This hasn't been a kind week to me when it comes to DSL service from AT&T as I've already gone through AT&T DSL setup hell earlier this week. On Saturday when I set up a few extra things for my mother's home, I ran some DSL speed tests (during non busy hours at a nearby test server at 19ms away) on the 768 kbps $15/month basic DSL service. To my disappointment, the "broadband" connection performed at roughly 318 kbps.
This made me wonder if I should have her upgrade to the $20/month service which promises up to double the download performance. Since my mother's neighbor has the $20/month DSL service which supposedly gets up to 1536 mbps, I went over to his house to run the same speed test. To my surprise, he got an average of about 310 kbps which is even slower than my mother's connection even though he's been paying $5/month more for quite some time. Now as you can imagine this didn't sit very well with either one of us so we both called AT&T tech support to see what's going on. I was told by AT&T that the basic $15/month service has a speed range of 224 to 768 kbps. My mother's neighbor was told that he should expect anywhere between 300 to 1536 kbps for his $20/month service.
Note: If you're a DSL customer (or any broadband customer), it's a good idea to run a speed test here at DSLReports.com and see how much throughput you're actually getting for your money.
When I look at AT&T's website and their advertising, only the higher throughput number is quoted with the "up to" phrase which means they're technically covered legally though it's quite deceptive in reality. I have the same $20/month service at home and I'm getting around 1200 kbps service which is still significantly short of the 1536 kbps advertising and I've been told there is no higher speed DSL service because I'm situated too far from the DSL CO (Central Office). But when I think about my Mother's neighbor essentially paying $5 more for zero extra service, I have to wonder how many other AT&T customers get the same raw deal. Ethically speaking, AT&T shouldn't even offer the $20 service to customers who they know won't get more than 768 kbps of performance.
I would have published this blog post last night except the DSL service here at my mother's house has been down as of 1:00 AM (turns out I can't use the line splitter/filter anymore
for some reason. Turns out that there's noise in our outside box that they have to fix.). On Thursday when my mother tried to set up her friend's AT&T DSL account in the middle of the day and was speaking to the tech support person, she was told that she had to wait because the DSL service was down. Outages seem to be a regular occurrence with AT&T/SBC and they seem to bounce their services anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour on a regular basis with zero explanation. Earlier this year the service was out all night and I was told it wasn't an outage because it was a scheduled maintenance and that somehow also excused them from notifying their customers.
The Comcast service where I lived - while more expensive at $35/month - had always been a lot more reliable and substantially faster at around 5 mbps and they don't make you do this PPPoE nonsense. Unfortunately I live in one of these backward housing complexes where the Senior citizens negotiated bundled basic analog cable and they locked out Comcast in our complex so AT&T is essentially the only game in town. While AT&T DSL is one of the cheapest broadband services around, it's also one of the crappiest.
Update - If getting no better service for paying extra money wasn't bad enough, it turned out that my mother's neighbor was actually switched from $15/month service to $20/month service automatically without his permission during his contract period. At the time he figured it was no big deal so "1.5 mbps" service didn't sound like a bad deal for an extra $5/month. Yesterday when he found out he was being ripped off, he called AT&T and asked for an explanation and was told that the service is actually rated from 300 kbps up to 1536 kbps. Since he was only getting 310 kbps which was essentially the same as my mother's so-called 768 kbps service, he asked to be reverted back to the $15/month basic DSL plan. To his surprise he was told by AT&T's agent that he couldn't do that and the $15/month service is only for new customers. He had to demand to speak to a supervisor before he was allowed to revert to $15/month service.
Furthermore, my mother's neighbor was sent a letter by AT&T telling him that his initial contract was up and that he would continue to get the same rate if he stayed on with AT&T. But when the time came, his bill went up to $30/month for the same "1.5 mbps" 310 kbps service and he had to call AT&T to get them to follow through with their promise. I have no problem believing his story because the same thing essentially happened to me and I had to call to get my price adjusted as well. If we had not looked at our phone bills, we would have continued paying the higher rate.
Piling on the complaints, my mother told me that she was contacted this month the day by an AT&T salesperson to sign up for DSL the day after she already signed up for basic DSL service online. When she told the salesperson she had already signed up online for basic DSL service, the salesperson told her that there was no basic DSL service any more and she needed to sign up for the more expensive $20/month service. When she explained again that she had already successfully signed up for the basic service, the salesperson finally gave it up.
I'm pretty sure that these can't be isolated incidents so be sure post in the talkback section below and share some of your broadband hell stories.