Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Max Power? Not quite.

Boy I was excited yesterday. AT&T announced a big U-Verse internet speed increase was available across their network. For essentially no increase in our monthly price, AT&T was offering 24 mbits download speed (up from 18) and 3 mbits upload (up from 1.5).

Twice as much upstream capacity, and a nice little bump on download, for the same price? Cool. The new service tier is called "Max Turbo" (why do all the U-Verse speed tiers have names that sounds like porn stars?)

However, when I went to actually upgrade, I was reminded of why it is so frustrating to deal with AT&T. I went online to change my plan, and of course the online form allowed me to select the new tier, but when I tried to place the order, it just said "not available in your area."

A brief perusal of the AT&T online forums shows that a lot of people are having this issue.

The technical reason why is that your U-Verse VDSL line is "provisioned" to support particular tiers of service. The most common tier is 25/2 which means your line can support 25 mbit down and 2 up (remember that some of this is reserved for TV use, even if you don't have U-Verse television).

In order to support the new faster internet, my line has to have its provisioning profile updated to AT&T's new "32/5" profile. Not all U-verse customers support the profile; if you are too far away from the fiber optic node (VRAD) in your neighborhood, you are out of luck. The key statistic to help determine if you can support the new speed is your line's "maximum sync rate." If you have U-verse, you can view this number in the Residential Gateway's user interface.

If you have the "new" UI, you can see it here. Here's what mine shows:

The blue circle indicates what I am provisioned at... 25/2

The red circle indicates my lines maximum speed, which is over 50 mbits!

While no U-Verse customer can actually have a speed close to the max (if you get too close to it, the number of line errors goes way up...think of it as being the same as the maximum speed your car can go...the engine wouldn't last long if you drove at that speed all the time).

However, the 50 mbit max speed is important, because it indicates my line can support the high-speed 32/5 profile (generally, if you max user rate is 45 or above, you definitely qualify for the fast profile). Furthermore, our line is very "clean" with no errors, making it an ideal candidate.

So, my line can support the fast speeds, but my profile needed to be updated to actually make it work. Simple call to AT&T tech support to get this taken care of, right?

Simple as creating world peace, perhaps.

After a frustrating hour on hold, being shuttled between several different folks, nobody at AT&T can tell me why they can't make this simple switch. Changing line provisioning is something that Tier 2 technical support can do remotely (on-site techs can also initiate this).
The excuses I have been given included the whopper that "the central office in your town can't support those speeds" which is factually wrong, as well as "maybe the system will be upgraded in the future." Adding to my frustration, the Tier 1 representative, and an additional sales representative refused to escalate me to tier 2 support so perhaps I could get this fixed, or at least get an honest answer as to why it can't be done.

Needless to say I am quite frustrated. I've reached out to the AT&T staff on Twitter (this is a good way to test their responsiveness, especially compared to our local cable company's responsive Twitter presence.

I'll update this blog when I hear more from AT&T, meanwhile the "dis" in front of my "gruntled" is growing.

UPDATE: I reached out to AT&T on Twitter and they responded quite well. Read the full story here.

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