May 28, 2002
6:56 PM   Subscribe

Are you an AT&T Broadband cable internet customer?
Did you buy your cable modem to save on your monthly fee?
You made a mistake.
posted by darukaru (33 comments total)
Or, rather, AT&T made it into a mistake.
posted by darukaru at 6:57 PM on May 28, 2002

All those Gateway customers thought they were getting a deal with that free cable modem with their PC purchase. Oops.
posted by fleener at 7:07 PM on May 28, 2002

AT&T will include in the next statement six coupons for $7 off monthly service, letting modem owners off the hook for the new rates until January

At least they're giving modem owners time to find a new provider.
posted by dchase at 7:15 PM on May 28, 2002

As if AT&T service hasn't been bad enough. I've had several problems with bad service and it usually takes a good 30 minutes of tech support and two weeks to get someone out to fix it, if they show up at all. Although this kind of price hike really annoys me to death, the article is correct that there is not really any better alternatives or cheaper alternatives for broadband (at least here in Atlanta).
posted by rks404 at 7:29 PM on May 28, 2002

All those Gateway customers thought they were getting a deal with that free cable modem with their PC purchase. Oops.

Well, they're still saving three dollars a month, so it's not all bad, it's less than the ten dollars a month they were saving before, but it's still three dollars.
posted by bobo123 at 7:33 PM on May 28, 2002

my experience with att includes:
  • incompetent customer service, both supporting staff and installation staff
  • standing policy that if you relocate you lose your username and all data associated with it (email etc) without any warning
  • requests to recover this data denied, no escalations allowed for this service request
not sure the bandwidth is worth $35.... seems we need some legislation or something because everyone in the states should have broadband (at least incoming). perhaps wireless will move beyond r&d soon and solve this problem????
posted by greyscale at 7:37 PM on May 28, 2002

Well, I can understand about the incompetent support staff, considering that all of the regional offices were closed last June and the residential technical support was outsourced to another firm.

I'm an AT&T Broadband customer, and I had no idea that modem purchase had been rolled out nationwide at this point. I'm surprised 10 percent of customers actually own modems.

Greyscale: as for losing email addresses, do you mean relocating between different parts of the AT&T network or between different addresses in the same cable system? If you're just moving house in the same metro area, your account shouldn't be affected, or at least it never used to be before the big switchover a few months back; it's a simple account transfer in the billing system. If you moved before, in the past 4 years or so, and lost your email address, it was because each cable system had separate databases for email and they didn't exactly communicate with each other (that's for the old MediaOne systems, I don't know about the former TCI ones.)
posted by Electric Elf at 7:54 PM on May 28, 2002

For the average customer, their cable modem has probably already paid for itself with initial savings. And for those who haven't, the cost will even out in 3 years, meaning owners of cable modems still save money. And their monthly bill is lower. It is just the provider has acknowledged it is expensive to provide the service, and that the hardware component really isn't that big of an outlay in and of itself.

Bandwidth is expensive, and they are acknowledging this with raising prices, and the prices are raised to levels which are consistent, and in some cases, lower than the industry standard.

The complaints regarding hardware purchase don't seem very relevant. Someone paid $299 for a PS2 a day before Sony dropped the price to $199. Somebodies cell phone cost them $100, while someone else 2 days later got the same phone for free with their service. It's just how it goes sometimes.
posted by benjh at 8:00 PM on May 28, 2002

Bandwidth is expensive

Can you document this claim? Or is it so simply because AT&T says it is so?
posted by rushmc at 8:18 PM on May 28, 2002

are you just being obtuse, rushmc?

Bandwidth is expensive. Ask anyone who's in charge of a corporate net-infrastructure. Bandwidth prices at a colocation facility will run you at about $800 per megabit of sustained transfer per month. Probably half of that goes to the uplink providers. ATT can't own pipe and server space everywhere, so they're probably paying comparable prices for bandwidth on networks they don't own. Granted, they probably get sweet deals due to their size and the amount of business that they do...but it's still expensive.

