Entries Tagged as 'Telephones'

AT&T U-Verse

I signed up for AT&T U-Verse service about two months ago — I’ve already made a post on that, but I decide to go ahead and do a series of posts on it.

This post will be an over view of what it is; then I’ll do a post on each of the services that are part of it.

The first thing to say about AT&T U-Verse is that it is offered by a company that I think very little of; a company that does not engender trust (in fact I’m suspicious of them at every turn — they seem to make mistake after mistake after mistake — and all their mistakes benefit them).  The sad thing is you might not have any substantially better company in your area to receive similar services from — so it’s not necessarily choosing the best, but often choosing the one that gives you that most without costing you the most.

U-Verse in short is AT&T’s name for an “advance” set of services — voice, television, and internet.

AT&T’s system generally provides these services to the home over copper (fibre is required in fairly close proximity as well).  The technology is called FTTN (fibre-to-the-node) and while they do have some FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) it’s only found in extremely dense areas.

With FTTN a VRAD (video-ready-access-device) is present between the Central Office and the end node consumer; in FTTP it isn’t.  VRADs are generally fairly large pieces of equipment similar to a cable company’s “head-end” (used for digital cable deployment) and much larger than a TELCO’s mini-DSLAMs (used for DSL deployment via copper from fibre from the Central Office DSLAM).

The services offered via U-Verse are: voice (“land line” telephone), television (“cable” tv as well as video on demand), and internet (“high speed” broadband).

When the service is installed it’s likely the installers will work in a team; the outside cable will be run by one person (generally the entry copper from the pole will be replaced) and new inside wiring is run.

It’s important to note that all services are digital.

Voice is provided by voice over IP (VoIP) technology; television is provided through ip video (including live and video on demand [VOD]); and of course the internet service is the core of everything (though an optional part).

The center of the system in the home is a residential gateway which handles all three of the services (along with a battery backup unit — mainly to insure that emergency services work in power outages).

Many people ask the question if they can use their own residential equipment rather than what AT&T provides.  The answer simply is NO.  Currently you must use the AT&T equipment — you may use your equipment in addition to the AT&T residential gateway, or remove your equipment and use exclusively the AT&T provided equipment.

I’ll cover the details of each service with respect to the gateway in the following posts — but your installer will work with you to provide a reasonable installation that should provide you with voice, television, and internet services much as you currently have.

The gateway itself has one WAN side connection, two telephone jacks  (it’s not clear to me whether it’s cable of three lines or four lines, but currently you can only subscribe for two lines of service), four 100-Base-T Ethernet (LAN) connections, one wireless (802.11-N) radio, one USB connection (for a PC), one “F” connector for video, and one Ethernet “broadband” connection (I’m not sure what this is for, it’s got a piece of transparent tape over it on my unit).

Initially the set-top boxes and DVR units must be cabled directly to the unit to insure proper discover; after they are configured you can use a switch if you want more ports; or you can connect your router to the gateway if you like (you will need to reconfigure the gateway if you do this to allow your gateway to work as before).

If everything goes well in the installation, once the wiring is in place the gateway, set-top boxes, and DVR units will register and come online within a few minutes — however, AT&T seems to have quite a few units that are defective, so don’t be surprised if there are some problems.

I had ordered one DVR and two set-top boxes (mainly because I wanted the maximum installation I could get for free).  One of the set-top boxes was DOA (dead-on-arrival), one of the set-top boxes worked (but I decided I didn’t really want to keep it so the install took it back), and the DVR unit wasn’t completely dead, but was defective.  Fortunately the installer had another unit he could replace it with — but since the unit had worked well enough to register itself it took quite sometime for the installer to find someone at AT&T support who was able to clear out the previous registration so my “new” DVR could register.

We also had some issues with the voice service; but by the time the DVR issues were resolved a reboot of the gateway seemed to download the proper service configuration and both inbound and outbound calling worked.

I will note that my install was originally scheduled for a Saturday (it was the first day I could select); and AT&T never informed me that they had moved my installation date to the following Monday.  I found out when I called them 15-minutes before the close of the installation window.  I was more than a little pissed since I had changed my plans Saturday to accommodate them, and now I had to change my plans for Monday as well!

Over all I give my installer fairly high marks for doing a good job (though he still owes me a jack — AT&T doesn’t give there installers a very good supply of equipment or parts); but like almost every AT&T system, it’s brittle and almost appears designed to fail.

The one short coming of my install is that he really didn’t know a great deal about configuring the gateway for a “complex” network; but since that isn’t something AT&T technically supports I can’t fault him on that, and I certainly knew enough to figure out what needed to be changed (the 2Wire device they use could be considered a “pro-sumer” grade device, so it capable of meeting most needs, but don’t expect it to have highly technical descriptions of the various settings).

