Don’t Want Caps? You Can Cancel AT&T DSL Service Without Early Termination Fees

I recently spent a lot of time explaining to an AT&T rep and even longer explaining to her supervisor (who frankly didn’t want to hear it), that because AT&T are imposing caps on their DSL service we should be able to cancel our service without incurring any early termination fees.

The rep and supervisor were adamant that because we had not “yet” gone over the cap and had not “yet” been charged overage fees that this would not affect us and no matter what we argued, we would be subject to early termination fees of between $65 an $250 depending on if they charged us for the remaining time or for the “full price” of the offer we had signed up for.

If I had to listen to that rep say “Are you telling me that you’ll send more than 7 million emails a month?” or “Are you telling me you watch more than 88 films a month?” one more time, I would have gotten highly indignant.

Actually, considering AT&T’s new terms, that might have worked better for them.

I digress.

Needless to say, we didn’t agree and ended up filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

It’s amazing what a quick complaint to them can do.

Today Sara received a message from Marian Hall, Office of the President AT&T, to call her back to discuss our complaint.

I actually made the call and, prepared for a confrontation on the matter, was unprepared for this soft spoken older lady to tell me that, upfront, the service would be cancelled with no termination fees because of the cap issue and because I was well within the deadline.

She was the first human /compassionate sounding voice I’ve heard since we first started dealing with AT&T.

Anyway, for those of you who are AT&T DSL / U-Verse subscribers looking to switch to another broadband provider, just make sure you call in before the deadline and you should be able to terminate with fees.

If the reps say you can’t, just point them to this blog post, tell them exactly what Marian Hall said and failing that file your complaint with the BBB.

Explain This To Me AT&T

AT&T is now moving into metered broadband with 150 Gig caps for DSL and $10 per additional 50GB overage.

Over the weekend, Broadband Reports broke the story that after plenty of talk about it, AT&T is implementing broadband caps and overage fees. The caps are 150GB per month for DSL and 250GB per month for U-verse. AT&T claims that it’s trying to be flexible, and the cap isn’t quite a “hard cap.” That is, subscribers will only be expected to pay overage fees if they go over the cap 3 times. But, if they do, the overage fees kick in, and it’s $10 per 50 additional GB. AT&T had tested similar caps in the past, but the decision to implement these on a wider scale is pretty much the company publicly admitting that there isn’t enough competition in the market, so it can put in place these kinds of limitations.

Let’s forget for a moment that between my (and my wife’s) podcast downloading, video streaming, YouTube, Xbox Live, Skype and general day to day usage you just made it unfeasible to pay that $8 a month for Netflix as I’d go right over that cap in next to no time.

Lets forget all of that because what I want explained to me is this:

I have a whole bunch of websites and some of them are on shared hosts. Even the ones on shared hosts use a lot of bandwidth.

One site, which is hosted with Bluehost, uses an an average of about half a TERABYTE of bandwidth a month for the paltry sum of $6.99 a month.

Think about it: 500 Gigs of bandwidth (actual usage), plus website hosting for $6.99 a month and you’re looking to charge $10 for 50 Gigs on top of what you charge monthly?

I know that web hosts are in the business of making money too. I know they have to pay for their servers and data centers. They also have to pay for bandwidth. Yet while my usage may be quite high, web hosts offering unlimited bandwidth are the norm.

I wonder how they can manage it? I know that most sites probably don’t have as high bandwidth consumption as the example above. A number of my sites get by in the 20 to 70 Gig per month range and I would consider those to be the “average” account seen by web hosts. Still, it just doesn’t add up.

Unlimited bandwidth, massive storage, server resources, all for $6.99 a month. AT&T want $10 for 50 Gigs after you’ve already payed through the nose for a measly 150 Gigs.

I think I know what the answer is.

It’s competition, or rather the complete and utter lack of competition.

The move may be positioned as helping AT&T deliver “a great experience for all our Internet customers,” but it’s not clear that these actions are necessary to control congestion, and it raises questions about competition for broadband service as many areas still only have one DSL provider.

You see, in order to get my $6.99 a month web hosts have to compete on pricing and services with hundreds of other web hosts all over the country. Web hosts know that if they don’t deliver I will take my cash and go elsewhere.

Where am I going to go if I want to switch from AT&T? Well,according to the National Broadband Map, nowhere!

Broadband Providers Map

Competition drives lower prices. It compels providers to offer superior services at lower costs in order to ensure that they get your hard earned money instead of their competitors.

The sad fact is that, for most people despite what companies like AT&T would like you to believe, there is no real competition.

Most people don’t have a choice of providers.

Those people who do have a choice (and I’m not talking about resellers here, who I suspect will be subject to the caps) tend to find that there is little to distinguish between providers who are all using the same excuses to charge exorbitant prices for frankly, piss poor services.

Without proper competition there is no incentive to build out the network. Actually, with no real competition the incentive becomes to create false scarcity and charge people multiple times for the same bandwidth they are currently using.

Unfortunately I don’t see any real competition coming anytime soon. It’s a very expensive game to get into delivering broadband on the national level and that takes some very deep pockets. Deep enough to discourage most from even trying to play.

Unbundling, in a similar fashion to the UK’s model for Local Loop Unbundling would create massive competition and drive down prices but, as always, the corporate lobbying machine won’t allow that to happen.

So I ask you AT&T: Why are you making it unfeasible for me to pay for new services such as Netflix? Why are you stiffing innovation? Why are you charging so much more than web hosts for considerably less bandwidth?

Why are you degrading your service for everyone instead of building it out? Why aren’t you building your network, improving speeds, offering better cheaper services and trying to draw in more customers, instead of raping the ones that you currently have?

AT&T’s Vizzini Moment


Inigo Montoya and Vizzini

Sara sent me a link to an Information Week article about the most recent piece of AT&T FUD regarding the iPhone coming to Verizon. Apparently it’s brown trousers time for AT&T’s  Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Larry Solomon, who sent the following statement to Business Insider:

“The iPhone is built for speed, but that’s not what you get with a CDMA phone. I’m not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane.”

The following brief chat occured via IM:

Sara: I love how in the artical that piece referenced, AT&T points out that on CDMA networks you can’t talk on the phone and browse the internet simultaniously, and because of that, they think customers will prefer AT&T’s “speed and functionality”. They need to check the definition of functional, because I do not think it means what they think it means.
Paul: AT&T’s Vizzini moment!

AT&T might want to spend some time watching The Princess Bride and pay attention to Inigo.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. – Inigo Montoya

Why AT&T Is On My Shit List Today

AT&T SucksAT&T’s right hand doesn’t know which customers it’s jerking off with it’s left one.

We have our broadband internet via DSL with AT&T  and on Monday I wrote a post complaining about how our connection speed had bottomed out over the course of the day. Not long after I wrote that post I posted to Facebook and Twitter that the speed had dropped even further. Shortly after that the connection was dead entirely.

Yesterday morning Sara called AT&T support  to find out what what was going and after doing the full of routine tests, (plug in the modem, wait 30 seconds, turn off the modem, with and without DSL filter etc.) with 3 different customer support agents (the call dropped once and we got cut off when they tried to transfer the call) we were told that they were testing and it showed no problems with our line.

We were informed that, while there was no problem with our line, their tests showed our modem was out of sync and would probably have to be replaced.

Needless to say we didn’t agree that the issue was the modem and weren’t exactly excited about the prospect of dropping $100+ dollars to get a new one. We are not exactly green behind the gills when it comes to this sort of thing.

We asked to have a technician come and check things out only to be told that they would not send a technician unless we replaced our modem with an AT&T one or a specific model Motorola one, which were told can be picked up at any Walmart.

This is apparently new company policy. No technician will be sent out unless they have first sent you a new modem.

In this scenario you may be stuck for days without an internet connection while you wait for a new one to arrive and after that doesn’t solve your problem, you’ll have to go back through the customer service BS and wait for them to schedule a technician who may, or may  not, arrive.

In our case, as we didn’ t already have an AT&T modem, we had to go buy one which after finding the nearby Walmart did not have the Motorola model, we purchased at the local AT&T store setting us back $110 (tax included).

We brought it home, drove past six AT&T vehicles working not 200 yards from our home, plugged in the new modem and wonder of completely unbelievable wonders, it didn’t work. The DSL light stayed flashing red like the eye of Satan in the midst of a blinking fit.

Sara got back on the phone with customer support, who again told us that our line was fine and it must be a defective modem. Yep, that’s right,  according to AT&T both our existing and the brand new modem were defective.

Using very small words and drawing pictures in crayon, Sara eventually got the message across that it was not the modem at fault and they agreed to send out a service technician before 5pm.

2:47 pm rolls around and the technician leaves a voice message on Sara’s cell telling her that he will be here to check the line in about 30 minutes.

6 pm rolls around and the the technician is still a no show.

Needless to say we still had no internet when Sara got home from work last night and we woke up this morning fully expecting to spend another morning on the phone with AT&T customer support.

Thankfully we were spared the terror of awakening to such a horrid fate.

As I dragged myself wearily towards the coffee machine this morning I glanced at the new AT&T router and it was showing a solid green DSL light. There it was, the new AT&T router that we were told by support must be defective, sitting there, taunting me with it’s solid green glow.

Just to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating from early morning coffee deprivation, I hooked up one of the laptops and went into the configuration screen. Everything worked, we were connected.

Once I knew the line was working, I unhooked the new defective working AT&T modem and setup up our old (defective according to AT&T) Actiontec modem.

Guess what? Go on I dare you to guess.

Our original Actiontec modem was working too. It’s amazing how these defective modems just magically start working again, isn’t it?

As soon as the store opened we returned the AT&T modem. We got a full refund and didn’t have to pay the $35 restocking fee but, needless to say, I am still extremely pissed.

On the way back, we passed 4 or 5 AT&T vehicles still working in the vicinity of our home and it’s rather obvious that whatever they were doing is the reason why the connection is back.

AT&T customer support could have told us that they were working in the area.

AT&T customer support obviously lied to us when they told us the line was fine and that both modems were defective.

AT&T’s technician didn’t even have the courtesy to ring and say he wasn’t going to arrive and left me waiting here for him.

AT&T cost us, time, money (charges, cell phone minutes and lost productivity), 2 trips to the AT&T store worth of gas and a crap load of aggravation all because they were too inept to say “we have people working in the area at the moment, your service will be restored in X hours”.

What are the chances of us ever being compensated for that? Big fat zero!

I cannot and will not recommend AT&T to anybody based on their customer service and the fact that is painfully obvious that there is very little communication, if any, between departments.

Slower Connection = Lower Productivity

Connection SpeedI know I’m stating the obvious in the title but I read recently about the FCC report, that states that the average broadband consumer is actually only receiving about 50% of the broadband speed they are paying for.

Up until this morning my broadband (through AT&T) has been one of the exceptions to the rule as I have been connecting at and receiving almost the full 3MB download speed. (Side note – According to AT&T 3MB is the fastest they can deliver to where I live).

Unfortunately being the exception to the rule looks to be a doomed carrier choice as I have been unable to connect at speeds above 1.1MB today.

It looks like early tomorrow morning I’ll be putting in a call to AT&T to do some serious complaining, unless the problem magically resolves itself overnight.

I must say that I am somewhat surprised by the impact that the cut in speed is having on my day.

Page load times are increased which means it takes longer to make changes in the backend of the CMSs powering my sites.

It takes longer to download the podcasts I listen to daily or to browse the days news in Google Reader, to upload images into posts or to preview videos before posting them to Daily Shite.

Also, when it comes to downtime and relaxing, the current connection speed will make it impossible to join my gaming clan on Skype while we play COD:MW2 online. So, if any of the BEIMs are reading this, you know why I’m not on.

I’ll be crossing my fingers until that the speeds will be back up before tomorrow and this is all just a temporary hitch.

What worm has chewed up Apple?

Has there been a culture change at Apple? Looking back over the past few months I believe there has and it hasn’t been one for the best.

It’s not that long ago since Apple was bending the recording industry over hot coals and bending them to their will. Apple forced them to stay at a fixed $0.99 per song for way longer than they (the recording industry) intended to or wanted to.

Yet since Apple capitulation to allow variable pricing in the iTunes store, things have started to go downhill.

Now Apple is the one succumbing to external pressure. Apple has blocked Google Voice and Google voice related apps from the App Store at the behest of AT&T, and now they are expecting us to believe the utter bullshit that jailbreaking your iPhone “encourages cell tower terrorism”.

What has happened at Apple? How has such an innovate company managed to suffer what appears to be a major culture shift?