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AT&T demands we change our networks

Gibbs ponders AT&T's requirement that some of us change our subnet addressing

Backspin By , Network World
May 29, 2012 10:01 AM ET
Gibbs

Network World - If you recall, some time ago I had problems with my AT&T U-verse DSL service until a small village's worth of AT&T folk got involved and resolved the issues. Since then, an executive director from the "Office of the President at AT&T," who I'll call "Bob," has followed up with me once a week to make sure things are still OK.

Earlier this month Bob emailed me to schedule a telephone call, saying, "I need to discuss something with you ... Has to do with a change we are making that affects some customers ...painless and non-service affecting, but I wanted to personally cover it with you."

MORE: Broadband infrastructure: Time for real policy

We had the call and the thing he wanted to tell me was I would have to change my network subnet address and that there was a tech support document to explain what was required. The document, "Changing the private 10.x IP range on your AT&T U-verse Modem/Gateway," explains:

"As part of AT&T's efforts to enhance our network to accommodate future growth, we will be making a firmware upgrade to your AT&T U-verse Gateway. Customers who have configured their network to use the 10.0.0.1 - 10.255.255.255 private Internet Protocol (IP) ranges within their AT&T U-verse Gateway will need to change to an alternate IP range. AT&T recommends changing to a 192.168.1.x IP range. Customers who don't update their network by July 6, 2012 may potentially encounter a disruption in service."

Hummm. Curious. What could "disruption of service" mean? I'm guessing dead as a bag of hammers. But why would AT&T want me or anyone else to make this change? What reason could AT&T have for caring about what my subnet addressing might be?

In case you're not aware, RFC1918 states:

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has reserved the following three blocks of the IP address space for private internets:

10.0.0.0 - 10.255.255.255 (10/8 prefix)

172.16.0.0 - 172.31.255.255 (172.16/12 prefix)

192.168.0.0 - 192.168.255.255 (192.168/16 prefix)

For reasons lost in the mists of time I've used the 10.0.0.x subnet in my network for years and, as a consequence, I have servers, NAS devices, printers, VoIP gateways, and so on, that have static address assignments. We'll come back to the issue of configuring equipment in a minute.

I wasn't surprised that Bob knew what my subnet addressing scheme was as my network setup had come up in one of the tech support calls while they were trying to figure out what was wrong with my service. One of the chaps on the call said at one point he could see I had X number of devices on my network (whatever the count was at that moment) and that I was using the subnet 10.0.0.x ... we'll also come back to this in a second.

Anyway, Bob said he wasn't sure why AT&T required the change and said he'd check, but thought it might be "proprietary in nature" which I understood to mean, "We aren't going to tell you." Two weeks later I got a formal answer:

"With all Internet service providers facing a shortage of IPv4 addresses, we are upgrading U-verse Internet customers' equipment to help us maximize the use of these addresses. This will be a seamless process for virtually all of our customers. However, the less than 1 percent of U-Verse customers who have altered their network settings will need to reconfigure their network back to its default settings. For more information, visit www.att.com/lansettings."

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