I will say, that after the initial installation the system appeared to work… though before you place your order you’ll want to read my next three posts as well as do a price-feature comparison with what you have now.

Also, you may find that it turns out to be less expensive to order more services than you want.  For example, if you only want internet service — it’s cheaper to order enough service to get a free installation (well, it’s not free — I found no way to avoid the $29 activation fee — but it’s easy to see how to avoid the $149 installation fee).  If you order a bundle, the installation fee is waived; if you downgrade in the first thirty (30) days there’s a $5 fee — so as the installer is leaving, call and downgrade — save $144 of the installation fee… though taking advantage of some of the rewards and promotions may actually make it less expensive to have more services for longer.

Oh, and one last word — make sure you keep copies of everything you “read” online to do with any promotional credits, rewards, requirements.  As I’ve already said, AT&T does not engender trust.

Originally posted 2010-05-14 02:00:22.

Google Voice and POTS

So you’re one of the dwindling number of Americans that has a wire line telephone in their home (generally referred to as POTS – Plain Old Telephone Service)… and you’d like to cut down on your bill as much as possible.

Well, just like with cell phones, perhaps you need to consider Google Voice.

Why pay the Telco for voice mail; Google Voice will give you that for free.

Why pay the Telco for long distance; Google Voice will give you that for free.

Why pay the Telco for unlimited dialing; provided you have an internet connection (broadband or cellular), Goolge Voice will give you that for free (you’d only need the limited dial plan).

Here’s the skinny (so to speak)…

Since you’re reading a BLOG post I’m going to assume that you’re “connected” — which means you have the ability to use the Internet (through something other than dial-up)…

Setup a Google Voice account NOW.  That means you’ll probably have to request a Google Voice invitation to go with your Gmail account.

Once you’ve done that, just hookup your Google Voice number to your land line and start using your Google Voice number for everything (you probably don’t want to pay for call forwarding — so you’re going to end up re-training people to call another number).

Then call up your Telco and get rid of Caller ID, Call Waiting, Voice Mail, long distance packages, and unlimited dialing (go with the limited rate plan — and if you’re low income, make sure you take advantage of the Universal Access rates).

Just keep your browser open to Google Voice and you can quickly see who’s calling (or setup Google Voice to announce it to you when you answer the phone); and you can have Google Voice place all your local and long distance calls (it’ll call you, so that won’t count towards your out-bound calling units).  If you miss a call, it goes to Google Voice, and you’ll get a transcription of the message via email or you can read it on the web site… or if the transcription isn’t good, you can play the recording or even have Google Voice call you so you can hear it over the phone.

Google Voice will keep a log of each and every number that calls you — plus give you a great deal of flexibility in blocking un-wanted calls.

Also, if you want to stop people from calling your home number, simply have the Telco change it (there will be a fee unless you’ve had issues with harassment) and have them list the new number under a name like “Solicitation Prohibited” — no need to pay them for an unlisted or unpublished number (you can have your listing any name that’s use doesn’t constitute fraud).

Remember, keep the money in your pocket — no reason to feel sorry for the dwindling profits from the Telcos that have been nickel and diming to death all these years and provide you with telecommunications services that haven’t improved substantially in decades.

Originally posted 2010-10-18 02:00:12.

OBiTalk

For many POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) is a distant memory… and given the pricing I’d say the local TelCo providers have priced it out of existence.

In a society where almost everyone has a cell phone (and unlimited cell service is fairly reasonably priced), the likelihood that any “home” telephone service will make a comeback is fairly low.

That said, Google Voice (a totally free service from Google) is something I’ve used for years to provide me with an auxiliary communications channel.  Why would I want to give me cellular number to all the annoying people who get a phone number; I pay for my phone service, so I should be able to decide who can reach me when — and Google provides many of the features you simply must have for telecommunications in Google Voice.

You can easily access Google Voice directly from your Android handset, but sometimes you might want to be able to just pick a phone on the end table to answer or make a call; or you might have that occasional FAX you need to send (while I find it hard to believe that companies don’t allow you to upload scanned documents via a web page portal, or send them via email — many are still in the stone-age of technology and simply think FAX machines will be here until the end of time, or that some law makes a FAX somehow necessary, or that they’re more secure).

To that end, OBiTalk has a number of telecommunications devices (technically VoIP Telephone Adapters [TAs]) available for a fairly reasonably price, and they support Google Voice.

The OBi200, the lowest model currently sold, is a great and economical device to provide you with a “home” phone.  The OBi200, a Google Voice number, and a home cordless (multi-station) phone is everything you need to have a service that fulfills you needs for free (if you require E911 service, you would have to subscribe to that service separately, but perhaps your cell phone is a better E911 device).

