Return Rip-off

AT&T wants its gateway/router back. This gateway is the one installed in the Bay Area and transplanted to SoCal.  The "or else" is a $150 charge:

Fair enough. The DeathStar also wants a power cord and remote, neither of which were ever delivered or installed for Internet-only service:

A chat session with "Rose B." maybe straightens it out:

(Hey Kids! Don't forget to factory-reset the equipment and remove all logs and passwords and who-knows-what-all the device captured.)

The rip-off part comes at the UPS Store.  The UPS Store proprietor is unhappy to see a return via his business. He must spend time and energy attending the customer, generating a receipt, preparing the unit for shipment, and finally shipping it out. It's maybe five or ten minutes work.  Of course UPS gets paid to ship it.  The store owner?

For his efforts, AT&T pays him the princely sum of $0.01.

Yep. A penny. This amount does not cover the cost of the paper on which the receipt was printed.

Pretty skeezy, AT&T. You made thousands and thousands over nearly nine years of service. Throw the UPS guy a bone, maybe a $5 for his trouble.


Trapped in Limbo

Called U-verse and spoke with Edward who cancelled U-verse service Friday, 24 March.  "Expect a cancellation email within four hours.  If not, call 866-446-4115 to check the status of the cancellation."

No email. Now it's Monday 27 March.

"Hello, this is Derek in Nashville, how can I help you."

"Derek, I cancelled service and was told to expect an email.  Is there something I need to do?"

"Let me check that for you. What's the account number?"

Numbers and secret handshakes exchanged.

"You wanted to cancel the service as of when?"

"Last Friday, March 24th. I spoke with Edward. He said he cancelled service and the system would send an email.  I haven't received anything. The account still appears active."

Derek checks it out. Cheerful hold music for four minutes.

"Let me look into one more thing.  Please keep holding."

"Okay, take your time."

Three minutes of cheerful hold music.

Derek returns. He's managed to cancel the account and give me a confirmation number.  Great.

Checking the account management site confirms:

Good to go.


You Must Be This Human to Cancel Service

Customers can do everything online except cancel service. Gives the company a chance to retain or up-sell.

"'Janet" does her best. But she must hand off to her supervisor, "Edward".

Same points are explained again: faster, cheaper, phone service included. Explained how we were speaking via the new Spectrum phone line.

"When do you want to schedule cancellation?"

"What? Today. Immediately. Spectrum is already installed. It's been up and running since last night."


Edward is a little difficult to understand because he speaks rapidly, as does anyone who has run through the same spiel hundreds of times.

Not his first rodeo.

Eventually something gets done. Edward says to expect an email confirming cancellation in "about four hours. Call this direct number, 866-446-4115, to check status if nothing arrives."

Thanks Edward.

Since it's Friday evening, Saturday morning is a good time to check.

Verify Your Account

Let's set up automatic billing with Spectrum.

After logging in the system displays

Okay, where's the code?

Okay, what code?

There does not appear to be a four-digit confirmation code anywhere on the new documents, the web site, no where.

"Hello, this is Danisha in Colorado. How can I help you?"

Letting the customer know the service representative's location is a nice touch.

As it turns out, the magic four-digit pin is sent on paper to the account address of record.  Nothing happens without the code: no automated bill pay, cannot see the account, nothing. Even the phone line feature set has a lock-out:

"Call us back by the 31st if you don't get a code."


One more thing: Spectrum charged for a modem battery backup. The installer had none and in fact said Spectrum no longer gave installation teams such batteries.

"Okay. I can reverse the charge for the battery."

"Yes please."

Reasonably decent service.



Battery price appears to have been reversed as of Monday 27 March.  Very nice.

Higher Speed Internet

Looks like it's end of the road for AT&T U-verse.

Time-Warner Cable has renamed itself "Spectrum" and has carpet-bombed the 'Net, mail, and newspapers with promotional offers for fast, bundled services.

After an hour chat session and a five minute phone with "Rachel B" Tuesday morning March 21st, Spectrum scheduled installation Thursday afternoon 23 March.  "George" from Spectrum's local contracting team arrived at 5pm and was done by 6:30pm.  Up and running in about 2.5 days.

How fast is Spectrum's home service? First, U-verse speed test:

Next, Spectrum:

Tests were conducted on the same hardware. Only the network gateway changed. The 117.4 down / 11.4 up Mbps speeds shown above come through Spectrum modem <--> router's Gig-E <--> Intel NUC running Linux + Firefox.

Seems fast enough.

Let's talk price.

U-verse service cost crept up to about $62/month mid-2016.  Charges jumped from $51/month June 2016 to the current price August 2016.

This price buys the U-verse "18" plan: 18-20 Mbps down, 2 Mbps up, and a monthly data cap of 1 TB. The AT&T gateway serves wireline and wireless networks in-building, no phone service. A separate hard landline costs about $30 month, most of it state fees and telecom tariffs. The land line is a bare-bones service with no long-distance.

All-in, AT&T U-verse Internet and  phone line cost about $90/month.

Spectrum's promotional price is "$29.99/month for the first 12 months" for each bundled service. All-in for Internet + voice is $65/month for the first 12 months, charges to go up an additional "$20-$30 per month" thereafter, according to "Rachel B".  Voice includes long distance calling in North America and U.S. territories.

Spectrum's Internet price is BYOR - Bring Your Own Router.  The gateway offers services only one port. Spectrum wireless via the gateway is an additional charge. Happily, several wireless routers from various vendors are on-premise.

Even after the 12-month promotional price, Spectrum at $60/100 Mbps/month vs U-verse $60/20 Mpbs/month is 5x better.

Worth noting: AT&T will not budge on price.

Time to re-configure the network.


More Data More Fun

AT&T now permits a  terabyte of data per month.

Mighty nice of them to remove the additional service charge if the account's usage is under the terabyte cap.


Video Billed the Internet Part

Having taken an assignment and set up house in a San Francisco Bay Area apartment, another U-verse account was a must.  After hearing horror stories, no way ComCast and their shared coax is getting any business.

Having two services addresses on a single BAN is impossible.  A completely distinct U-verse account was necessary.  Consider it a double blessing.

Setting up automatic bill pay worked much better this time. After punching in the CC number into the "auto-pay" feature of AT&T's U-verse customer site, nothing happened. Well, something happened. Two weeks later (mid-September), AT&T sent a paper notice stating that it would start billing by credit card next month.

Pacific Gas & Electric set up and confirmed automatic pay-by-credit-card in one day.

Meantime, ever on the cutting edge of customer service, AT&T has sent a video bill:

That's right.  Now, a perky-voiced young robot-woman reads the bill -- with the customer's first name! -- over a full-motion, action-packed display of monthly charges just in case customers cannot scan five lines of text:

Here's the killer: NorCal service is $45.95/month for 18 Mb/s down, 2 Mb/s up.  In SoCal, it's $53.91 for 12 Mb/s down, 2 Mb/s up. What? Time to call the Account Center to see about an adjustment.

For those who don't grasp the title, a little history: