Things I wish I’d known about AT&T U-Verse before I signed up

As I wrote earlier this week, I’m a new AT&T U-Verse customer. Prior to that, I was using old-school POTS with a DSL connection. Between the phone service, DSL, and long-distance calls, I was spending around $75 a month. So it looked like I could switch to U-Verse with the 250-minute voice plan and 3-megabit Internet, save some money, and get a bit of an upgrade in connection speed.

I was mostly correct.

Internet

AT&T U-Verse mostly met my expectations. But there are a few things I wish I’d known ahead of time.

So far, the Internet service is much faster. Whether it’s more reliable will depend. My phone line, as it turns out, had been wired incorrectly for perhaps as long as 45 years. It never worked well for DSL or voice. After years of calling and complaining, I finally got customer service to send a technician to look at the line about a year ago. He found the line was crossed with a neighbor’s line, which would explain why I could sometimes hear other conversations on the line. That solved my DSL dropped-connections problem too, though I still rarely connected at the advertised speeds. Upstream worked better than downstream.

When they came to upgrade me to U-Verse, after making the changes to the line, it wouldn’t connect. Over the course of the next 24 hours, they found and corrected several other problems with the line. Since U-Verse is more demanding on your wiring, problems that POTS can tolerate come to light.

I’m much happier now, of course. If your DSL is working as advertised right now, you might be less impressed. But if I’d known a U-Verse upgrade would force advanced, intense diagnostics on my phone line, I’d have switched to it just as soon as it became available in my neighborhood.

Switching to cable wasn’t an option. I don’t like Charter’s terms of service, which limit what you can do with the connection more than AT&T’s do, and I want to do things that AT&T allows but Charter does not. Things that are perfectly legal.

There was one thing I noticed. My modem’s status page indicated I could get 19 megabits downstream and 2 megabits upstream. That concerned me, as I’m not paying for anywhere near that. Testing the speed with AT&T’s tool indicated I’m getting the speed I signed up for. Testing with other tools I found online indicated I’m getting no more than the speed I signed up for. I wish the modem would state more clearly that these are maximum speeds, not actual speeds. (I suppose these are maximum speeds. When I contacted customer support, they said that was the speed of my internal network. Which it isn’t–the wired network is running at 100 meg, and the wireless is ranging from 24-54 meg, but usually 24 or 48.) As long as they bill me for what I ordered and deliver something close to that,I’m happy.

As for AT&T’s router, I’ve seen worse. How I secured it is another story. You may still want to complement it to extend its range.

TV

I can’t comment on TV service. I get more than 20 channels via over-the-air antenna, so that’s what we use.

Phone

Phone is critical. I’d been paying around $20 a month for the same phone service my great-grandparents had. Just a dialtone. I switched to the 250-minute plan, which sounded reasonable at first. You got 250 minutes of long-distance, plus the services they nickel-and-dime you on with POTS lines, like caller ID, call forwarding, voicemail, and call block. Sounds good, for $25.

There’s a catch. Is there ever a catch.

There’s no such thing as a local call, and incoming calls count toward your 250 minutes. In the first 18 hours of having the service, we used 8 minutes. A good deal of that was unsolicited phone calls from 773-329-2035 who keep calling and asking for somebody who doesn’t live here. In some states, you’d burn through your 250 minutes per month just answering unsolicited phone calls, and that’s a real problem.

Call block can help some, but you can only block 20 numbers. I suppose I could block 20 more by using the Exclusive Call Forwarding feature to forward calls to the voicemail number.

Or I could activate call screening, which would allow incoming calls from 20 numbers and only 20 numbers. But that’s completely unrealistic if you know more than about six or seven people.

Actually, there kinda sorta is such thing as a local call. As far as I can tell, you can talk to any other U-Verse customer for free. But calls to a business two miles down the street count toward my 250 minutes, as do any calls from them, unless they happen to use U-Verse.

So if you’re thinking about U-Verse, you either need the $35 unlimited voice plan, or if you only make local calls, keep your POTS line. Pretend like the $25 voice250 plan doesn’t exist. Or keep your POTS line, transfer your POTS number to a cellphone, or get a different VOIP service. I’ll be switching to the $35 plan just as soon as they let me.

If you were previously paying for POTS, caller ID, call waiting, and any other service, the $35 plan won’t cost much more than you’re already paying anyway.

There’s also one other thing you should know. U-Verse’s phone requires electrical power, so AT&T gives you a battery backup to keep it up and running during a power outage. But if you have an extended power outage, the phone will stop working once your battery dies. So in the event of emergency, you may be relying on your cellular phone more than you have in the past.

And one more thing, which may or may not concern you: Pulse phones, such as the old-school rotary phones, aren’t supported by U-Verse. I can talk on my rotaries and can receive calls on them, contrary to what AT&T customer support told me, but you can’t make calls with them. Pulse-to-tone converters are available but some of them are known not to work with U-Verse. The converters cost more than my two Western Electric model 500 rotary phones are worth, so I’ll probably just live with not being able to dial out with those two phones.

Tone phones (that is, the ones with pushbuttons) work fine.

One thought on “Things I wish I’d known about AT&T U-Verse before I signed up

  • November 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you, Sir. As a potential U-Verse customer, there are FamilyThings that you’ve mentioned that have to be taken into consideration.

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