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AT&T DSL: Getting What I Pay For?

By , Network World
February 29, 2012 03:35 PM ET

Network World - So, here in Gearhead last week I discussed the problems AT&T has been having in providing me with a reliable DSL service and it seems a significant number of you feel my pain.

Reader David Gipe had a tale replete with the kind of frustration that comes from dealing with a service behemoth. In 2007 David called to make changes to his company's DSL service which had static IP addresses. He was told his IP addresses might change and, if they did change, the new IP addresses wouldn't be available until the order had been processed. Chicken, meet egg.

To find out if new IP addresses had been assigned, he'd have to call when the order had been processed or just wait for his Internet service to stop working. David wrote to the Customer Relations Manager in the AT&T Internet Services Executive Offices: "In the Internet Age, I find this 'reactive' approach very disturbing, as DNS changes can take up to three days to fully ripple through the Internet. In my opinion, your current reactive approach to this configuration change issue is the best advertisement you can use *AGAINST* yourself. " His letter worked, and he got satisfaction.

Reader Alan Aber commented, "As a Sys Admin for a midsized company supporting remote users and executives as well as regular stuff, I also had problems with a consistent DSL connection -- a real bear when I had a slow link to mills in Mexico. So I ran a continuous ping to a ATT DNS server and wrote the results to a file with times. Then I used that info to call and complain."

Alan ultimately threatened AT&T that he would switch to cable and his service was promptly improved. That, Alan notes, was eight years ago and it has been “working OK since, but an 'improvement' two years ago slightly slowed downloads."

And it's that last issue -- slowdowns -- that has really irked me.

In the last column I discussed how my first hop into AT&T's network was apparently throwing away packets, how my service came and went repeatedly, and how technicians had been dispatched to sort out my problems. I've now had, I believe, three techs (they sort of blur after the first one or two) come and do their magic and my connection goes from bad to good. Then it goes back to fair then bad, then an engineer comes and it goes back to good ... the excitement never seems to end.

What really annoyed me was that AT&T's Web site offers all the combinations you can think of for TV, telephone and Internet but out here in the boonies of Ventura (an enormous five miles from the town center),  the only thing AT&T can deliver is Internet service at, theoretically, a maximum data rate of 6Mbps.

I write "theoretically" because 6Mbps is the service I started out with but, it turned out, not what my line could support. Before this was figured out, AT&T swapped out my linecard; the card that my DSL service attaches to at the central office (CO).  All was fine for a few days but then I started to see random outages of a few hours for no obvious reason (usually just before I wanted to get on Netflix to watch "Downton Abbey").

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