public viewing area, such as a leasing office, located on the AT&T Connected Communities property.

Although the discount will cease, you will continue receiving the U-verse services that you currently enjoy. The retail rate will appear on your bill within the next one to two bill cycles.

We value you as a customer. If you’d like more information or to discuss a number of package and service options available, please call us at 800.288.2020 and say, “billing.”

I was already going to drop them due to recent issues with my connection and dwindling upstream speeds. And then I cam home to yesterday to a letter saying I hadn’t paid my bill. But I never received a bill. I rely on the bill I get in the mail to know I owe money. But apparently they auto-switched me to paperless billing with no permission from me and now my bill was past due. By the time I got the notice it was too late to deal with it so I figured I will deal with it during my lunch break the next day.

But this morning 06-24-2016 I got up and fired up my work computer (I sometimes work at home on Fridays) and went to connect to our work system only to be presented with this in my browser:

AT&T Fail_01

I tried to click the link to login and take care of this online, but it was like being on a 300 bps dial-up connection! Finally it asked for my payment information and when I clicked credit card I was presented with the following:

AT&T Fail_02

There was no way to scroll the page within this pop-up window or get to the fields to fill in payment information. I tried three times and each time I switched to this little box that wouldn’t let me do anything. Finally I managed to get back to the phone numbers and called in using my cell phone since they shut off my home phone service as well. Ironic huh? To provide you with numbers to call in when they shut your service off.

Anyway, after navigating through the menus and finally getting an agent I was informed that I had been put on paperless billing and asked to pay my back bill. However I was going to have to pay a service fee for calling in! WTF!?!? So I was forced to hang up and call an automated system and navigate through all the menus to make my payment online. Needless to say I was late getting started for work by this time and very frustrated and very angry with AT&T. A customer for 10 years and this is what I have to go through every year!

It took 10 minutes before my service was restored and now I am facing not only having been tricked into missing my payment by being switched to paperless, but having the fees added back. Which makes sense in a way. The reason I never liked paperless billing is that I always check my rates every month when I get the bill and the few times I have gone paperless is when extra fees were tacked on and/or rates increased and you don’t notice these things as easily when you’re paying electronically.

So now begins my hunt to find new internet service in my area. I can’t deal with this every year anymore. To add insult to injury I contacted the AT&T Customer Care Twitter page, because I actually had more success with them in the past than I did with any phone or email support. Unfortunately things have gone downhill at the “Office of the President”.

AT&T Fail_03

This was how the conversation went. First I posted to the Twitter page with a link to this blog entry. The response asked for me to DM them my account number, which I did. What you see if the conversation afterward. Rey S apparently tried to contact me at two numbers I never heard of. When I explained I didn’t recognize either number they asked me for the correct number to contact me. I reminded them that my phone service is through them and that they have my phone number.

AT&T Fail_04

In my reply I reminded them that they provide my phone service and to use the number registered to my account. They proceeded to try the numbers they previously failed at which I had said I didn’t recognize. I know some of you are probably thinking, “why didn’t you just give them your number?!?” but the fact is this is exactly my point! Given my account number they have all the information on me. They have contacted me numerous times at my phone number to sell me services, solicit me for surveys and even robo-calls about things. But suddenly they don’t know my number?!? Seriously?!?

To add insult to injury three days later they sent me a DM asking me to fill out a survey on my customer service experience. I thought this would be my opportunity to explain just how horrible their customer service is, but wouldn’t you know it. When I clicked the link this is what I got.

AT&T Fail_05


This is the archive of an old restored blog entry. It may be missing images, videos, etc.

