I have been an AT&T high speed Internet (ADSL) customer for a number of years. Back in 2000, I was excited when Comcast, the only cable TV company in town after a number of years of consolidation in that industry, started to provide residential high speed Internet services. I was a cable TV customer then, so it was natural for me to take their offer immediately when it became available in our subdivision, then a relatively new development of some 200+ houses. The next year, Ameritech, then the mid-west baby Bell, pulled DSL near our subdivision and started to advertise their ADSL service for $14.95 a month or something like that. Cable Internet was something like $39.95 so it only took one call from an Ameritech salesman to convince me to switch. Over the years, Ameritech became SBC, which became AT&T -- which by the way says a lot about the value of the AT&T brand. The original 768/128Kbps ADSL service has evolved a number of offerings going all the way up to 6/1.5Mbps, comparable to cable's advertised data rates. I have stayed, in fact, upgraded my subscription along with that evolution.
Over the years, I have always wondered about, and posted the question to AT&T sales people, why they do not offer voice over IP phone service. I guess it is only a rhetorical question as I do understand the implication of that to the existing business structure in AT&T. AT&T has the resources to play catchup or buy up an upstart to offer VoIP. Anyways, when I learned that AT&T started to offer ADSL service without attached phone service, I decided to switch again.
I called up AT&T customer service, inquired about the high speed Internet service without home phone service attached. They told me to call the AT&T high speed Internet service and to ask for Dry Loop service. So I did. The lady on the phone was very nice. She gave me a 10-digit account number and told me that my phone service would be stopped in about a week or so, and the Internet service might also be interrupted for up to 24 hours. I was a little surprised that it would take that long for such a simple change which should take a computer probably 5 seconds to complete. But then again, I was not too surprised either given my past experiences with the phone service giant.
That was more than a week ago. Yesterday, my home phone service went away but the ADSL link stayed up. I was again a little surprised. I thought may be I was lucky.
But it happened today. Lynn called me at work and told me about an error message saying that there was a problem with my AT&T high speed Internet connection.
I called AT&T DSL tech support, gave the lady my 10-digit account number. She asked back if I was Mr. so and so. I was confused but said no, I was not. After a short conversation she realized that my account number was wrong and she has no way to pull up my information on her computer. She had to transfer me to another department to get the account information sorted out. A gentleman picked up my case and we started trying to figure out what was wrong with the 10-digit account number. He had to pull another person from another department in to help with the mystery. When we finally dug up my information form AT&T's database, my account number was nothing like the 10-digit given to me and written down a week ago. The AT&T gentleman told me that there was a problem on my line and AT&T would have to dispatch some one to my house on Sunday.
Came home in the evening, I tried to get online and up on the browser came this error 102 message saying something like AT&T has found a problem with your high speed Internet connection. I realize that the error actually means that my DSL link does not have a problem. There is obviously something missing in the setup of my DSL line that AT&T is blocking my outbound IP traffic. That AT&T should be able to fix over the phone.
So I called up AT&T DSL tech support line again since the error message said they were available 24x7. After fighting with the nice female computer voice for a while, I finally got through to a gentleman. His name was Kevin. He spoke with a slight Indian accent.
Kevin started very nicely, talking to me like he was talking to a 300-year old man who never touched a computer in his life. After I told him about the error message, he started asking me questions. It was all the usual stuff, did I have a MAC or a PC, what operating system was I running, how did I connect to the Internet, etc. Then he asked if I had a router. I did but I was not going to get into that kind of complicated situation. So I decided to lie. I told him that I did not have a router. It had to be something simple that had nothing to do with the router.
Kevin told me to open the Control Panel. That suggested that he had enough technical details to troubleshoot the problem. So I played along. He asked what I had in Network Connections. I told him that I had a Local Network Connection and nothing else. Kevin said "Aha!" excitedly. He started telling to Add a New Connection. I was going to play along but I had to put a PC running Windows on the modem. That took a minute or two and Kevin grew impatient with my slow response to his instructions. Finally I got the PC ready. Kevin told me to connected to an IP address, use firstname.lastname@example.org in there as the user id and my 10-digit account number as the password. It dawned on me that it was a registration process. After that was done, I got to choose my user id and password. My ADSL service was restored. Kevin was quite excited that my problem was resolved and asked me repeatedly if I was completely satisfied with his service. Honestly, I was quite satisfied. However, this whole issue was caused by this simple registration process that no one at AT&T told me about. AT&T ADSL service apparently was able to connect me to their web server to display an elaborate error message, which means that they could probably told me to register my account then and there. Then again, this registration process makes sense to a new AT&T ADSL customer. For an existing customer making a change in the service, this whole process could have easily been taken care of by a computer.