Monday, during the day, our Internet went out. By the time I got home and learned this, Anne was on the curb and was conversing with several similarly affected neighbors. Everyone there is an AT&T U-verse customer and while none of the neighbors were unhappy about the outage, they were all even more displeased with AT&T customer service. One neighbor was told by customer service that the problem was in her house, even though she knew that her neighbors were similarly affected. She told them so, but AT&T was unrelenting in its denials. She was told that it would take several days before a serviceman could look at “her problem”. The other neighbor was treated even worse. He was told that his modem was bad and AT&T insisted on selling and then shipping him a new modem. He even suggested driving to the AT&T store and buying a modem that night, customer service talked him out of it and promised next day delivery. Yeah, right!
Forewarned is forearmed. I went inside to check things out and sure enough both the Internet and the land line were kaput. I got on my iPhone and called customer service. I elected to complain about my down land line, instead of the Internet, even though they are both physically the same line. Looking back, this was a stroke of genius, which I’ll explain later. After wading through the automation, I got a human. I jumped through all of his hoops and after fifteen minutes convinced him that my problem was really his problem. He hit me with the bad news first, no service until Wednesday, but then sugar-coated it with a rebate for the three days of lost service. I took the money.
Coming home Tuesday, I passed by ten, count them, ten AT&T service trucks parked on just one block in the neighborhood. You could hardly make it through. I also noticed some excavation going on. After I drove home, I walked back there. It was only a couple of blocks away. By the time that I got back, most of the trucks had left, but five men were still working. I took their picture, which caught their attention and we began to talk. They blamed Ameren, the electric company, and a backhoe incident. I asked how long? They planned on working all night and didn’t expect service to be restored until Wednesday. The foreman told me, “Those are my two best splicers in the hole, but each of them has 900 lines to reconnect and that means 1800 individual wires.” They were both splicing in the bundle of twisted-pairs contained in a new section of 2” cable. “They need time to do their work right, otherwise, you’ll be getting someone else’s phone calls”, he joked.
On the way home Tuesday night, I heard on NPR that the Federal DC Appeals court had gutted the FCC’s 2010 Net Neutrality regulations that very day. It seemed to me that the FCC had attempted to finesse the carriers and not treat Internet connections like the regulated land lines that they really are. I am convinced that I got better customer service, because phone lines are more strictly regulated. No one wanted the FCC to stifle the Internet. This neither fish nor fowl approach backfired for the FCC. Now AT&T is free to continue rolling out its “sponsored data” service, whatever that means, besides me having to send more money to AT&T. Interestingly, only Comcast is still bound by the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations, as part of its NBC/Universal merger deal and only until 2018.