RBAC problems wipe out AT&T DSL in California

RBAC problems wipe out AT&T DSL in California

Summary: If things weren't bad enough last night with the computer problems I had, things got worse when AT&T decided to do an unannounced maintenance.  This was sort of similar to the massive network outage last year where the network goes down but they don't even bother to tell their own first level support.

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TOPICS: Security, Outage, AT&T
33

If things weren't bad enough last night with the computer problems I had, things got worse when AT&T decided to do an unannounced maintenance.  This was sort of similar to the massive network outage last year where the network goes down but they don't even bother to tell their own first level support.  You call in to tech support and they tell you jump through a bunch of hoops and crawl under the table to find your cable modem model numbers and detach your router and all the usual nonsense.  Then they tell you that they might have to send a tech over the next day and how they won't charge you if the problem isn't on your end.  Well I knew the problem wasn't on my side so I demanded to be escalated to level 2 support where they confirmed my suspicions.

It turned out that AT&T was doing a 6-hour (12AM to 6AM) "maintenance" on a dozen of their California RBAC (Role Based Access Control) systems this morning which is their PPPoE authentication servers.  This is exactly what I suspected since my DSL light was still on indicating that the link to the DSLAM was operational.  The last place I lived two years ago my AT&T (SBC back then) DSLAM would die once a week so I know a DSLAM outage when I see one.  This kind of service is ludicrous to me because if you're doing this kind of authentication system maintenance, there should be redundant systems in place or they should simply let everyone on the network even if they can't authenticate.  It's not like anyone can steal DSL access that easily anyways and we're talking a short period of time.  I've run my authentication servers for many years without ever having an outage and it's ludicrous that AT&T would put their users through this nonsense.

In light of past cases where AT&T doesn't tell level 1 support about these maintenance and outage issues and putting their customers through tech support hell, this seems to be a systematic breakdown in AT&T's support infrastructure.  I don't know what it's going to take to knock some sense in to AT&T's customer support, but this just isn't acceptable.  It not only frustrates the level 1 support team and makes for unnecessary work on to the maintenance department; it's just plain bad customer service.

Topics: Security, Outage, AT&T

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33 comments
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  • Never been impressed with SBC's service

    These were the people who told me that DSL was available where I was living in the San Diego back country. I ordered the equipment accordingly, only to discover I was too far away from the exchange when I tried to set it up.

    Clearly it was SBC's corporate culture that became dominant when they bought out the old AT&T.
    John L. Ries
    • Maintenance window outage

      This all seems to be a bit overblown; a 6 hour outage during a maintenance window (midnight to 6:00 AM).

      Admittedly the level 1 customer service should have been contacted. Maybe they were but you got a call center that didn't "get the memo" so to speak.
      DEK46656
  • Plan B

    Get yourself cell phone that you can tether to your laptop with a flat-rate data plan.
    My N95 can be bluetooth linked and Ad. Hoc WAP. The latter is done with [url=http://www.joikuspot.com/]JoikuSpot[/url].

    Article showing N800 set up for JoikuSpot [url=http://www.atmasphere.net/wp/archives/2008/02/05/im-a-mobile-wifi-hotspot-with-joikuspot-light]here[/url].
    I've tested concurrent connections from the N800 and Laptop. Works splendidly.
    D T Schmitz
    • Well, those plans cost money and I don't have it

      Well, those plans cost money and I don't have it. I wouldn't mind having it for emergency though but it's too much money to justify for a short outage, for me at least.
      georgeou
      • Tell me you can't afford...

        ...cell phone with BT DUN support and an unlimited $20/month data plan.

        If your carrier supports 3G (EV-DO or HSPDA) you've got yourself a 1Mbps+ link!

        N95 is not required for BT DUN but is for Ad Hoc WAP.
        D T Schmitz
        • Where?

          So, where can I get unlimited high-speed data for only $20/month? I've been happy enough with T-Mobile, but that might get me to switch.
          _JohnH
          • AT&T MEdiaNet*

            *Requires 2-yr cell-phone contract commitment and compatible plan.

            I (this past summer) selected 450 minutes w/rolloever (the bottom rung) and MEdia Max 200 (200 SMS text message free) $19.99 at that time.

            Apparently now it's $15 but doesn't appear to include text messaging.

            Still, a good deal.
            D T Schmitz
        • "Unlimited" doesn't mean unlimited...

          "Unlimited" doesn't mean unlimited for cell phone data plans. There have been
          several news stories about people getting billed for several thousands of dollars
          because the "Unlimited" plan is actually limited to 5GBs a month (for AT&T anyway.)

          So if you're a regular road warrior dealing with large PDFs and files all day, you're
          going to amass a [i]very[/i] large phone bill.
          olePigeon
          • I have not found that to be the case...

