ATT DSL Woes Resolved (for now ?)

When we came home from our Christmas travels, we had a little time on our hands and wanted to watch some Netflix streaming. Fortunately, we also had a couple of DVD’s to watch, since our DSL connection speeds had dropped to the point that Netflix wouldn’t load. I tested our connection using speedtest.net and got speeds that ranged from over 2 mbps (we should have 3, but 2+ isn’t bad for an average) down to .20 mbps. Typical scores were around .5 mbps. Clearly, something was wrong.

So I spent a couple of hours with ATT Support. Getting to the right person made me feel like the main character of a Kafka novel. We have DSL, but they still routed me to U-verse first, then to DSL Southwest, and finally to the Southeast division who needed to help me. This happened a couple of times, since I was disconnected whenever I tried ATT’s speed test. The third time, I got right back to the service rep who had been helping me.

When I was talking to the right guy, he was very helpful. He didn’t make me go through all the typical trouble-shooting, like resetting my modem, once I explained what I had done already. He listened well, and had some good suggestions, none of which solved the issue, but which did isolate the problem. He believed me when I told him (the truth) that I had the same problem when my computer was connected directly to the modem and not through my Airport Extreme, and he didn’t make me keep testing it that way. This allowed me to be on the chat line while others in the family were working or playing online. And he didn’t balk when I told him my modem is set to bridge mode. He did have me connect directly from the phone jack to the modem without a filter (disconnecting our phones), in case an old filter were causing the problem. For a brief moment, we thought we had fixed it when we got two or three high speed tests. Then it went right back to .40 mbps or lower. He tested the line remotely, but couldn’t find a problem other than a high ping-back rate. On the basis of this, he dispatched a service tech to our home  with the standard warnings that it could be expensive if they found something inside and I didn’t have inside line maintenance, which I don’t. He did say we could refuse that service and make the repairs ourselves if that were the case.

When the service tech came out the next day, he checked our line and replaced the line coming into the house since it had a splice that could cause problems (didn’t help) and checked our bridge taps (I think he called them this), which are connections on the line coming to our house from the main office that could cause problems. He didn’t find anything there either. Essentially, he said our wiring was perfect, yet our internet connection was lousy. He explained it as our sync rate (the ability of the copper wire to deliver a signal) was perfect, but our surf rate (our actual experience online) was lousy. He said there were two possibilities. On ATT’s end, our port could need replacing, and on our end our modem or possibly just the ethernet cable to the modem (or the router) could need replacing. Since our modem and router are less than a year old, I was confident they weren’t the issue.

The next business day, ATT replaced the port on our line, and presto, our speeds went back to 2.8 or higher (and this is testing over wifi, so I expect lower results than if everything was hard wired to the computer). FaceTime calls and Netflix streaming has been much better.

So what did I learn from this experience? The main thing is that when ATT support tests your line remotely, they aren’t seeing the whole picture. They test your line from the port to your house, but they don’t test the port itself. (And I learned it’s called a port.) So it’s worth pushing until they send someone out who can really check the line and then can put in an order to change the port if they can’t find another cause.

All in all, I was satisfied with this ATT support experience. It took longer to get to a resolution than I would like (wouldn’t it be great if they could tell your port is bad when you call in?), but with due diligence we were able to find and correct the problem. It helps to be knowledgable about your service and to do as much trouble-shooting as you can before you call. What pleased me was that ATT support believed I really had a problem and took my complaint seriously. This time. I’ve had good experiences when technicians come to my home and mixed results from phone support. Having used both phone and chat support, I prefer the chat option, mainly because I don’t have to listen to hold music and I seem to get through to a person sooner, even if I did get misrouted several times. You do have to be patient and calm, but remain persistent: your problem should be resolved. Hopefully, it will be awhile before we have any more connection issues!

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