As consumers we get bandwidth cheap because they hedge on a bet that we can't do a sustained megabit per month. Every minute that you don't use your internet connection, the broadband company makes money. As P2P continues to grow and as people run FTP sites off their cable modems, and as more people figure out how to download spuderman from irc, the bet being made by the ISP is getting riskier and riskier. And that is showing up in price hikes, failed DSL companies, and in some service providers putting in speed caps. Some ISP in canada just announced that it was going to start metering traffic. Why? Because it *is* expensive and someone has to pay for it, and it might as well be the people that use the bandwidth.

Mind you, I probably gank about 20-30gig off the net each month, so I'm not *happy* about the future prospects of broadband. Heck, right now I'm getting a deal, cuz you know what? Bandwidth is expensive, and I'm getting way more than I'm paying for.
posted by jaded at 9:04 PM on May 28, 2002

The expensiveness of bandwidth is debatable, with arguments coming down on both sides of the matter. I'd hardly say "bandwidth is expensive" without at least some kind of qualifying statement.
posted by majick at 9:14 PM on May 28, 2002

Oh yeah, and failed DSL companies are primarily a symptom of questionable defensive practices by the ILECs against the CLECs that provide DSL infrastructure. The ISP end of the equation still has profit potential for a well-run business.
posted by majick at 9:18 PM on May 28, 2002

If you're just moving house in the same metro area, your account shouldn't be affected

I'm sure this varies region to region, but my experience in the SF Bay Area is if you move between cities (staying within our large "metro area"), you need to open an entirely new account (new username, webspace, etc). I am told this is because each city has its own cable franchise deal, so you are theoretically (very abstractly) switching cable operators (so your cable TV also needs a new account). This is a pain in the a$$ indeed, and an unexpected one if you are just moving a couple miles away across the city line. The only possible benefit is that you can take advantage of their new customer incentives (a few months free or reduced or whatever is the enticement of the moment). Also, (I don't know if this was MeFi'd before) some good news is the Bay Area's upstream speed has been increased to 256kbps (though it is annoying that it is capped at all.)
posted by girlhacker at 9:21 PM on May 28, 2002

A family member signed up with ATT, but the installation software faulted. The Internet is accessible, but everytime the PC is booted, a registration screen pops up, prompting you to press the "next" button. Problem is, there's no "next" button on the screen, and the instructions wrap off into a window that cannot be scrolled or resized.

A "full install" was paid for, which included a tech visiting the home, only to say my relative would have to fight between Gateway and ATT over who would provide instructions on editing the Windows registry to get the registration program nixed. Apparently the CD shipped with the PC was not compatible with the latest version of XP. Oh joy.
posted by fleener at 9:24 PM on May 28, 2002

Bay Area's upstream speed has been increased to 256kbps (though it is annoying that it is capped at all.)
This has also happened (that I know of) in Texas and Pennsylvania; I'm guessing it's a nationwide policy change.
posted by darukaru at 9:35 PM on May 28, 2002

I own a cable modem for use with ntl, for which I save £5 a month. New customers aren't allowed to use their own, they have to rent them from ntl. Even more stupidly, if I wanted to change my d/l speed from 512kb/s to 1Mb/s I'd have to start renting. I just hope my cable modem will pay for itself before ntl's accountants start sniffing.
posted by salmacis at 12:43 AM on May 29, 2002

salmacis: my ntl cable modem is in the back of my cable set top box. We just plug a long ethernet cable from there to here. I don't really expect a broadband price rise from ntl/telewest though. (at least until they finally merge) What they will do is try and upsell you into more expensive faster bandwidth packages.
posted by nedrichards at 2:55 AM on May 29, 2002

ned: Are you in an ex-C&W area? How much are you paying for your broadband access, £20 or £25? I think I agree with you that ntl won't dare raising their prices while DSL is still coming down. It would be no skin off my nose to cancel ntl and go with Sky for the TV and BT for the DSL/phone.
posted by salmacis at 3:37 AM on May 29, 2002

jaded has understood. I pay out of my nose for my bandwidth like most europeans. It is expensive, and 35 USD a month, pah! I should be so lucky!
posted by dabitch at 3:39 AM on May 29, 2002

Shitlist.Add ('ATT');
posted by PrinceValium at 5:48 AM on May 29, 2002

perhaps wireless will move beyond r&d soon and solve this problem????