August 22nd, 2011 at 10:41 AM 

Ok, let’s start from the beginning…

When I first moved to California in March 2005 I had SBC Yahoo Internet Service. The options then were Standard (1.5 Mbps?), Pro (3 Mbps) and Elite (6 Mbps). I went with Pro (3 Mbps) since that was all I needed at the time. I was sent a SpeedStream 4100 DSL Modem which I put into bridged mode and used my own Linksys WRT54GS Wireless Router to handle things. As my teenagers started venturing into online games and my wife discovered a world of internet Homes, Gardens and Cooking stuff, we started to outgrow the limitations of 3 Mbps service, but AT&T had since taken over and it was no longer SBC Yahoo Internet, but AT&T DSL. Prices kept going up, quality of service went down. (Interestingly, as I am writing this the DSL has cut out, yet again…but more on that later)

So finally in September of 2010 we’re exceeding our 3 Mbps needs and want to upgrade. I call AT&T to get the Elite service and am told they no longer offer that package. If I want faster internet I have to get something called, “U-verse”. Supposedly Fiber-Optics, latest thing, Phone, TV and Internet all brought to you by AT&T! Yay! Except the only thing that worked properly was the internet. I had 12 Mbps for internet, and the phone was VoIP and the TV came in as well. Let’s start with the phone service…

  • Unlimited long-distance, check
  • 12 calling features including call-waiting, caller ID and three-way calling, check
  • Superior call clarity, NO!

You see, every time I called home to talk to my wife it was as if she were on a satellite phone. There were all these weird noises and things that I heard on my end, but she did not hear. Sometimes it would sound like she was on a cell-phone on a train entering a tunnel. Yeah, the phone service had much to be desired. The Caller ID was frequently wrong and would give mixed/different results for the same person calling from the same phone, often showing nothing more than, “SCRM MAIN” for the ID. WTF is that? So sometimes I wouldn’t answer the phone thinking it was a solicitor, survey or wrong number and it was someone I knew, but the caller ID failed. Speaking of which, we were on the DO NOT CALL list, but after getting U-verse, calls from telemarketers increased by about 10 fold. A few mentioned buying our info from AT&T.

Now the TV service looked a lot like DirecTV which we used to have in NY. My biggest hang-up with the TV service was that when I would record shows it would start minutes back in the previous show and then sometimes not get the end of the one I was recording. During the time we had U-verse they had a free HBO/Showtime/Cinemax weekend preview twice. The first time I was really upset because I was too busy that weekend to watch anything, so I figured I would use the DVR to record some of the stuff that was on and check it out later when I had time. The problem was the day after the free preview was up, the data was auto-erased from the DVR! WTF!?! So I never really got that free preview after all. The second time they had one the recorded shows were not removed, however, thinking they would be I stayed up late to watch everything before it was gone, and then it wasn’t. So much for consistency. Often times the grid would show the wrong information for what was on. I would see Stargate SG-1 and when I tuned in it was Oprah (or something else besides what the guide said). Also selecting things on the menu was really laggy…you’d select record a show and it would take up to 10 seconds to respond.

Other than these problems the DVR was nice…being able to record up to 4 shows at once and watch them on any TV. But the costs of the equipment charges over time was crazy. They give you an introductory rate for the first 3 months and then the costs doubled. You don’t often think about that when you’re looking at the reduced costs of just how much three receivers adds to your monthly bill. Just something to consider. Had I to do it over again I would have stuck with just the one.

As I said, the internet service was amazing! I don’t recall any down time that I was aware of and things I downloaded from sites that could provide the download rates were phenomenal! However, all good things must come to an end. We moved to a new house and U-verse was not available here,even though this development was built two years later. What was available to me was the Elite DSL package that was not available to me at the previous house. Interesting, huh? So I got the Elite package and ever since then I have been plagued with DSL retrains that make it impossible for me to maintain a VPN connection with my job (working at home) and really to do anything online.

I would consider myself a power-user when it comes to computers. I have three monitors connected to my PC (four wouldn’t fit on the desk…DSL just dropped again…that’s twice while writing this blog). I typically have three web browser windows opened, one in each monitor and usually between 3 to 6 tabs active on each browser instance at any given time. I am signed into my Yahoo Mail, Twitter, Facebook, eBay, PayPal, etc. The frustration of having your DSL dropout on you several times a day is compounded by the fact that, when the link drops the DSL modem intercepts (what was I saying, link dropped again) the page being served and displays an error page instead. Once the link is established you would think you could just re-type the address and go back to that page, but the modem knows there was an error there and intercepts the new requests and displays a new page saying the connection has been restored and you need to shut down your browser and restart it to continue. Are you serious?!? Once this happens, you CAN NOT go to that web page without shutting down ALL instances of the browser and relaunching everything again. On top of that Yahoo Mail and several other pages I’m signed into no longer consider me signed in once the connection has been lost anyway and I have to sign in to everything yet again.

