To whom it may concern,


I recently had an experience with AT&T Broadband that I felt I should share.  I am writing this letter to inform, and to hopefully get this information into the hands of people who can act upon it.  This is a long letter, and I hope you will take the time to read it in its entirety. What follows is the description of my experiences.


I am a subscriber to both AT&T Broadband’s digital cable television and high-speed internet services (both formerly handled by Comcast in my area).  Let me first say that I enjoy these services, and I think they are fine in and of themselves.  However, I recently moved from one apartment to another – and this is where my story begins.


About a week before I was to move, I called AT&T Broadband to notify them of my impending move, and to arrange for transfer of my services.  The representative understood my request, and informed me that a technician would have to be dispatched to connect the cable service.  This was not a problem, only a small inconvenience because the next available appointment wasn’t for a week after we would move in.  However, I realize that I called with only a week’s “window” before my move, and the delay was acceptable to me.  The representative on the phone continued to inform me that the technician would also have to do a “line check” for the high-speed internet, “install my NIC card” and “configure my computer and modem,” all of which would incur a $55 fee. 


Now, first a little background:  When I subscribed to AT&T Broadband’s high-speed service, I did so through the “Self Install Kit.”  Which I hooked up myself and configured.  I explained to the representative that I had already “configured” my computer.  Eventually, he agreed to waive the fee, although he stated that there would still be a $20 fee for the cable service transfer.  We set up a time for the appointment, and the call ended to my satisfaction.


Fast forward a week or so, and I am now waiting in my new apartment for the technician to show up and connect the services.  When he does show up, he has been given the wrong information, and was not aware that he was supposed to be connecting both internet and cable.  He switched my old modem for a new one (which I have been told is policy), and took down all the pertinent information from the modem and digital cable receiver (serial numbers, MAC addresses, etc.).  The visit was short, and when he left I had fully functioning internet and cable. 


For three or four days, all was well.  Then, about five days after the technician had turned it on, the cable TV mysteriously went “black.”  The bottom “basic cable” 14 channels were completely black, and the “expanded” channels were displaying “Not Authorized.”


When I noticed the problem, it was 5pm and I had just arrived home from work.  I dug out an old AT&T Broadband bill to find the number for customer support.  I dialed the 800 number on the bill (since there seem to be no toll-free numbers listed on the www.attbroadband.com website).  I started wading through the extremely long automated options, pressing “2” for this, “3” for that, and so on.  Eventually, I had entered enough information – and the automated machines tried to transfer me to the customer service queue.  Suddenly, I received a recorded operator message telling me that the number I dialed was not I service.  Funny, since I hadn’t even dialed a number!  I called back, waiting through the automated choices once again, this time only to receive another error message recording!  Finally, I had tried nearly all available combinations of number options.  I ended up choosing some completely unrelated series of options, just to get to a number that wouldn’t disconnect me.  Eventually, I got through and was put on hold.  I waited on hold for approximately 30 minutes.


I will refer to this as “Call #1.”  The service rep listened to my problem, and asked for my phone number to check the account.  She then “sent a signal” to by box to see if that would work.  All of the sudden, I had a picture!  There was no sound, but I assumed the set was muted – as I often keep it on mute.  I checked a few channels, and things looked good.  I thanked her for help, and mentioned the long hold times and disconnection problems I had reaching her.  She gave me another support number, this time an 888 number that she assured me would work better the next time.  I thanked her again, and “Call #1” was over.


However, just as I was hanging up with the rep, my wife was noticing that only the “basic” cable had been restored, and only the picture at that.  What I assumed was the mute button, was not.  We had picture on fourteen channels, and no sound.  The expanded channels were still showing “Not Authorized.” 


Time for “Call #2.”  This time, I used the “new” number I had been given by the 1st rep.  This number worked much better, and I received no error messages.  However, the hold time for “Call #2” was more on the order of forty-five minutes.  When I did finally get through, and explained my situation, the 2nd rep told me that my cable receiver was not “properly transferred” into my new account after I had moved.  She said that when she tried to move the box to my new account, she was getting an error.  She would need to put me on hold and consult a supervisor.  After another twenty minutes on hold, the rep returned saying that neither her, nor the supervisor, could manage to fix the problem – and that she would have to pass the matter on to another agency.  This would mean that the problem would be resolved, but not until the next day.  As I made my unhappiness clear, she offered to give me some free pay-per-view movies for the inconvenience.  I accepted, and also suggested she refund me the “transfer fee” for the cable, to which she obliged.  The call ended, clocking in at just over an hour (90% of that spent on hold).


After hanging up, I was puzzled by how the 1st representative simply “sent a signal” to my box, and partially restored the cable.  I wondered why the 2nd rep had not tried a similar approach.  I decided to call again (Call #3), in hopes of talking to another representative who might offer a different explanation.  After pressing all the numbers again (I had the menu memorized by this point), I again went into the hold queue.  This time the wait was an hour, and it was now about 9pm.  Finally, the 3rd representative told me that indeed the box was giving an error when she tried to transfer it into my new account.  However, she seemed to think that she could remedy the situation, and that it wouldn’t have to wait until the next day (as the 2nd rep had stated).  She asked if I would hold, and I agreed.  She was gone for thirty minutes.  When she returned, she told me that her supervisor was working on it, but that it was a particularly complex problem and it was going to take a few minutes.  She offered to call me back when it was fixed and I agreed.  About ten minutes later the cable popped on, all channels working fine (sound and all).  The rep never called back, but I didn’t mind because the problem was (apparently) solved.


Finally having the phone off my ear was a relief, and I decided to surf the web before I hit the sack.  That’s when I noticed that my “online” light on the modem was off.  Bad news, somehow my internet connection had been broken when the cable was fixed. 


Back to the phone for Call #4.  I decided to call the cable TV division, figuring they were the ones who had mistakenly “broken” the connection when repairing the cable.  The 4th rep told me that she would have to transfer me to the internet division, since they were two separate services.  By the time I reached an internet support rep, I had been on hold for an hour and half (it is now roughly 10:30pm).  Rep #4 was the worst yet, first asking me the “standard” questions: what OS I am running, are my IPs configured properly, etc.  I tried to explain that all I needed was to get the signal back, that my service had been working a mere two hours ago and I had changed nothing in the hardware or software setup.  Talking to this rep was like talking to a brick wall, it seems the extent of his knowledge was the five “frequently-asked-questions” on the terminal in front of him.  If the support question involved any more detail than that, he was hopelessly lost.  Finally, I convinced him to transfer me to “senior support.” 


The hold for “senior support” was about forty-five minutes long, and it was now midnight.  When I finally reached rep #5 – he listened carefully to my situation, and asked for my information to pull up my account.  “Ahhh, you’re in the Sacramento area?” he asked.  “Yes,” I replied.  By this time I had let him know that I had now been on hold for roughly 6 hours, and I was growing weary of the process.  He was extremely apologetic, and he informed me that, unfortunately, he could not pull up my account information. He explained that since “we” used to be Comcast in the Sacramento area, the systems “hadn’t fully merged” and he could not see any information about my account.  Again, he sympathized with my plight and apologized for the situation.  He said the only thing he could do would be to give me a local number to call.  I protested at first, thinking of another  two hours of hold-muzak, but finally agreed when I realized there was truly nothing he could do to help.  I liked rep #5 a lot, Mohammed was his name.  Too bad he couldn’t help me, he actually seemed intelligent.


So then, onto Call #5, the time is now 12:15am.  I call the local number, which is not an 800 or 888 number, but one in my area code.  The familiar automated system gives me a warm welcome back, and I am quickly put into the hold queue again.  I stayed on hold for about and hour and half, during which I readied for bed, lay down and dozed off.  Only to wake up at 2am, with the nice hold-muzak still in my ear.  Having been on hold for well over two hours, I figured I’d been beaten for this evening.  At a total of nearly seven and a half hours on hold with various AT&T Broadband divisions that evening, I finally gave up and went to bed. 


When I awoke, I decided to try and get in another call about the dead internet connection before I had to leave for work.  I called the local number that Mohammed (rep #5 if you’re keeping track) had given me the night before, making this Call #6.  A woman answered almost immediately, and I explained my situation.  She explained that the number I had dialed was a “dispatch office” and had nothing to do with customer support (which explained the two-hour-plus hold time the previous night).  Wonderful, thanks Mohammed.  She transferred me into my favorite maze of automated options, and I finally reached the familiar hold queue again.  This time the hold was a mere fifteen minutes. I reached the internet support division, and spoke with rep #6.  I explained my situation to rep #6, but she had no idea what I was talking about.  And to make matters worse, I was using Windows 2000!  Apparently an OS that she had never heard of!  She decided to immediately transfer me to “senior support.”  I think it was a wise decision on her part.


