Saturday, March 06, 2010

The ATT UVerse Installation

One advantage of difficult economic times is that vendors are more solicitous. I think that's why Comcast lost my business. Because they're sitting around with nothing to do, they accelerated their schedule of deleting channels from the analog part of their cable and moving them to something called a digital tier. This is why I lost the cable channels that I care about last Tuesday, March 2nd.

Had they given me a little more advanced warning, I might not have been so upset with them. As it happens, I DID get notice that they would be moving the channels to the digital tier as of THURSDAY, March 4th. And they did send me notice in writing of this change on FRIDAY, March 5th.

I found it amusing to receive a letter from Comcast on the 5th after having canceled my service on the 4th.

This is what happened on the 4th of March: I woke up a bit early and got a phone call from someone named Melanie of ATT asking if it would be all right to show up in 20 minutes for installation. Happily, this call had happened after I had asked ATT to come out just two days before. (Yes, it was the same night Comcast goofed up my service.) ATT had promised a service technician would be by between 9 and 11 on the 4th and she was indeed there at 9:00am. Good move.

I showed Melanie where everything was and what all had to be hooked up. It's a complicated install. I've got an extensive home network of computers and Tivos talking to various TVs upstairs and downstairs.

She had to install a new telephone network interface box on the outside of the house, too. I went into work and left Dan there to answer any questions and to give me a shout if there were anything he couldn't answer. I worked until about noon and came back to check on the install.

Sure enough Melanie was having difficulty with my firewall to my network. She understood the problem better than I did, but it took a bit of to-and-fro for me to see this. Just as well, I have to maintain my network and I have to understand how my equipment talks to (or fails to talk to) ATT's equipment.

Really sweet, too. The ATT firewall, router, wireless access point (802.11n) is a lovely bit of kit. But it wouldn't talk nice to my Linksys firewall who is in charge of doling out DHCP stuff to the computers scattered about my house. We decided to just bypass my firewall altogether and concentrate on getting Melanie's work done. After we redid some Ethernet cables, my basement computer was talking to the internet fine. After a bit more work we got Dan's laptop talking to the ATT's wireless. We had Internet!

Another gotcha. Each digital cable box now needs Ethernet going to the TV. It might make do with the coax, but I might as well go with that, right? This caused a bit of a problem with the Family Room Tivo. It has an Ethernet cable and giving another Ethernet cable to the ATT Uverse box required me to grab an Ethernet switch/hub from downstairs and press it into service. (This introduced a new problem I'll get to.)

I happened to have an Ethernet coupler and this enabled me to join two cables into something long enough to run from one end of my basement (where the ATT router was) to the other end (where my TV & 2nd Tivo was). That got the ATT cable box (and DVR) connected OK. We didn't have a cable for the basement Tivo, so that had to wait until tonight.

And then Melanie got the phones working. That was almost too easy.

With Internet, cable TV, and phones all working, I was a happy camper. But one bit of business was hanging over my head. Using my newly ATT Uverse connected telephone, I called up Comcast.

The recording came on. I didn't want to press 1 or press 2 or press 3. Finally, the recording said, "If you are considering canceling Comcast press 4." Ah, quandary. I wasn't CONSIDERING anything. That ship had sailed two days earlier. I pressed 4.

Comcast has never been so nice to me on the phone as they were that day. The girl was willing to offer a remarkably low rate to stick with them. I wondered silently why they didn't offer me this rate a long time ago? Or when they decided to move the channels I watch to the "digital tier" while giving me FOUR government access channels to enjoy.

I talked to the girl for a few minutes as I explained as politely as I could that I have grown to despise Comcast for problems like this one and last Tuesday was the Last Straw. Finally, I said, "Lady, the ATT Uverse gal just finished the install five minutes ago. I'm canceling my Comcast service."

OK, she asked, when would I like that to be effective? Smart question. Let me think about that. How about yesterday? No, that won't be possible. Well, how about the earliest moment when it is possible? OK, she'll make it effective the 4th. Yeah, that will be good.

"Will there be anything else?"

"Yes, I've had several billing disputes with you people in the past. How much do I owe you?"

She quoted a number that corresponded to my last bill that goes through the 21st of March.

"But didn't I just cancel service effective the 4th?"

"Then we'll pro-rate the bill based on the number of days between the 4th and the 21st."

"Fair enough. How much do I owe you?"

She quoted a figure that was half the first number she had said. I repeated the number aloud for my son who was present to hear. And I wrote the figure on my whiteboard. I thanked her and rang off.

Yesterday I wrote a letter summarizing the phone conversation with a check for this amount and submitted it with my last bill from Comcast. (A word to the wise, if you expect anything promised you over the phone, commit it to writing at your first opportunity.) If I were smarter, I'd have written and dated this letter on the 4th.

What will you bet they screw up this bill, too?

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