Wireless is a good solution to high-bandwidth/low-cost internet access. 2mb/sec for around $40.00/month is what I set up for my parents.

The problem with wireless, and the reason for it not moving past the R/D stage yet is weather. There are 3 companies trying to set up wireless in the rural area my parents live in, two of them have been unsuccessful, simply because of thunderstorms and blooming trees.

Also, for some the equipment costs are prohibitive. Approximately $600-$1000 for the needed antenna, PC cards, wireless access points, etc.

I have AT&T Broadband. The install staff has absolutely no clue regarding the Mac OS, and I have an upload cap of 125k/sec. I rent my modem. I was planning on purchasing one, but not now. I have had excellent service, aside from the initial installation.

The thing I don't get is, if the new pricing structure is because modem costs are going down, why penalize those who bought the modems? Wouldn't it be better to raise rental rates on the modems, thereby offering people a new reason to buy instead of rent, and also reducing support costs on those modems (when mine has problems, i call AT&T; if I bought a modem, I'd call RCA or whoever made my modem)?
posted by schlaager at 6:25 AM on May 29, 2002

ATT has been on my shitlist ever since they disallowed me to access my personal site from anywhere but an ATT connection, they suck, but where I live it's the only option.
posted by bittennails at 7:03 AM on May 29, 2002

I got a pre-recorded message on yesterday (Tuesday, May 28) saying I needed to "update some account information." No biggie, I thought, so I logged onto AT+T Broadband's site to "chat" with a customer service rep. Basically, I had to provide my cable modem's model number and serial the time I had no real idea why, I guess I thought it was just to "update" my account information. Now I guess they were checking up on me to see if they could tack on some more charges to my account...but I "rent" from ATT, so I guess i'm "off the hook."

Another thing, if anyone has considered using ATT customer service online chat, don't. The disjointed, inhuman conversation you have with someone (allegedly a real person) is nearly impossible to follow...and it becomes painfully obvious that these customer service reps are just following a script (the fact that there is insane lag time between sentences makes this terribly awkward). I asked the guy I was chatting with why they needed my modem info and I was told, simply "To update my account," and when I asked if that was all I needed to do, he replied, verbatim, "I guess so."

posted by tpl1212 at 7:37 AM on May 29, 2002

salmacis: yes it's ex C&W for £25 a month. xDSL doesn't reach me for some reason so we haven't got any other options. I do rather like the idea getting TV, Internet and Phone all from the same people though you have to hope that economies of scale are operating.

From their public pronouncements 9and we all know just how accurate these are) I don't think the UK cable companies will institute bandwidth caps just yet. They're too busy selling broadband as an 'Internet Pro edition' to needlesly shoot themsevles in the foot like that. I wouldn't be suprised if they ask for some governemnt assistance to 'build broadband britian' by 'cutting the digital divide' or 'fulfilling soundbite politics' though.
posted by nedrichards at 7:54 AM on May 29, 2002


I hope that was actually AT&T.

To me, that sounds like someone who is trying to get your account information trying to be AT&T.

posted by andryeevna at 8:17 AM on May 29, 2002

are you just being obtuse, rushmc?

Bandwidth is expensive.

You miss my point, jaded. Obviously, bandwidth is currently expensive from the perspective of the enduser. What I am asking is whether that is justified by the providers' actual costs or whether it is expensive because they decide it is going to be expensive in order to maximize profits.

In other words, what's the markup?
posted by rushmc at 10:37 AM on May 29, 2002

And for those who haven't, the cost will even out in 3 years, meaning owners of cable modems still save money.

How do you figure that, benjh? Just checking on Pricewatch, the cheapest cable modem available is the 3COM OfficeConnect, which is notoriously difficult to set up. I don't even know if AT&T supports it; some ISPs don't. The next cheapest is a Motorola at $62 after a $30 rebate. Plus shipping, lets say $5, so $68. 3 x 12 = 36. So double your estimate to just under 6 years to get your money back. Assuming nothing goes wrong with your modem for that length of time. Heck even 3 years is an eon in the computer world. And during that period you are locked into cable technology, regardless of what comes along in the DSL alternative...IF you want to make your money back.