The Obi200 supports a single handset, but will support up to four phone lines (and any combination of them can be Google Voice — or other VoIP services… but again, Google Voice is free).

I’ve been using one of these devices for quite sometime, and I recently just added a second one (you can do station to station dialing with it as well), so it’s fairly easy to see that I’m quite happy with the device.

One word of advice, if you’re interested in a OBiTalk device, watch sales at online (also remember some brick-and-mortar stores will match online prices at some sites).

Just remember, with Google Voice, you do need to use each line (I recommend using them monthly at a minimum), but you will get an email notification from Google if you’re at risk of losing your Google Voice number from inactivity.

 

OBiTalk OBi200

Google Voice

Originally posted 2017-05-30 08:00:23.

AT&T = Pathetic Customer Service

My AT&T U-Verse bill notice came in over the weekend; so this week I launched the web site to take a look at the details.

When I signed up for the service I was “promised” $20 off per-month for signing up for electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

Well, the first month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that my bill was processed _before_ I had signed up for the electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

The second month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that something must have went wrong — that I needed to unsubscribe and then resubscribe; of course their policies clearly stated that if I discontinued either of the requirements I would become ineligible for the statement credit.  I escalated the issue to a supervisor who impressed me as being more incompetent than the front-line people; then I escalated it to the executive complaints office — who assured me it would be resolved.

The third month it didn’t happen; and AT&T really had no excuse.  Again I escalated it to a supervisor, and got the promise that it would be researched and resolved.

This month (the fourth month), I lost it — I was pissed off the minute I called AT&T — and I pointed out to them that they were wasting my time month after month after month — and I was tired of it.  The front-line person was totally incompetent and the supervisor was just as incompetent… and rude.

One thing’s for sure — NO ONE beats AT&T for the most pathetic customer service on Earth.

If you subscribe to AT&T services based on promises of rebates, cash back, credits, special pricing, etc — make sure you keep copies of everything; and be prepared to file a small claims action, because it probably will come to that.

It always comes down to who has pissed you off the least (lately) and who is offering the best deals — but in the end you have to decide between the cable company and the phone company and just live with pathetic customer service.

Originally posted 2010-07-10 02:00:01.

AT&T U-Verse – Summary

After thinking over AT&T U-Verse service I’m going to have to make the call that it’s something you’ll have to consider long and hard and figure out if the cost makes it something that’s worth it to you.

AT&T is a horrible company to do business with; but then again, so likely is the company your get your video, telephone, and internet services from now — so that might be a wash.

AT&T is a company that doesn’t engender trust is the least — and you’ll have to keep documentation and follow up on them on just about every aspect of your order, your service, your rebates, your rewards, your bills, etc; but then again, that’s probably all true of almost every company you do business with now — so that might be a wash.

The prices are high; so unless the service offerings are a good fit for exactly what you want (and you can take advantage of some of the bundle discounts) you might want to deal with separate companies for each of the services.

The only real positive thing I can say about AT&T U-Verse is that there isn’t a long term contract; in fact there’s not really a contract of any sort (as long as you ignore the fact that you will need to retain the service for some period of time to actually get your rebates and rewards).

One thing I suspect we’ll see as the economy continues to stagnate is that companies will do more to retain existing customers; so you might find that pricing becomes much more flexible (I’ve already been offered a “free” upgrade to U450 service with the top-tier internet for 90-days… of course I’m pretty sure they’re betting on me forgetting to downgrade [I said “no thanks”]).

Originally posted 2010-05-18 02:00:50.

AT&T U-Verse – Voice

AT&T offers three separate services through their U-Verse branded advance communications offering.  This post will deal with voice.

U-Verse voice isn’t traditional wire line POTS service; rather it’s a feature rich digital communication service.

When you have AT&T U-Verse voice service installed, the pair from the Telco will be routed from your MPOE to the residential gateway and then back to your home wiring (though the MPOE).  This allows you to keep all your current phones working through their existing wiring plant.

My residential gateway labels the first “POTS” port as line one and two, and has a separate jack for an auxiliary voice connection (the online account management only has options for one or two lines — but since there is an option for zero lines, there may well be an option for a third or even fourth line that simply isn’t displayed).

Remember the gateway is connected to a UPS, so you will be able to maintain voice service for some period of time after the electricity goes out — this allows for E911 during power outages (and yes, AT&T provides E911 capabilities with their U-Verse service).

AT&T currently offers two different levels on their voice plan — “Unlimited” and”250″.

The unlimited plan currently costs $35.00 in my area for the primary line, $15 for a secondary line (not including local, state, federal taxes and fees or FCC line charges); and the 250 is $25.00 for the primary line, $15 for a secondary line.

