N-- and Y--, July 29

3pm, AT&T U-verse knocks. Two people, the young lady from last week and a young man. He is clearly her supervisor.

Y-- introduces himself and N--.

Sir, I'd like to ask you a little more about why you don't want U-verse. When N-- talked to you, all she wrote down was "cost".

Y-- listens to the explanation.

Thank you sir. Y-- turns to N--. You see, he's really interested in the Internet. You just wrote down "cost" but the cost of what is important. Y-- describes the detail that should have been in her report.

N-- looks uncomfortable. It's tough when you're young and in a sales, and N-- seems shy, too. Not a good job fit.

More discussion. Y-- offers a month service trial, no cost. The right package is U200 w/Elite Internet. Consolidating cellphone bills gains a 20% discount but is applicable only after the first month. Long discussion about features and service.

She Who Must Be Worshiped With Chocolate asks whether U-verse has BBC America.


Okay, try it. Order the full package of U400/Elite (upsell all the swell channels -- $134/mo), then back off to U200/Elite ($94/mo) if the service stays after the trial period. The total package long-term monthly cost is less than TWC/Roadrunner but just barely.

Due to regulatory controls and the complexity of the offering, it takes a while to complete paperwork, verify the order, make a hand-off call to AT&T, schedule installation. N-- is learning a lot, much of it basic, such as repeating aloud order numbers over the phone to ensure correctness and printing clearly in blue ink.

Y-- is learning too. The first month of U400 TV is no-cost, but the Elite Internet service is $35. Y-- apologizes, and adds a $50 supervisor's coupon to cover it.

5:30pm, they leave. Installation is Saturday, August 2.

AT&T really wants into the TV business.

Backtrack: the Week of 20 July

Continued petty problems with TWC/Roadrunner. Services have been sketchy for three weeks.
  • DNS is flakey. Usual symptoms: slow web loads; unexpected starts and stops when loading pages; hangs and timeouts before connecting. nslookup shows response times in excess of 5-10 seconds.
  • Is Roadrunner throttling automatically? A large FTP transfer ran fine, then the byte rate suddenly dropped to 10-12 KB/s. It seems to recur: large transfers start well, then drop off. More than one target site has this problem.
  • Netflix "Watch Instantly" shifts to low-res mode even when playing mornings and mid-day.
Several calls, lasting 30 minutes to an hour, come up empty. Everything is working on RR's end.

Hard-configuring RR DNS with a third open DNS service helps. But bit rates, once in the 5-6Mbps range, are now hover the 2-3Mbps range; upstream is worse. A good day sees 4Mbps downstream, 400Kbps up.

N--, Week of July 20

The week of July 20, a young lady from AT&T U-verse knocked.

I'm sorry, I'm uninterested in U-verse, as I've said to the other sales callers. But thank you.

Oh no, sir. We know that. But would you mind telling us why?

It's more expensive than TWC/Roadrunner.
It costs more than what I have now for the same thing. The price must come down or the service go up for the new price. I've given more detail and a longer explanation before and have it written down. Would you like a copy?

That's okay sir. She wrote something. Okay, thank you sir.

You're welcome. Have a nice evening.

AT&T U-verse and U

AT&T's U-verse service became available February 2008.

Astonishingly, the famously standoffish company sent three different door-to-door sales people to the neighborhood within this first month. The first fellow showed up the day the service was ready.

AT&T has motivated every employee with commissions. Every contact for whatever reason with AT&T during the last six months has included a plug for U-verse. A newly installed phone line has rung weekly with U-verse cold calls, and U-verse pitches have cluttered billing statements, customer email, and paper mail.

Evidently, AT&T wants into the TV business.

The numbers said "no", however. The cheaper Time-Warner Roadrunner Internet service tops out at 6 Mbps downstream, 768 Kbps upstream with averages of 4.5Mbps/430Kbps during load times. This is the basic service. More, TWC television signals feed directly into TiVo (Series 2 with lifetime subscription carried over from a Series 1) and a Westinghouse 1080i flat-panel television, no extra boxes required. HDTV is available in real-time (no HD on TiVO), and the only real-time HD programming need is college football.

The comparable U-verse U200 Elite package (6/1Mbps, basic television) costs more. HD service is an additional charge, but offers more HD channels. And TiVo has been really, really good; switching DVRs loses the lifetime subscription, worth $12.95 per month.

So thanks, but no, thank you.