When senior support (rep #7) listened to my situation and pulled up my account, he said that there was absolutely no information regarding my machine, and therefore the @Home network would not recognize me.  This made perfect sense to me, as I work with computers for a living and have a background in networking.  He said that the modem would need to be re-provisioned, and that he would have to create a new account and completely populate all the information for me.  He placed me on hold while he talked to the provisioning department.  When he returned, he informed me that the modem should be coming online as soon as the changes worked through the system. I thanked him, and complimented him on his knowledge and customer relation skills.  Unfortunately, as soon as I hung up with him, feeling confident that my internet would be up soon, my wife called from the living room to say the cable had gone out again!!  I, however, couldn’t make another call – I had to head to work.


At work, I called the number again, Call #7, (from memory this time!).  After a thirty minute hold, I again explained the situation to rep #8.  Rep #8 looked in my account and saw only the modem listed, no converter box at all.  I informed her that I was not at home, and would not be able to verify if the cable started working.  I also expressed my concern that the internet would again be broken when the cable came up, recognizing a trend of “cable up, internet down; internet up, cable down.”  She assured me that she would get it all straightened out, and kindly offered to call me after lunch to verify.  I hung up, doubtful that the problem would ever be resolved. 


On my lunch break I headed home to check the TV and internet.  Lo and behold, the cable TV was again fully functioning.  But, as I had feared, the internet was down.  However, having become somewhat of an expert by now, I noticed that the “online” light was on – I just was not able establish any inbound or outbound connections.  Diagnosing the problem on my own, I decided that the culprit was most likely my computer name.  Remembering rep #7’s statement that he would have to provision the modem and create a new account – I figured that I had been assigned a new computer name on the @Home network.  I called the support number again (Call #8), and after a relatively short 20 minute hold explained my situation.  The support rep (#9) was just going through the “frequently-asked-questions” again.  I explained that I thought all I needed was my computer name, but he figured I’d need a technician to come out and “check the line.”  In his infinite wisdom, he was ready to schedule a service call for me.  Finally, I persuaded him to simply check the computer name listed in my account vs. the one I currently had configured.  He did, and much to his amazement, I was right.  I plugged the new computer name in and was online in seconds.  I retuned to work, expecting a call from rep #8 to check on my status – but never received one.  I didn’t mind much, since all the services were up again.


All in all, I was on hold for approximately ten hours over two days of calls.  That is not an exaggeration.  I was disconnected more times than I can recall, and I was stopped dead by the limited knowledge of many support representatives. 


I have to say that this was the single worst customer support experience I have ever had.  I have dealt with many companies, and I have never encountered a higher level of misinformation, confusion, mixed messages, ignorance, and general poor communication skills.  I truly believe that this situation could have been remedied in one single support call, in under and hour, if only I had been connected to the right people.  Several times I ended up speaking to support reps in different states, such as Oregon (and I think Idaho!).  Often times these reps had no explanation for why I was connected to them, other than to blame the phone system.


I now have both internet and cable again, and they have both been working for almost a week.  Again, I am happy with the services.  I just pray that I never have another support issue.  Something really needs to be done to address the phone system issues.  Over an hour on hold is unacceptable, especially when it often takes three or four calls to get connected with a knowledgeable support representative.  Something also needs to be done to address the caliber of support provided by the service representatives.  I suggest training them each in the basics of networking and internet protocols, as well as operating system specific training.  A basic course in clear communication and listening skills would also be invaluable.


I spoke with nine customer support reps, only two of which who had the knowledge base to understand the problem, let alone find a solution.  I was on hold for over ten hours, roughly one of which was actually spent in conversation with other humans. 


I hope this letter helps to make you aware of the dismal customer support situation at AT&T Broadband.  I am not saying this is a company-wide problem; I cannot make such a generalization.  I suppose I could have had a run of back luck with my particular series of encounters, but I would wager that another problem would result in similar results. 


Finally, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter.  Please feel free to contact me in regards to its contents, or for any further information.