Below is what AT&T says about the plans…

AT&T U-verse Voice Unlimited
Provides unlimited calling within the U.S. and to Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Marianas for just $30 per month. A second line that shares minutes under the same plan can be added for another $15 per month.

AT&T U-verse Voice 250
For just $25 per month, provides 250 minutes of calling each month within the U.S. and to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Marianas and only 5¢ per minute thereafter. A second line that shares minutes under the same plan can be added for another $15 per month.

Notice the discrepancy in the price for the “Unlimited” — like I have already said, AT&T does not engender trust.

I’m guessing that other than the number of minutes of usage you get, the plans are the same.

When you get AT&T U-Verse voice you can have your current number ported (which means you can keep your current number) or have a new number assigned.  AT&T of course will charge you extra for non-published or un-listed numbers, and they don’t seems to allow you to have the number listed under an alternate name (as Bell South did).

To me, charging for not doing something is a travesty — and simply a way to make more money; remember they make money on published/listed numbers by selling your address and telephone information to marketing firms (which I believe it should be illegal for anyone to sell any information about me without my express permission and paying me the amount I deem fair — which trust me, no company could afford).

You can manage many (if not all) of the features of U-Verse voice through the Internet, and many through your TV set-top box — I don’t really know how you’d manage your voice feature if you didn’t have one (or both) of the other services.

U-Verse voice include voice mail, call forwarding (no answer, busy, safe, all); call filtering (blocking, screening, exclusive call forwarding); call waiting, do not disturb, anonymous call blocking, locate me (or what some people call follow me ring); caller id blocking, international call blocking, directory assistance blocking… they don’t seem to specifically allow blocking of premium service and third party billing (900 numbers, xxx-976 numbers, collect calls, etc).

The service also offers logs of calls (placed, received, missed) and an address book (which you can use to place calls via the Internet or TV interfaces — I have no idea if you can do it directly from a telephone handset).

I’d say it’s a fairly sophisticated number of features — more than most people will ever need or use for sure.

The “feature” I use…

Well, I block ALL calls except calls from specified numbers.  You see, since I don’t intend to keep this number I know that the only ones that will call the number got it from AT&T (not from me) — and are entities I don’t want to talk to… so I forward Google Voice calls (which I also have tight controls on) to it for the moment.

Other than that — I’ve used it to place calls (which I could have done via my cell phone using Google Voice) and send a couple faxes (which aren’t important to me — generally a company that wants me to send a fax I just laugh at and tell them to move into the new millennium).

My feeling is that the price is too high for AT&T U-Verse Voice… it should be on the level of $20 per month for unlimited service, and certainly no more than $25 per month — for 250 minutes it should be on the level of $10 per month.  Obviously AT&T seems to feel that they’re offering some type of “premium” voice service, and seem to forget that for most people if they added even $25 per month to the cellular plan they’d be well over what some companies charge for unlimited and have the convenience of a phone they can take with them.

For me, it’s a service I won’t be keeping — I added it to the order to maximize the savings and minimize the installation fee… my calculation is that I’ll have to keep it a maximum of three months and it will end up being almost a wash.

Originally posted 2010-05-15 02:00:29.

The Anti-Green – Phone Books

Wasting natural resources and destroying the environment to produce and distribute phone books is simply unconscionable.

Ask yourself why a company would produce a paper phone book and distribute them to every household they serve.  In fact, there are multiple “yellow pages” produced and distributed.

Why???

Many, though admittedly not all, households in this country have broadband internet connections — and that enables them to locate up-to-the minute information online… none of these people really need a phone book of any kind.

Further, automated directory assistance actually makes it considerably less expensive for a company to do away with phone books entirely and just provide free directory service to their customers — and certainly there are a number of providers that offer free directory service to anyone (you do generally have to listen to an advertisement).

This country could greatly reduce it’s carbon footprint simply be eliminating much of the waste… and phone books are a good place to start.

I certainly don’t want a phone book or any “yellow pages” style book delivered to my house — and while I do recycle them, eliminating them entirely would save the trees, the paper, the energy required to produce and distribute as well as recycle!!!

Obviously American business isn’t going to change without encouragement (if they were going to change and do “the right thing” we’d see a movement in that direction by now)… so why don’t we as a country implement a recycling tax???  Simply put, each and every producer must pay a fee based on materials used in the production of goods and services — that get’s passed along and those who turn the items back in for recycling or re-use get a credit.

Obviously companies that send out “free” items have to bear the cost of the fee, and consumers who receive these un-wanted items get the credit.

My guess is even a modest fee would reshape the landscape almost overnight.


You might want to make sure you read the terms and conditions on the below link and understand that you’re disclosing information to a third party who you will have to decide whether or not to trust… I personally find the web site a little light on providing me with legal information to take serious.

YellowPagesGoesGreen.org

Originally posted 2010-05-08 05:00:25.