Miramar area DSL problems

Letter

Posted by
Wed, September 1, 2010


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We experience poor DSL service from AT&T.  Because I work from home and use the Internet extensively, it is vital to me that DSL service function properly.  Comcast does not service this area.  If you also have DSL service in or near the Miramar area, you probably are experiencing DSL problems also.

I am reaching out to you because I believe that we are more likely to cause AT&T to make the necessary investment that would provide good DSL service if we all share a common understanding of what the issues are, and know how to effectively act on that information.  If you get your service from Coastside.net you are also affected by these issues because AT&T provides the basic connectivity.  My hope is that this letter will give you the information for you to discover if your service is substandard, and the instructions on how to navigate AT&T will allow you to add your voice to mine in requesting an improvement in service quality for this neighborhood.

Symptoms are any of the following: Internet videos such as YouTube and Netflix do not play smoothly; web pages take a long time to load; downloads go very slowly; voice conversations using Skype do not work well and/or your modem lights frequently turn red.

The main reason for poor DSL service is that AT&T’s central office (often referred to as the CO) is too far away, in downtown Half Moon Bay.  DSL is not supposed to reach this far.  However, before moving here I contacted AT&T to verify that DSL was available for this neighborhood, and I was told that 3Mb/s was available.  Based on that information we moved in.  The first problem, then, is that AT&T’s sales team is selling a defective product.  AT&T can make this right by investing in additional equipment.

Since December I have reported problems to AT&T many times, and we have had ten visits to our premises by AT&T technicians.  During their visits, the technicians have told me that they discovered additional reasons for poor service quality: corroded connections in the demarcation box outside of our house; a corroded connector buried across the street, corroded wires on the poles; a bad circuit in the central office and server software issues.  Our service has been downgraded from 3Mb/s to 1.5Mb/s with no improvement.  In summary, the equipment in this area suffers from salt air corrosion, AT&T’s equipment on the telephone poles and in the CO is old and the central office that serves this area is too small for the population that it serves.

There is a web page at http://myspeed.smrn.com/ that will show you if you have the same types of issues that I am describing. In addition to the upload and download speed, it also displays “Quality of service”, “Round trip time” and “Max pause”.  When you load this web page notice the button on the top left corner.  You must press this button in order to start the test.  The button is located where the download and upload speeds are shown it disappears once you push it. If you want to rerun the test, you must reload the web page and push the button again.

I find that the test results vary considerably each time I run a test.  This demonstrates that the service quality is unstable.  For our service (1.5Mb/s down, 384Kb/s up), download speed should be at least 1.25Mb/s (1,250,000 bits per second.)  As you can see, the test results show about 67% of that.  Upload speed should be approximately what is shown, however the extra information displayed is vital: quality of service is only 25%; a figure of at least 98% is desirable.  Round trip time of 27ms is acceptable; however I frequently encounter numbers over 500ms (half a second.)  Max pause is 1032ms (over one second) – that means that data packets stopped flowing during the test for over one second.  No wonder we experience problems with the Internet!  Sometimes the test results are better, sometimes they are worse.

You can report a problem to AT&T by calling 877-722-3755 and saying “repair” when prompted, and then say “Internet” when prompted.  You will be connected to a tier 1 service representative, most likely in India.  Describe the problem as a slow data rate and uneven test results.  Ask that they test the line.  While the tier 1 service representative runs their test, rerun the test on the web page that I described above.  You may find that your service improves until the AT&T tier 1 test stops.  This is important, and if this occurs this shows that the problem is not on your end.  This also means that tier 1 support cannot detect the problem, because running the tier 1 test temporarily fixes the problem; a tier 2 technician told me that running the test increases the priority of the circuit under test.  If tier 1 tells you that they could not find a problem, ask to be connected with a tier 2 technician.  The tier 2 test, likely run from Little Rock Arkansas or Oakland California, is more extensive and is more likely to find problems.  Ask them to tell you about the test results in detail, and take notes.  You may hear terms like “redback”, “rip and rebuild”, “DSLAM”, “interleaved mode”, “ports” and “router”.

AT&T’s departments do not have the ability to view each other’s notes, so it is up to you to communicate what you are told by each department, and when they said it.  I recommend you also write down the employee ID and get the name of each representative you speak to.  Be aware that some representatives give false employee IDs.