Sorry, doesn't sound like a great investment to me. $10 a month is a steep rental fee, but when cable modems were well over $100, I didn't mind too much. Gave me the flexibility to say to hell with them and go to DSL if the pricing situation changed. Now that the modem prices have been dropping, I've been considering buying one. But I can't see that it's worth it with the new pricing structure.

I was pretty happy with Mediaone. When AT&T bought them out, prices went straight up while support took a nose dive. I keep hoping Comcast will take over and straighten out the mess AT&T has created.
posted by norm29 at 10:41 AM on May 29, 2002

So double your estimate to just under 6 years to get your money back.

Actually, using your numbers, it's under two years to get your money back; I can't even begin to guess where you got six from. If you save $36 a year by buying instead of renting, and the modem costs $68...?
posted by kindall at 12:31 PM on May 29, 2002

56kbps looks better and better. I have a direct comparison (have a T1 at work) and there's simply nothing the T1 gives me that I'd pay an extra five bucks a month to have at home, let alone fifty.
posted by jfuller at 12:57 PM on May 29, 2002

I have a direct comparison (have a T1 at work) and there's simply nothing the T1 gives me that I'd pay an extra five bucks a month to have at home, let alone fifty.

Good, more for the rest of us then! ;)

I'm seriously considering getting a 768 SDSL line to my house. This will cost four times what I'm paying now for 768/128 ADSL, but compared to what half a T1 used to cost, it's cheap. It compares favorably in price to colocating even one server. And it'll be alllll mine.
posted by kindall at 1:42 PM on May 29, 2002

Oh, and by the way, if you're a prior MediaOne customer, they'll be lowering your upload speed as well.

Good grief.

Now, as far as "making a mistake" by buying my cable modem, I beg to differ. I did that about 8 months ago (as soon as it was allowed) and have therefore saved $80 so far -- which paid for the modem. Now I'm still saving $3/month, which granted ain't what it used to be, but it's still better than nothing.

It's interesting how this article spins it, and how AT&T is spinning it. Basically AT&T is raising the monthly rate for everyone, but at the same time lowering the monthly cost for leasing a modem. So owning your modem still SAVES you money, just not as much as it used to. You basically have to plan on using the modem for 2 years or so for your investment to start to pay off. Previously it paid itself off in 8 months or so.

I like how AT&T is basically taking advantage of those folks who have already bought hardware, and thus are not as likely to bail on the service. The only thing sneakier would be if AT&T had made money pushing and selling said cable modems in the first place.
posted by Fofer at 3:03 PM on May 29, 2002

Within urban areas AT&T's service record gets even worse, at times. Their coverage within the city of Chicago is spotty at best: Don't assume because you can get it here that you can get it across the street.

Obviously, there must be lines drawn somewhere, but at the present time it seems they've created bubbles without service available all over the city. I can trace the cause for my own building: no threat.

Why should they begin sending cable Internet service to my building when the landlord won't let any of the competition in? Why should they take the risk now if it's very likely to still be their monopoly later on?

This comes back to the landlords, of course, many of whom still believe that the city restricts them to a single possible provider. These laws changed over two years ago, but apparently that's when AT&T started playing hardball with the landlords: "We'll bring cable Internet service to your building, but you have to sign this contract."

It includes provisions giving AT&T ownership of the existing (as well as any added) wiring in the building forever.
posted by theRegent at 9:33 AM on May 30, 2002

Also, when opening multiple accounts with them (i.e. cable TV and cable Internet) be careful how you communicate with them. I would up with 3 accounts for two different services. One of those accounts was billing two services.

Six months later, the problem is finally cleared up with them (supposedly) now I get the joy of getting them to clear up the smear their shoddy internal organization sent out against my credit report.
posted by theRegent at 9:35 AM on May 30, 2002

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