How Heidi Saved Christmas

This story has more twists and turns than a mountain trail. I will attempt to be brief.

att_logoWe have TV and Internet again. God bless you Heidi from AT&T Uverse. You rock.

Am I too old to say that?

God bless you Heidi from AT&T Uverse. Well done.

This story has more twists and turns than a mountain trail. I will attempt to be brief.

Yesterday two technicians came separately to our home. It’s tough to find and fix intermittent problems. Luckily, the second tech made it permanent. No Internet. No TV.

“That’s an easier problem to fix,” I thought to myself as I sat Internetless last night.

Merry Christmas.

I spoke with JC in the Philippines last night. He made an appointment for a tech today, Christmas Day, before 12:30 pm.

This morning I woke to find a text from AT&T.

AT&T U-verse Free Alert: We resolved a network issue and service should be working. Reply: HELP if having trouble or visit Reply: STOP to opt out

No! We were still dead in the water. I was scared. If they thought it was fixed no tech would be sent.

Don’t worry, I’ll make sure the technician arrives as per schedule.

That’s what Ravi, who I texted with, assured me at 9:42 am.

12:30 pm came and went. No tech.

Let me pause the story for a second, because I want to talk about offshoring phone centers. AT&T, listen up because this is for you.

The overseas phone operators are well trained and educated, but they’re difficult to understand. More importantly, they don’t speak the American vernacular… you know… the way Americans do. It’s very difficult to have a conversation.

You’re dissing your customers. Your actions say you don’t care about our experience.

You know this because you do research, but obviously don’t care or think you don’t have to.

OK, back to today’s episode.

This time I spoke with Mark in the Philippines. Yes, no tech was coming! Contrary to what Mark said, he did not understand.

He said he’d call back within a half hour and did! Heidi, the tech, called seconds later.

AT&T, you have no idea how lucky you are to have Heidi.

She did her wizardry going upstairs and down, through the garage to our fiber connection and then back… a few times.

After an hour plus, “It’s working,” she said. And it was.

When Companies Shift The Burden To Their Customers

att-u-verse-logo-600x400Having a blog allows me to kvetch, even about small things… like what happened this morning.

My experience was shared by many. Consider this a class action kvetch. I represent the thousands, possibly millions, affected by today’s nationwide outage on AT&T U-verse.

My local TV stations remained. Everything else disappeared. I didn’t know that at the time.

The tuner was set to 1202, CNN. Black. I tuned up a few. I tuned down a few. Nothing. The channel number and program synopsis was still there. No program.

Downstairs, Helaine was watching GMA on 1007, KABC. She was problem free.

Both our cable boxes were acting the same way, but because I didn’t tune a few hundred channels down I didn’t know it! Just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

I rebooted the cable box. The box must be the problem, right?

I did this three times. No change.

There was nothing on AT&T’s site, nor on their social media accounts. Later, I realize this was because they were maintaining ‘radio silence.’ They were getting tons of complaints and not responding.

All signs I could grasp pointed to a problem in my house. But I was being gnawed at. My logical computer mind was bothered by the way the signal died. It didn’t fit. The problem didn’t correlate with the box’s internal hardware.

I rebooted the hub. AT&T sends channels to my individual cable boxes via IP. It’s just data. I have one TV with a WiFi box and three connected via Ethernet. And, of course, there are computers and phones and printers and tablets and who-knows-what connected too!

Rebooting the hub meant stopping Internet and TV throughout the house. Didn’t help.

I tried calling the AT&T phone line. Fast busy. A fast busy indicates the circuit, rather than an individual line, is busy. Probably call volume.

That was actually reassuring! Maybe I wasn’t alone?

I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. Cable has gone down before. I started doing deeper searches.

No news organization had picked up on it. I did a Twitter search for people tweeting to Uverse. Bingo. My story, a thousand times.

I tipped off @LanceUlanoff at Mashable

When reached for comment, an AT&T spokesperson explained the outage, “Due to a power-related issue triggered by a third-party at our video hub, U-verse customers may be experiencing a loss of national channels. Technicians are working to resolve the issue and we expect to have service fully restored by early afternoon. We apologize for this inconvenience.”

By keeping off social media and failing to post something on the company’s website, AT&T hoped to keep this quiet. They mostly did.

However, they shifted a real burden to their customers. My troubleshooting time might not be individually valuable, but multiply it by all the people who did just what I did and we’re talking big numbers.

I understand there will be glitches. I still consider the service reliable. The bone I pick has to do with 21st Century communications.

AT&T valued their own concerns over mine.

If you’re wondering why customers sometimes dislike companies, here you go.

We’ve Got Cable… Sorta

att-u-verse-logo-600x400We spent a good part of the afternoon with Federico from AT&T U-verse. He came to install our cable TV and high speed Internet access packages. Our house came nicely wired, but it still takes time.

I think we have TV, but I can’t be sure. As of this evening our Connecticut stuff, including TVs, was just passing through St. Louis–not quite halfway here. We have no monitor to check with, but all outward signs say we’re OK.

I am surprised and a little disappointed AT&T’s Internet speed is only 16 mbps. Considering I’m on my own piece of fiber all the way to the central office, I could have a lot more bandwidth for nearly no additional cost to AT&T.

I knew this was the speed going in. No complaint.

What I didn’t realize was my upload speed is only 1.5 mbps. That’s crazily slow. There truly is no excuse for this speed in an all fiber install.

With vastly superior hardware AT&T is offering an inferior product. Why? Is there still a DSL/dial-up attitude within the phone company?

AT&T could easily blow Cox (the incumbent cable company) out of the water, but they don’t. They’re leaving cash on the table.

Home   AT T U verseMaxing out at these speeds when there’s fiber all the way to my house is ridiculous. If someone wants to turn up my speed, I won’t tell.

One of our cable boxes is wireless. That was a major selling point for me. I look forward to bringing a TV out into the California room and watching outside.

U-verse does provide some live programming on our PCs for the TVless Foxes, though CNN’s live feed shows only the little spinning icon. No video!

Most of U-verse’s streaming shows are provided through Hulu. I attempted to watch Family Guy and was ready for trouble when the synopsis was in German!

I clicked and was told I couldn’t watch, because it’s only available in the United States!

Family Guy   AT T U verse

It’s early, but some of AT&T’s infrastructure lacks polish and seems unfinished. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, both Helaine and I have our laptops out here in the family room. That’s a huge advance over yesterday.

My Conversation With Rose

I spoke to Rose who works in Meriden for AT&T. I was calling about my soon-to-be AT&T Uverse service.

“New construction. You’ll have fiber right to your door,” she told me proudly.

Most likely she’s been hearing about the promise of fiber since she walked in the door. Even if I didn’t understand the implications, her demeanor said I’d hit the jackpot! The closer you are to fiber the faster and more smoothly things will flow. Fat pipe.

The call was three or four minutes old when Rose asked if I used to… She’d recognized me.

I am still very affected when someone does. It’s cool when people think you did a good job. I’m not going to lie.

I suspect Rose headed home and told people whom she’d spoken to, just as I am telling you. She enjoyed our conversation. Mutual.

There was a problem with my order. Probably something to do with the house still being under construction. She said she’d keep on it.

If you’re wondering the benefit of celebrity, that’s it. Rose will keep on it.