Since this is happening an average of three times per two hour window, it basically means you have no productivity whatsoever while you’re trying to work online! Now we have had this service for about a month now and in that time I have been on the phone with AT&T about 20 times. Several times I have spoken to supervisors. I have even been a 3rd party witness to AT&T supervisors arguing with employees in other departments because said employee didn’t like the fact that another department called them regarding a problem when they themselves see no problems and it could all be done through the computer system. Yeah, some fun stuff to say the least! And of course, every call to AT&T starts with the testing of my lines to determine that there is absolutely no problem. I would say, 7 out of 10 times I call the system says there is no problem with the automatic testing. When it did detect one I was sent to advanced technical support who informed me that the system says that whether there’s a problem or not. Two of the supervisors I spoke with contradicted this statement.

So I have been going back and forth and am constantly informed that the problem is most likely on my end and if a technician determines that I will be charged a fee for them to come out and make that determination. However technicians have been here three times and there are no issues internally. I have been told there were issues on the lines outside the house. I was also told by the last supervisor I spoke to that intermittent problems like this are hard to nail down and that they need to contact the central office for my area to have a line test done, however that is when the very unprofessional argument between (Isaiah?) and the supervisor took place. I have been through two modems. The last modem they sent never arrived. These 2Wire 2701HG-B modems are really not a quality item as best I can tell and from the way lost connections are handled. Now I unplugged and re-plugged my modem at the request of Tier 1 support reps countless times and verified my filters and other stuff. The alarm system is no longer connected to the phone line.

I decided to let the modem not be reset for these last two weeks in an attempt to see what the statistics showed me about what is happening. The screenshot below was taken just before I started writing this blog entry. And since I started writing it was gone out several more times. Obviously this is not useful to me at all and while AT&T keeps threatening to charge me for a service call I am considering not paying for service I have not been provided and going with another company. I have made it clear I am ready to switch but that doesn’t seem to have made any difference in the quality of service I am receiving. To be honest I would have switched by now but I would lose an e-mail address I have had for over 5 years! Is that worth this? No, but I had hoped for a prompt and professional solution. In just over a month not much has changed and the problem actually seems to be a bit worse! A quick search of the internet shows I am not the only person having this problem and several experts say they’re selling service above what the lines or their systems can handle. Several people I found didn’t have problems at 3 Mbps, but when they upgraded to 6 Mbps they did. YouTube is full of videos showing this very modem losing the DSL link repeatedly, and it has happened so many times to me that I have created an alarm to alert me when this happens so that I don’t try to open a page and end up with the problem mentioned above. You can see my AT&T DSL Alarm video below as well.

UPDATE – After writing this I decided to call and speak to a supervisor and have my bill credited if they’re not going to provide working service. After a 45 minute wait for an agent I was put on hold and then received the message, “Your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please hang up and try your call again.” Oh, we’re playing that game now, are we? No attempt was made by the agent to call me back, yet in the past every time I got one they would ask for additional numbers to contact me at in case our call got disconnected. I knew they wouldn’t really call me back if we got disconnected. It’s just a way of getting more of your phone numbers to sell to 3rd parties.

UPDATE 08-23-2011 – A tech came out today. He was supposed to be bringing a new (different brand) modem, but he thinks the problem is elsewhere. He moved us to a different card and then discovered that there appears to be some moisture in some lines somewhere down the street. So now I have to wait up to two more days to see if that fixes the problem. Meanwhile, the whole time he was here no loss of DSL. 10 minutes after he calls me and tells me about the moisture problem the DSL went out and was out longer than typical, and this was preceeded by a phone ring. Hmmmm…well, guess I have to wait until Thursday at the latest to know if I will be fixed or not.

