Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recent ATT DSL outage – mixed reviews

Dialtone went out on Mar 19, 2010. While ATT gets credit for rapid repair once I found the right channel to contact, their followup procedures and internal miscommunications need major work.

I have had ATT DSL for several years now. When I arrived at my location, I did not have much info about local broadband offerings in my area and just wanted something started. I can always change carriers later.

The traditional offerings were ATT DSL and Comcast cable. I've had former unpleasant dealings with Comcast TV and broadband and did not want to repeat the experience, so my only choice was ATT DSL. At the time, ATT did not offer dry loop, so they required me to get dialtone on my line. I went with the most basic dialtone service they offered because I wasn't planning on actually dialing out over it. My household had gone all mobile and VOIP years ago. Although ATT now offers dry loop, I've since added a fax machine to my setup and need the line to outdial. For some reason, I am unable to fax over my VOIP. It's on my list of things to fix.

When ATT did their distance test, they determined I could only get 1.5 Mbps / 384 kbps. Unhappy, but fine, if that's all I can get. I missed my 4 Mbps at my previous location.

About a year or two ago is when I started noticing line issues. The DSL connection would bounce frequently and when it was up, often it would connect slower than the 1.5 Mbps I was paying for. Numerous complaints to ATT tech support yielded no results. Whenever they tested the line, it was up and at full speed. Intermittent problems are the worst to debug.

I had tweeted my unhappiness to ATTnews whenever there was an outage. At the time, a search yielded no other ATT Twitter users. A friend had seen a news article about how companies are starting to interact with their customers via social media and unhappy customers were getting faster response by complaining over Twitter. My complaints to ATTnews fell on deaf ears.

The DSL problems finally culminated on Mar 19, 2010, when my dialtone went out. There was no dialtone at the NID either, which indicated a network issue and not an inside wire one. I called ATT tech support from my mobile to complain and found it interesting they had an automated trouble ticket system to report no dialtone. The auto system promised a 24 hour resolution. I have my doubts, but we'll see. Meanwhile, I complained via Twitter. Now there appeared to be several other ATT users, namely ATT and ATTCustomerCare.

I was still able to get intermittent DSL service, albeit much slower and still bouncing. I called DSL tech support, hoping they could look into this in case it was separate from the dialtone issue. The DSL rep informed me the dialtone needed to be restored first, then they could investigate the DSL issue.

To my great surprise, I received a tweet reply from a service rep asking me to DM my account details. I investigated the profile to ensure they weren't phishing my info, and determined this rep appeared legit.

Less than 24 hours later, a field tech arrives and restores my dialtone. This is the fastest turnaround in my experience with ATT. Speaking with ATT tech support, I learned the problem was a ground fault on an aerial cable. The rep was unable to provide any more info.

This did not solve my DSL issue. Still bouncing, but otherwise behaving like it was. I suppose I was no worse off. I again complained on Twitter and got useful replies. Props to ATT for trying.

At about this time, two ATT customer reps started calling my mobile. They wanted to follow up to see if the issue had resolved. I left a message with one of the reps informing them the dialtone issue was resolved and of my intermittent DSL issue. No reply, but another field tech came out. Apparently, he was here to fix the dialtone issue, not aware that the dialtone was already restored. I informed this field tech of the intermittent DSL issue and he offered to test my outside lines. He discovered another ground fault in the lines in my back yard. He determined this was a latent issue and said it would likely manifest when it had recently been raining. The issue was also degenerative and might not have been discovered sooner because it had not gotten bad enough. He said I was likely to hear static on my voice line too. The field tech offered to rerun my signal over another wire pair and said that should clean up the voice and DSL quality. When he was done, he ran a line test and determined it was capable of 3 Mbps! Finally, after years of slow and spotty service, the issue was finally resolved.

ATT had done a lot to restore my confidence in their service if it weren't for what happened afterward. These two ATT customer reps continued calling me, apparently unaware of the issue status. On Mar 24, they send out a third field tech. This was highly disruptive! I informed this tech both the dialtone and the DSL issues were resolved. I tweeted saying the problem was fixed, please stop calling me and instead to contact me via the email address on file. This was Mar 26, 2010. One day later, still no reply.

I expect a national ISP to be able to read their own files, listen to their voicemail, and realize the issue was resolved. That was not the case. Apparently, it's too hard for a *communications* company to communicate interdepartmentally. These two reps continued calling, and even sent out a third field tech! Two ATT Twitter reps asked for the best email address where they could reach me. Again I told them to read my file. My address is on file. The field techs were able to find my location from my file. No one asked for my street address. The service reps found my mobile number in my file and should likewise be able to find my email address in the same file.

Finally, I get an email from one of the phone reps on Mar 29, a full 3 days after I requested email contact.

So, bottom line? I'm glad ATT is trying and they get credit for the fast response time after a tweet. Their miscommunication between departments after the issue had resolved and their inability to look up an email address in my file is just terrible.

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