Friday, June 4, 2010

Love-Hate Relationship With AT&T DSL Tech Support

After the power came back on for the third time, and stabilized for a while, I restarted everything on my network, in the proper order, and got a connection on which the domain name service looked up in about 30 seconds (as opposed to instantaneously), the National Weather Service site in about 45 seconds, etc. In other words, it was "alive" but unusable.

I called AT&T to tell them they had a problem. I waited my turn in line... only about 3 minutes of AT&T ads and preachy little messages about what else I should do before I called AT&T... and spoke to a young woman who asked a couple of questions about my DSL modem and ran some remote tests. After a bit, she concluded that the power outages had left some sort of really bad line conditioning on the DSL itself. At that point we were... you guessed it... disconnected. I don't believe I've ever talked to AT&T tech support without being disconnected at least once. The promised callback didn't come within the next five minutes.

So I phoned the number again. Waited in line again. Got a MOST unsatisfactory agent on the line (a very few people from India are capable of being assholes despite the polite nature of much of their society, and all of them work the phones for AT&T). I'll spare you the details except to say that he wanted me to pull the filter on my phone line (I refused, explaining that crippled people cannot grub around on the floor plugging cables etc.) and later reasonably asked me to reboot. (I'd already "rebooted..." started the computer after the power outages... duh). After sparring with the fellow for probably 45 minutes, I found a way to sign off politely (all the platitudes from him extended the call another minute or two), shut down everything and restarted, again in the proper sequence. Everything works properly now. My conclusion: the first agent followed through on what she had found, and got the DSL crews to recondition the line... between the first time I tried and the second.

Why do we put up with this? Why must I all but verbally abuse the agents to direct them to a solution that actually works? The first task is always convincing them that a) I don't call support until something is really wrong, b) it worked a mere few hours ago, and c) there's no reason not to at least pursue the issue I suggest as the problem. But noooo.... maybe 1 agent in 10 will do that.

Here ends the post-power-outage rant for the day.


  1. Fortunately my provider isn't big enough to have out-sourced their support yet, and their people tend to be techs, rather than talkers.

    Of course the fact that I always preface my statement of the problem with reference to "a separate shielded Cat-5 between the NIC and the modem with no filters" and the standard reboot of both the modem and the computer, so we don't waste time with the script and get right to looking at the line.

    So far everything has been failed equipment that they didn't know about.

    I'm still looking at satellite seriously.

  2. Steve, you and I must get the same person for "support." I've had a mobility problem for years, and for years I've been enduring the "get under the desk and grub around" routine. Eight times out of ten, the problem is the line or the modem. Ten times out of ten, I've reacted irritably.

    When setting my system up again after the move, I've place the modem and the network box on the desk where I can reach them without grubbing, but that means I've lost valuable horizontal surface. Still doesn't help my disposition when dealing with tech support, though.

  3. Bryan, over the years I've had mostly good luck with AT&T in keeping me connected (compared to, e.g., Comcast, with which people have no end of trouble here), but on the rare occasions something DOES go wrong, AT&T support is a real PITA. And Dog help you if anything goes off-script, e.g., a connection that works BADLY instead of not at all, or a weird OS on your computer like Ubuntu Linux. ("What?" is the usual response. "Other," I answer.)

  4. Anon, some people just don't understand, do they?

    Most often I'm in a wheelchair, with recent occasional excursions onto a standard walker depending on the state of my legs on a given day. Either way, we set up this office before I was crippled (yeah, I know the term is politically incorrect; I'm trying to reclaim it the way some African Americans try to reclaim the N-word for their own use) and although my desk stands out in the room so there's space behind it (I've done that for years), it's not a lot of space for a wheelchair or even a walker. And getting to that filter, which is plugged into a wall jack under the desk, is a serious pain for me. I generally refuse to go down there unless _I_ believe there's a problem down there, not for some tech's curiosity.

  5. (Just an FYI, Steve, the Anon above is really Anya. Give me some time to figure out Blogger's Commenting.)

    Regarding the use of the word "Cripple," I'm cool with it, personally. :-)

    I put everything on long cords, and I'm making myself a hook to grab stuff when/if I need to. Once we get done spending money on the move, I'm going to invest in one of those extendable grabbers.



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