UPDATE 08-24-2011 – Okay, when last we left off, I was waiting for another tech to call me regarding moisture in the lines that was discovered and once that was fixed my problems were to be over. The original technician that was supposed to bring me a new modem never did, assuming the problem was elsewhere. So he said, if after the moisture repair guy called the problem persisted, call him and he would bring me the modem I should have gotten in the first place. For an hour or two while they were working on the moisture problem my internet and phone were down. 10 minutes after the guy called and said, “We found the problem and you should be all set now”, the DSL Alarm started chirping its now annoying song and my temperature was starting to climb. I called the tech back and told him what happened and he said he was too far away to stop by that night but he would try. I decided I didn’t want him coming that late and I decided to try something else…

I still had my old SpeedStream 4100 DSL Modem from 6+ years ago when I had SBC Yahoo (before the U-verse and AT&T). And I also had my old WRT54GS Wireless Router out in the garage. After digging to find the cables and supplies I called the tech back and said not to come back tonight, that I would call him back tomorrow after I tried my OWN solution. Note that all this time I was blaming the quality of the 2Wire Modem and citing numerous examples of people who were having the exact same problem with that modem. But nobody from AT&T believed me! Well, after an hour and new firmware (AT&T firmware) on the SpeedStream and after reconfiguring my router, I got us back up and running. Guess what? Since 7PM last night when I installed the 6+ year old equipment that I owned there hasn’t been any issues that I can detect with the DSL dropping out. I played some online games, talked on Skype and Ventrillo and did multiple simultaneous uploads/downloads all in an attempt to disrupt the connection. It never happened.

So today I called the tech back and told him that I all but proved that what I was saying for 2 weeks was true. He conceded that perhaps I was right and said he would try to bring my new modem by, but he was far away again. He said if he couldn’t make it he would send another guy who was closer out with the same model modem. Well, that other guy showed up. Here’s what he brought me…

…my wife walked into my office carrying this with a very disgusted look on her face and saying she was going to have to go wash and sanitize her hands. I think it goes without saying I am not using this modem. I am going to continue to use my 6+ year old equipment. I am going to demand a credit for the equipment I had to provide. And if I start having problems again I am going to Comcast. This is ridiculous!

UPDATE 09-04-2011 – AT&T created an account on Savage Circuits, presumably to respond to this blog. Unfortunately they listed their date of birth as August 30, 2011, meaning they are 1 day old. The website wouldn’t allow them access without a parent’s permission. Once again, it proves people don’t pay attention to details. Anyway, I approved the account that night, but there has been no activity from them (trolling?). The nasty modem sits out on the floor next to our door. I can’t believe the service guys who have been here haven’t checked to see if we were up and running with the equipment they dropped off. I guess it was drop and hope for the best. Looking at that package I can see they set their sights high.

And just as a note, the biggest problems with the service were the DSL resetting on the 2Wire modem and the pages being redirected by that crappy modem when a disconnect happened. But the original problem remains. We still frequently have service interruptions. It’s just they no longer cause the modem to reset because I am using a modem that can tolerate that issue and my router to handle logging into the system. It’s still no fun to constantly have your connection get laggy at random times though. And I am still thinking of switching and taking the loss on the e-mail address. Sadly there is only one other provider to choose from.

UPDATE 09-16-2011 – Okay, I haven’t updated this in awhile because frankly, I thought I had gone as far as I could and honestly, I was ready to give up. A strange thing happened though…remember that I mentioned previously that AT&T had created an account on the website well they had previously started following me on Twitter as well and in all fairness they did post several messages asking me to contact them and they made several efforts to get my attention via Twitter. Again, in all fairness I ignored them on the assumption that the people on Twitter weren’t going to be able to do any more than the supervisors I spoke with at 1-800-288-2020. It appears I was wrong. The person who had been trying to contact me called me. I didn’t give him a hard time, but I asked him outright what he thought he could do that hasn’t been done.

I guess you have to get the right person sometimes because this person said he wanted to help me and that he would do whatever to get my problems fixed and/or find out where they were. I decided to try one last time and at first I got a call from a local supervisor for advanced tech support who started down the same road as my previous calls. He basically said that he didn’t see a problem and that he could send someone out but that if they didn’t find a problem…yeah, been there. He asked me what I expected him to do. I wasn’t impressed and told him I really didn’t care what he did and that I considered the matter closed. Well before hanging up he said he would call back the person who asked him to call me and that got some attention because I was paid a visit by the local service manager. Basically the supervisor for all the guys who had come out here previously.

