Saturday, September 26, 2009

"I can't see the Internet anywhere"

What a 1st week in our new home it was. I thought I would take a little time this weekend and recap, what we had going on, and tell a cautionary tale of frustration, miscommunication and international intrigue. Before you start, you should know, this is no Billy Mumphrey story, this is what happens when a big company, in this case AT&T, tries to get bigger without providing lines of intercommunication.

It all started Thursday the 11th when I called a certain telecommunication company about getting internet in the home we were moving into over the weekend. Internet, as you know, is one of those American standards that has become as necessary as water and electricity, and one of the last luxuries to be cut out of a budget. People will stop watching TV before they stop getting the internet (probably, I don't have any facts or statistics to back me up, but think about it, which would you rather have if you could only have one.) Everything was all set to go, and the AT&T installer was going to be coming to my house Monday morning. All was right in the world, until...

Friday night I receive a phone call from an AT&T call center, who later identified that were in fact calling from India. They were calling to let me know that our house already had internet, and so didn't need another internet line from them. Not only that, but because there was a DSL line run to the house (which was not active that we could find,) they were canceling our order for us, so that we were not inconvenienced by getting working internet at our house. After about an hour on the phone, they suggested that I find out who owned the house before us and ask them to shut off their internet connection.

(This might be a good time to let you know a little bit about our house. We were looking for a house in a good area of Richardson, that was nice, and in our price range. We found a home that met all our requirements owned by a bank in California. Apparently, the previous owner defaulted on his loan and the house went into foreclosure. America is a great place, in that while something like that will show up on a credit report, the average person will never know about your financial failures unless you personally share this with them. As such, we had no method of knowing who the previous owner was, or how to contact them.)

Saturday we moved, and it went great. We had our families, and about 6 other friends that helped move all our stuff from our 3rd floor apartment into the house in about 3 hours. As we were finishing up, I got a call from a representative of AT&T here in Dallas who said everything was cleared up, they didn't know what the issue was, but they were keeping my appointment as planned for Monday morning. That night, the same person from the call center in India called back with other plans.

They informed me there was still an issue where the previous owner had an active business DSL line at our house, and that until it was cancelled, no one would be able to install internet, and that I would have to get in touch with them once I had cleared up the issue. They were informed that as current owner, I was authorizing them to disconnect any internet connection not under my name. They again let me know they could not, and I could not. Only the previous owner who was unreachable could cancel the internet. I spoke with a manager, who said pretty much the same thing, only with this annoying filler phrase "Let me let you know this one thing very clearly." It then was not clear, only fueled the frustration of feeling like I was not being listened to as the customer. He let me know that as an employee of U-verse, he was not able to access the DSL records, but the system said there was an issue, and they could proceed no further. He eventually hung up on me, and called back Sunday to let me know he had cancelled my order, and when the sales office opened on Monday, I could work with them to get a new order.

Needless to say, I called back Sunday and spoke with another 3 people in this call center who all told me there was nothing they could do. IF there was an issue with the business DSL line, which had now apparently become mine though I could not cancel it, I would have to speak with DSL support Monday, and then Sales. (It should be mentioned that DSL is no longer available through AT&T in my area, or anyone else for that matter, as they have run U-verse Fiber to every house in the area.)

As soon as the Sales center opened, I got on the phone and spoke with a Sales associate, who ended up being the Sales Manager that morning as they were experiencing "higher than usual" calls that morning. She was able to get everything set up to install that week, but Thursday was the soonest she could find. She transferred me to the local dispatcher, who within 30 minutes had an installer on his way at our original time.

Brad, who I unfortunately know pretty well now and is one of the few great people I spoke with at AT&T, came out to install our U-verse. He had everything run and ready to go in about an hour, turned everything on, and ran into a problem. A quick phone call to his support number uncovered the call center was correct, the house address was listed in their system as having internet, and was not permitted (by the FCC according to AT&T) to have another connection. Brad would spend 3 and a half more hours at our house that day trying to sort everything out and get everything working.

Eventually, I told him I could take over speaking with AT&T support trying to get the issue resolved. He said that once it was resolved, the router that he was leaving would just start working. I will never know if he was right. I spoke with a couple levels of support that day, and eventually a guy from the Dallas support center (which I later found to be customer retention) who said, he had found a number associated with the house, and was working to track down a way to disconnect it. His manager called at 8PM to say they were not sure whether the line was theirs, and that the FCC does not permit companies from disconnecting competitor lines. She suggested calling the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in the morning to find out what other phone providers were in the area, and if any of them had an active line at my address.

I called the PUC to find out who else could have been providing phone or internet service in an AT&T only area. THey couldn't find anything, but did offer to file an official complaint stating AT&T was denying me service.

I then called the local support number I had to see if I could get any further with them, they worked on something for several hours, said they found the business line, and were working to cancel it. That afternoon, I got a call from Debbie, who identified her self as Executive Support from the Office of the President of AT&T. (Yes, you read that correctly.) She said she was working on it for me, and to deal directly with her from then on.

I go a phone call about 2pm from the Dallas support manager who said they had found the source of the problem to be a dry A Dry Loop DSL line (I have learned in my time with AT&T this past week) is a line that has no phone number associated with it, as the customer does not want to pay for home phone service. The reason they were having an issue was not because it was a business line, and not because they needed the previous owner's authorization, but because they couldn't find it in their system since it didn't have a phone number. They rescheduled Brad to come back out Thursday, and said everything should be fine.

By the time Whitney was up with Egan we were seeing something happening with the router they gave us. It was getting signal from the U-verse line connected to our house. Brad came out and took a look at it, but still could not get us connected. HE spent another couple hours on the phone, and then let us know that he needed to get to another appointment, but that if he heard anything, he would call us. He gave us his cell number if we needed anything, and said if he didn't hear anything today, he would reschedule us for Friday and come by. After he left, we got a call from the local support office who wanted to see if everything was working. I let them know that know it was not, and they said they would see what could be done. I also tried a few times to get ahold of Debbie at the Executive Support office, but could not and my calls were not returned.

Brad called in the morning to let us know he was looking in on things from his computer, and was in communication with his last resort in the support office. He said this person had been able to get things going when no one else could. Within an hour or so, he called us back saying his person had been able to find the old DSL information still stuck on one of AT&T's servers, and had fixed it. He came, got everything ready, and a light that says Internet suddenly came on! We had internet, kind of. That morning, the AT&T activation servers had been "running slow" and had gone offline. We said goodbye to Brad, hoping not to see him anytime soon, and gave him a hearty lunch of warm chocolate chip cookies. Debbie called me back to make sure everything was ok, and that I was satisfied with the internet service we were not yet able to use. It took another hour for us to register our connection and then we were set.

What Have We Learned
AT&T is a big company made up of at least 3 companies, none of which can talk to each other. An issue that was their problem was pushed into being my responsibility, that I could do nothing about. Brad saved us as an AT&T customer. If not for his help and sincerity, we would have gone with cable internet in a heartbeat. I spent 250+ minutes on the phone with AT&T (w/ an AT&T phone that cost me time and minutes which they will not reimburse,) we had an installer in our house for nearly 8 hours. I spoke with 12 people at AT&T to get internet from them, and have received nothing for my troubles, but still will owe $150 for their installation. Finally, the internet is working, and working great.

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