A DSL technician may be dispatched to your residence. AT&T will tell you that if a problem is found inside your building that you may be billed.  My experience is that I have not been billed.  Some technicians want to get in and out as fast as possible; others go the extra mile and try everything possible to bring your service up to specification.  Pay attention to what the technician says, and take notes.  Ask for the technician’s business card.

Dispatch status is open 8am-8pm 888-720-1275 x2 x2 (call to follow up on open trouble tickets.)  You can ask for a maintenance manager between 8am – 10pm Monday to Friday.

Here is contact information for some of the technicians who have visited.  It is likely that you will be visited by one of them:
Tommy Chang (DSL) 650-575-9885, supervisor: Matt 572-6855
Ning Sun (DSL) 650-787-4125 (he trained many of the other DSL technicians)
Harry Nghi (DSL) 650-714-8204
Garry Gretter (cable) 650-483-9598

All of the technicians listed above are DSL repair technicians, except for Garry Gretter, who is a cable repair technician.  One of the cable group’s responsibilities is to fix faults on the telephone poles found by the DSL technicians.

After a visit, rerun the test I told you about.  If the numbers are bad, call 877-722-3755 again, and again, and again, every day until the problem is resolved.  The goal is to become recognized as a “chronic caller”.  If you let a few weeks go by between complaints you won’t achieve that status.  Chronic callers are automatically escalated in priority.  Hopefully if an entire neighborhood has a high incidence of chronic callers AT&T will do something.

There are two other groups at AT&T that you might want to get in touch with.  I have not had success with them.  I suspect that their reason for existence is just to keep unhappy customers at bay:
Broadband Customer Care Assurance Department at 877-722-3755 (ask for this department by name)
Complaints 866-557-1575

Please share your experience.


Do you have a thread going on the relevant forum on broadbandreports.com? It may catch the attention of someone who does care and wants to fix this. Hope you can get some resolution!

Michael, I had AT&T copper in my previous place but it was close to the CO and we had really good DSL throughput via DSLExtreme.  I was also told the copper was fairly new-ish.  Apart from the condition of the wires and the CO distance itself I can offer you anecdotal input on the service level / QoS issue in general: AT&T tends to suck even if the copper is good and you’re close to the CO, compared to the QoS you’ll get from going through a different network provider.

If what you’re dealing with is in fact CO distance and bad/old copper and infrastructure, I’d wager you will have better luck switching to Comcast’s cable modem based internet service than getting AT&T to “fix” it.

Yeah, Comcast is yet another behemoth with asinine customer support and not particularly competitive rates, and they have some nasty throttling policies, but, FWIW, I work from home 3 out of 5, run servers and do some fairly heavy lifting in terms of network activity out of my home office, and haven’t really had much to complain about since moving 6 blocks down the street and removing AT&T from my life entirely, using Comcast for internet access and Skype + VOIP for phone service.

Tangentially.. Comcast’s television service however, I don’t use, they don’t have HD as far as I know (yet) despite plans to implement it on the coastside, and there have been some brief interruptions of my Comcast service (un-announced, the last one about a month and half ago, and none since) due to infrastructure upgrades they’re doing to be able to bring HD here.  So there’s that.

Good luck.

Comment 3
Wed, September 1, 2010 8:16pm
Dave Olson
All my comments

Unless you are in an unusual location in Miramar, you should be able to get comcast internet.  We are on the west side of 1, and I regularly get 8 Mbits/sec down, and 1.5 Mbit/sec up.  They’ve been running new fiber and copper for the last few months, and should have even higher speeds available fairly soon.

If you are up a canyon or up on the hill where you can’t get comcast to run cable, maybe you can get line of sight wireless to somebody who can get it.

I spent years trying to get AT&T to fix DSL problems (in Palo Alto, of all places), and wouldn’t hold out much hope of getting them to fix their issues.  Their view is that you should be happy to get anything at all…

Comment 4
Thu, September 2, 2010 6:58am
Kevin Barron
All my comments

>>more likely to cause AT&T to make the necessary investment

Frankly, you are asking AT&T to sink a ton of money in a subscriber base that is very small, and require a very expensive infrastructure investment w/ predictably inverse return.

.85Mbps is not enough???? Maybe ya’ll can try dial-up and relive the 16K-56K US Robotics drops when the phone rings….

Ahhh, the aged-old the coast hates growth, but expects the services and infrastructure of Manhattan.

As an AT&T shareholder… nevermind.

Maybe the lesson here is that houses should never have been built in that area (just a thought).