He brought his most knowledgeable tech with him (I was impressed) and an array of equipment to get me up and running on AT&T equipment, which was where we needed to be at to finally end this stalemate once and for all! After talking to them both they took the two pieces of equipment they had brought in back out to their truck and brought in a single Motorola Modem. This guy seemed to understand what I was saying about the results of previous tests, information I discovered empirically and based on process of elimination. I’m sure he has some experience as well and he recommended this Motorola Modem for my location, connection speed and line conditions. The idea was get the right equipment in here and try it out for a week and see how things go. So I will follow up on Friday and report back my findings.

I do want to say that I am impressed with the level of support I am seeing now. This is more like the company I work for and even though this thing isn’t closed yet, they have called me back to follow up and make sure things are getting done. I guess if I had to recommend it to people who aren’t getting the level of support you should be from AT&T you could try sending them a message on Twitter. It seems a more centralized group of managers monitors the Twitter feed and in this case it is what saved me from moving on. Okay, so enough for now, I will follow up when I have more information. So far things look good. Wish me luck!

UPDATE 09-25-2011 – A few days ago I got a call confirming my bill to be adjusted for the period I had no usable service. Just got an e-mail from AT&T Billing (

  • $43.00 for service (the plan was for $19.95 per month for the first 12 months, with $43.00 per month after)
  • $87.05 for a Wireless Gateway (the plan was to include a FREE Wireless Gateway for service over 3Mbps, I am 6Mbps)
  • $12.95 S&H for the modem
  • $6.31 for taxes
  • 149.31 for the total…and this was sent to me after I was confirmed to have had my billing adjusted.So it seems the internet issues may be over, but the billing problems are just getting started. So if the AT&T rep who contacted me via Twitter is still out there. We have new problems. Since I am being billed $43.00 this confirms that I was not given the bundle pricing as shown in the screenshot below. So we’re not out of the woods yet.

UPDATE 10-12-2011 – Ok, now I am starting to get a bit concerned again. there was a consistent dialogue but at 99% complete it stalled out. Sounds like a failed PDF download, doesn’t it? I received yet another bill listing all the credits and then recharging everything right back. And still I am being charged for equipment I don’t have and shipping fees for said equipment. I am starting to think I am going about this all wrong…perhaps I should be billing for my time lost doing engineering work @ $100.00/hour. In that case I think I would have free phone and internet for life by now.

UPDATE 10-21-2011 – Well, it looks like the ATT Twitter Dept people came through. Unless someone else undoes everything again, I will consider this issue solved, done and over with and continue to stick with AT&T DSL.

About Chris Savage

Electronics Engineer, Hacker, Programmer, host of Savage///Circuits TV, reviewer of Test Equipment and Musician.
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One Response to AT&T Issues…Again…

  1. Joshua Donelson says:

    It’s no wonder man everyone feels like “throwing their hands in the air cause they just dont care”. Doesn’t matter if you got a high cost account, lost cost account, with service contact and or warranty coverage plan, somehow still the customers still gets screwed. I have a buddy, no joke, was charged for a modem on his bill ($100). He called up to get clarification on the bill, and other than helping there is the sop of trying to make him feel like a tool for owning money, but they found out it was for the modem charge. Turns out, the tech left the modem he swapped out behind on the service call the week before. Like WT??? No one said, “opps, our bad”, nope, just heres a box and send it back we’ll take it off. Companies just dont care, and are not trained to care outside their QA guidelines, and most of those do not have the customer in mind. Long time customers just means they can sell you a new promo and have for x of years, nothing more. I can say accurately because I’ve worked for the similar companies, Comcast, Charter, AT&T, Frontier and even Earthlink when they merged with Mindspring and become corporate. It’s when a company gets big enough that the cancellation rate is sustained by the sales adding customer, and at a point, even if their service is crap, theres enough to keep them going. It’s hard to find a company that really looks to provide good service after that point in growth. Good luck man, the HSI Gods are not in the favor of customers, clearly.

    JD

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