Haven’t read yesterday’s initial liveblog of the install yet? Read it here.
Yesterday was off to a good start, but AT&T tripped over a non-existent wire (literally). Can U-Verse redeem itself with a finished installation today? Let’s find out together. Read more for the complete liveblog.
8:30 AM Just got a call from the U-Verse installer. This isn’t a good start. The wiring team was supposed to be out here first, to finish wiring the circuit. The installer wasn’t happy to hear that “let me call my supervisor… obviously that didn’t happen… either way I have to come out.”
The good news is, unlike the previous installer he said he would “stay until the wiring crew came out and did their job.” That’s progress, considering that when yesterday’s installer left, everyone at AT&T (and I do mean everyone) forgot what needed to be done.
On a more positive note, SureWest forgot to disconnect my internet, and Comcast forgot to disconnect my cable. While that’s not great customer service… at this point, I still have service, and am pleased about that.
9:30 AM It has been an hour since the U-Verse installer called, and more than twice the time it takes for the trucks to roll out here. I called the installer back at his phone number, but got nothing but voicemail. I’ll give it 15, and then I’ll be calling Customer Service…
9:40 AM Decided to check the VRAD before calling further. Sure enough, an AT&T truck is out there… going to investigate.
9:56 AM Apparently, the truck out there was not for my case. Austin, one of the two U-Verse install techs assigned to my area (Scott being the other), informed me that maintenance has some backlog because wires went down after some rain last night. But, they are re-escalating it with maintenance department queues every hour. As soon as maintenance gets out there to fix it, they’ll shuffle me back to the top of either Austin or Scott’s queues… whoever can get out here sooner.
Progress? Shrugs. Maintenance appears to have their marching orders, but now we have no idea when they’ll come out today.
10:16 AM A big maintenance truck pulled in a few minutes ago. The maintenance tech said that they “didn’t provide him with much info.” Luckily, I was able to give him all the details on what he had to do.
And, then I had to explain how I don’t work for AT&T…
He’s out on his computer right now verifying the specs I gave him, so we should be under way with running the cable in a few.
11:11 AM The cable has been re-run from the VRAD to my house. Now the ticket has been bounced back to U-Verse installation, so I should be getting a call soon from them.
11:30 AM Just got a call from Ron (yes, a third U-Verse installer). They are handing the job off to him since he’s had the opening in his schedule. He’ll be here in “about 15 minutes.”
11:50 AM Scott just called, apparently he also got the ticket and is coming out as well. Chances are, one of them will leave and the other will do the job… this is the kind of redundancy that I like to see. I’d rather have two techs come out, rather than none at all (a la maintenance yesterday).
12:02 PM Ron arrived, and promptly passed the job off to Scott. He’ll be here in a few minutes.
12:09 PM Both Scott, and the maintenance tech have arrived… I now have both sides of the street lined with AT&T trucks. The maintenance guy was called back because there’s been so much trouble with this job thus far, that they want to make sure everyone is on hand to finish the job
12:34 PM Remember that cable that I mentioned yesterday, that they would have to run around my house in a circle? That’s what they’re running right now. This cable will feed right into the U-Verse gateway.
I do have to question at this point why AT&T won’t just take U-Verse Fiber To The Home (FTTH) now, rather than just to the loop (FTTL). Basically that means that at some point (a few years down the road), they’re going to have to come back out and replace the line.
I guess it makes sense in apartments and when all the wiring is set up already for FTTL. But, SureWest splits the difference just fine. They run FTTH when possible, and fall back to FTTL.
It’s worth nothing that SureWest’s FTTL, while only a regional play, is pathetic. Their ADSL2 maxes out at 10 mbps, less if you want to use HDTV from SureWest as well. AT&T thankfully did ADSL2 right, and let you have a full 18 mbps alongside HDTV.
Of course, both still have their problems, namely the asynchronous woes of a maximum potential for 2 mbps upload speed (currently capped at one, to give AT&T room to roll that out that second megabit later on). Hence, why I think it would be smarter to roll out FTTH when possible now. One could even envision where it would make good business sense to offer an upgrade kit to FTTH, where someone would pay the extra install fees in order to get proper fiber-grade upload speeds… especially when we’re talking U-Verse for Business.
1:02 PM Switched over to WWAN via Phone as Modem. The U-Verse installer is hijacking SureWest’s drop so that he doesn’t have to crawl under the house to run his cable. I told him to go ahead, after all, I’ll be in Cupertino about when my one month of U-Verse here is up… no need to preserve SureWest’s wiring in the house.
1:23 PM Houston, we have dialtone!
1:49 PM The installer decided to keep the SureWest stuff intact and run his own line. We’re waiting for sync on the gateway box, and setting up the STBs right now on each HDTV.
2:06 PM Setting up the STBs is taking a bit longer, but may still be provisioning. The gateway is synced and provisioned…
2:26 PM Posting this from U-Verse on my MacBook Air. U-Verse is fully set up, and the installer just left. Total time for the job: 2 hours 25 minutes.
First Lesson: Have a maintenance tech on-call.
This was something that U-Verse used to do religiously, and have stopped now that U-Verse is “becoming mainstream.” Having one maintenance tech being ready to roll out, at any time, would have saved me a day of lost income.
Second Lesson: Don’t let customer service fall by the wayside.
One incompetent customer service representative nearly botched the entire U-Verse deployment. Continuous improvement in this department is crucial.
Third Lesson: Let your support chain be like Jack Bauer.
It should not be hard to escalate through a ticket chain when it gets broken. Supervisors should be armed with the tools to cut through support ticket and queuing protocols, when those protocols are counter-productive.
Aside from losing an entire day, and a single incompetent support rep, things went well. This is a far cry from AT&T’s famous 20-day-DSL-installs. I encounter those at least twice a year, including up to the present.
At this point, I’m pretty happy. I now have U-Verse running on my existing network, and AT&T was able to work with me to deploy U-Verse how I wanted. If I wanted it to run over coax in my house, great. If I wanted it to run on CAT5, they were ready for that too.
Probably the biggest lasting letdown, is that the U-Verse Gateway (which does the routing as well as being the modem) has only 802.11g. It’s time for them to roll out 802.11n gateways, so that folks don’t have to daisy chain in needless gear.
I haven’t had U-Verse long enough to judge the visual quality, of course. I can say that I do see some minor artifacting on HD. It’s clearly Windows Media Video pixelation… but it isn’t inconsistent. The pixelation happens at the same rate across the picture, then rasters up to full quality when things stand still. Think of a JPEG video at 70% quality… and you start to get the picture. When things are still, they look perfect… but there is some motion blur.
Now we have to play the game of quality vs quantity. I now have over 100 HD channels, versus Comcast’s 15 to 20. And, I now have 4-channel DVR accessible from any room. Oh, and Picture in Picture… which TV makers relentlessly gut to price gouge for it on high-end models.
In the end, AT&T will likely keep my TV business when I move to Cupertino, and they have a monopoly on fiber speeds… considering Comcast caps.
P.S. AT&T, don’t cap U-Verse internet… you’ll lose me in an instant.