            ...but I may not have hit the 5GB cap. I don't think most people will be dealing with large PDFs or some such, but your point is well taken. ;)
            D T Schmitz
  • RE: RBAC problems wipe out AT

    I can't understand why anybody would stay with DSL in the first place. Comcast's basic speed is right at double what I was able to get from Bell South, and so far has been much more reliable. I'd be as likely to revert to DSL as to XP, which is to say that I wouldn't consider it. The DSL was supposed to be a 3mbsp connection but was seldom even near that, whereas the cable is consistently fast. So far the only failure was when a tree got blown over nearby.
    CharlesEtheridge
    • In theory DSL should be better, but in practice I've had more luck with Com

      In theory DSL should be better because it isn't a shared pipe, but in practice I've had more luck with Comcast cable service. Of course that depends on where you live. If you're in a heavily saturated area with lots of people on a local cable loop, then it's often problematic. It's also problematic on latency during peak hours and they deal with this buy shooting down a few BitTorrent seeders by sending them packet resets. It's a crude compromise that angers a few people but makes most of the Comcast users breath a sigh of relief.
      georgeou
      • Funny, but...

        my experience has been exactly like yours, except for being exactly opposite. I've had both cable and DSL. It would take a lot of convincing to get me to ever give cable another shot. I had highspeed internet through Time Warner from 1998 - 2001 (Indianapolis) and Charter (Madison, WI) for a short period of time in late 2001. Both sucked. I could always expect dropping off both of their networks several times a day. I could also expect once every couple of months to lose service for a two or three day stretch. Since going DSL, I've had one outage that lasted more than an hour and maybe a half dozen that were longer than a minute or two. Luckily for me, those outages seem to take place at 1 or 2 in the morning where they don't affect me as opposed to the middle-of-the-afternoon outages I'd experience with cable. I'm sure there are people who wonder why I'd stick with cable for more than 3 years if I had so many problems. Had DSL been avaialable where I lived, I certainly wouldn't have. Better to have high speed that sucks some of the time than dialup that sucks all the time, expecially when you work remotely a good percentage of the time.
        jasonp9
      • I switch back to DSL

        Yeah it's slower than how fast my Cable internet was when Cable internet was at its fastest but the problem was my Cable internet was consistently giving me little better than dial up speeds. Actually worse than that really. After a year of fighting with their techs I went back to DSL. Then recently I got digital cable and the box wouldn't work at all. The tech comes out and finds something wasn't right on the line. They fix it a Cable works. So I asked him what this would do to Cable internet and he told me I'd be lucky to get that to even work. I just had to shake my head, I tried to tell that to internet techs but it takes TV tech to fix it after I've dumped there service.
        voska1
      • My "Comcastic" experience bit the big one..

        I moved from an area where Cox communications serviced (Southeast VA) and i had NO issues with their service and expected that is how cable internet should be (plus i was living in a city so it had to have been pretty congested). Well i moved to a Comcast servicing area (and the population was about half the size) and i CONSISTANTLY got less than 50% of the advertised "5mpbs" and during peak id be lucky to get 768k (and yes I was using a DOCSIS 2.0 compliant modem). After fighting with about 15 or so representatives and onsite techs..i went back to DSL and never looked back. Only way i would EVER go back to cable is if Cox Communications had the network.
        JT82
      • Same thing..

        Everyone has to share the DSLAM uplink back to whatever edge router serving your area. Whether it's media access contention in the case of a DOCSIS modem, or queuing/egress shaping to get through a concentration point, the end result is almost identical: you still have packets from many users trying to access a common resource - the neighborhood concentrator uplink, whether it's a cable-headend or a DSL access mux.
        NetArch.
        • It's not even close to the same thing

          It's not even close to the same thing. Upgrading the backhaul from the DSLAM to the backbone is at worst a router upgrade. At best it's changing the transceivers to multiplex more wavelengths of light over the same fiber link. It's nowhere close to the last-mile problem where you have up to 500 people sharing a single physical topology.

          Having said that, AT&T should be having fewer problems but they seem incapable of operating their support system smoothing and keeping a few authentication servers running. In my neighborhood they're simply too far away to deliver higher performance until they install a closer DSLAM in my area.
          georgeou
    • It depends entirely on your area

      And in the case of cable, your area of town even comes into play. DSL is the only choice in my town, and luckily for me it's been extremely reliable for the past four years.
      toadlife
    • DSL much better than cable for me.

      Where I live, the cable networks are shared by a large population, so the speeds I get at peak hours, or after 6pm on a weekday, or (god forbid) on weekends when no one seems to do anything but browse / torrent... are pathetic. I often get 1-5 Kbps (not Mbps). DSL is a far better option for me so I switched.
      kraterz
  • switch

    Change ISP. If you are attached to your ISP by contract, such case of unavailable service, which clearly force majeur, as it is due to their own planned maintenance, is clearly a way out of the contract.

    When they start loosing custumers and try to figure out why, they will come to their senses and change their practice.
    s_souche
    • My multi-unit dwelling complex bans Comcast

      My multi-unit dwelling complex bans Comcast and forces us to all pay for worthless basic analog cable which most of us don't use so that a few people can get their basic cable. I'm thinking about starting a petition with the neighbors.
      georgeou