Friday, July 2, 2010

AT&T U-verse: One Year Review

When we were shopping for cable and high-speed internet service upon our return to Milwaukee in mid-2009, we compared AT&T U-verse and Time Warner Cable. Our choosing U-verse was based on user experiences that we'd read online, as well as the two companies' respective offerings and a price/value comparison. Perhaps others will find the following summary of our U-verse experience for our first year helpful in making their decisions.

The installation is a somewhat time-consuming process that required custom cabling in the basement to enable our fairly simple configuration, but we haven't had many problems since; thankfully, we needed only one callback early on, and replacing the set-top box fixed it (hard drive problem). Every so often, we've had to reboot the set-top box due to a glitch, and while that's an automated process, it's also an iffy process that on occasion doesn't completely finish. That hasn't been necessary in a long time, however, and has worked better when it has. Our upstairs neighbors (we live in a 2-family duplex), in contrast, were about ready to rip the wires out of the wall. Multiple, frustrating technician callbacks and escalations were required for them to get their U-verse Internet working and keep it working, they said. Based on their reported experience as well as ours, my sense is that tech reliability is just a bit more problematical than the equivalent cable service.

Once U-verse is working, though, it's pretty fine. We love the high-def, especially for sports, travel, and science/nature shows. We love the DVR's multiple-channels-at-once capability, including the ability to program it remotely over the Web. The channel assortment is good (our U200 tier gets Fox Soccer Channel starting today!). We do have to pay an extra $10/month for the high-def channels that, by now, should be standard. As with cable, you're blacked out for regional sports channels other than your local teams (Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Minnesota Wild for us -- why oh why not Chicago Blackhawks, only 90 miles away???). Forget the music channels; they're basically worthless unless you want to burn your television screen with a channel title slide that doesn't move like a screensaver. The remote control clicker is laid out well, but its physical buttons are squishy and uncertain, causing multiple instances of "oh damn!" utterances and rekeying.

As for high-speed Internet, we have the mid-level service (nominally 6.0 Mbps, I think). Sometimes, and I don't know if this is AT&T's doing or a hinky wireless connection trying to penetrate from front to back in our old-construction building, my Dell laptop connectivity will slow to a crawl, nominally 1.0 Mbps but essentially shutting down, often when the machine's been idle for a while but sometimes during the running of online applications. I then turn off the laptop's wireless, turn it back on, and do the "repair" sequence. Usually that works. Once in a while I have to reboot the modem that's incorporated into the AT&T Gateway by unplugging and replugging the unit, a nuisance if someone else is watching television or using the Internet at the time. Lately it seems this has been happening more frequently, and I kind of correlate it with that court ruling that said carriers have the right to perform network management functions at their discretion; so I sometimes suspect I'm being throttled even though I'm not a high-volume user. No similar issue occurs when I'm using my directly-connected desktop computer, though, and my Beloved Spousal Unit's newer Dell laptop doesn't have the same wireless issue as often as mine, so maybe it's simply an underpowered radio in my little Dell machine.

We've had no problems with the AT&T phone line. Voice mail is a bit convoluted to use, although it's nice to retrieve voice messages online. Just recently, AT&T activated the extra-cool feature that shows the Caller's ID on the TV screen if we're watching television.

Billing and administration has been accurate, but the billing website's interface seems kind of klunky.

Overall, we're satisfied, though the monthly bill for the three services (about $163 including taxes) does take our breath away. If we would give up the house phone line, we could save $30, but we're old-school that way.

Time to turn on Ghana and Uruguay in World Cup Soccer. Television gets a bad rap for its commercialism and shallowness, but it certainly broadens your scope.

UPDATE (August 15, 2012): The AT&T U-verse service has continued to perform well for us.  A $15/month upgrade to the higher U300 tier of channels and a later downgrade back to our current U200 tier were both executed flawlessly, as was a $5/month downgrade from unlimited landline telephone service to a base plan.  The channels included in each tier have evolved over time; for example, if we want the new MLB Network, being baseball fans, we will have to upgrade once again to the U300 tier.

Late last week, we experienced a set-top box failure.  The picture froze suddenly, so we rebooted the box.  This began to happen repeatedly, including sometimes when we were checking the on-screen program guide.  The frequency of the picture freezes increased until they began to happen almost hourly.  Then we started to hear a tell-tale churning and grinding of the hard drive when they happened.  AT&T handled our phone call to tech support flawlessly, agreeing to send us a replacement box via UPS Standard Overnight delivery service; it arrived the day after our call.  The self-install instructions were simple, and the U-verse TV service was switched back on that evening, as promised.  (High-Speed Internet and Telephone service were not interrupted in any part of this process.)  We now have to send back the damaged set-top box from a UPS store, prepaid by AT&T, within ten days; no problem.  Assuming the company receives and credits our equipment return promptly and properly, I would give the company full marks for the service transaction.

While the exchange of boxes meant that our previously recorded programs on the DVR disappeared, our future schedule of programs and series to be recorded survived the exchange.


  1. thanks for the review and the update, sir. well put and had all infos i was looking for.



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