Did AT&T drop off the face of the Earth?

How times change.

Two weeks ago, with North Texas soaked thoroughly to the bone, our telephone service went out.  We were scrambling to get James to the airport and off to another year of school in Wisconsin, so there was little we could do when it expired.

Later that Saturday, on a cell phone with a different carrier, I got through to a machine at AT&T that promised someone would come check the problem on the following Tuesday.  Tuesday afternoon at just after 4:00 p.m. we got a note on our door that phone service was restored — and it was for about an hour.

Then it went out again.  And it’s been out since.

After several days of unsatisfying robot answers, I found another number and got to a human who referred me to another human who said they were completely flattened by phone outages in the Dallas area after the recent spate of Noachic storms (we had something over 11 inches in a week — the rain gauge kept topping out).  No, they said, it does not good to call again to complain — they’re working as fast as they can.

To AT&T’s credit, the internet service is fine.  We have alternative telephones to use, though many of our family and friends don’t know the numbers.

But, two weeks in America without telephones?  That could be a problem for many people, still, couldn’t it?

Or is AT&T becoming increasingly irrelevant in their own business?

Who else is having similar problems?


6 Responses to Did AT&T drop off the face of the Earth?

  1. Angela Beth says:

    I don’t know whether to say I am relieved to know that I am not alone, or bitterly disappointed to know that it is even worse than I thought.

    My experience with AT&T home phone service is so similar to what you (and many others “out there”) have described, that I won’t bore you with details.

    Prior to the time, approximately 3 years ago, when SBC became AT&T in my area, I had been an SBC customer for home landline for 20 years, with NO problems with service…EVER.

    The change to AT&T in my area coincided with my move to my current residence. I don’t know which is the problem; is it AT&T, or is it the lines and equipment in my current neighborhood? I do know that the phone lines serving my old neighborhood were only put in around the early 1980s, but the lines and boxes in my current neighborhood date back to at least the late 1950s, by and large.

    I have lost service 5 times in the 3 years I have been in this location. The first time, I was without service for 5 days. The next 3 times, the service was “magically” restored the next day, and I cancelled service calls. This time, I had been without service since 11/7. It was supposed to be done yesterday. Finally, today, it was restored. The technician told me that I had been disconnected at a remote junction (probably not the correct term), probably by accident, when other techs were installing UVerse service for someone else.

    The first time, they told me it was squirrells.

    I am saying prayers that it stays connected for a while.

    I have had almost NO problems (knock wood) with my provider of TV and internet, Suddenlink/previously Cox. I have used them for about 10 years. The few problems I have had were very short-lived, and fixed within less than an hour, and usually with only one call. The customer service/tech support has been very good.

    They have tried (not obnoxiously so) to get me to switch to them for my phone service, but I have been very leery of switching, as I really want to keep a land line, and not have all my services tied up with one company.

    But at the rate things are going with AT&T, switching to cable phone and having a “bundle” is beginning to look more attractive.


  2. […] We’ve gone without AT&T telephone service at our home for three weeks now.  Odd that repair service in Indonesia, with an earthquake, is better than repair service in Dallas, with  . . . rain?  Sunshine?  I’ll bet you can call Padang or Pariaman, Indonesia, before you can call our home in Dallas.  I fear that will be the case. […]


  3. John Mashey says:

    There are of course many reasons for failures. Two of the software packages I managed were used to track the causes, for which we had all sorts of “cause codes”, including:

    a) Squirrel bites.

    b) Man-made problems (outside plant repairman (and there were all male at that time), is fixing something in a junction box and messes something else up. This especially happened in older areas that were tight on cable pairs and bad records: somebody would use a cable pair they thought was free to fix a problem, but it really wasn’t free.

    c) Contractors digging up cables. That happened all the time, and it takes a while to fix. Telcos work very hard with contractors to avoid it, but it still happens.

    d) Gunshot. This was generally found in South, Southwest, and Maine. The classic old Bell symbol was considered a good target. Someone did a study and saved a lot of money by moving the symbol from the middle of an equipment box face to an upper corner.

    It turns out that if a bullet hit the center, there was enough “give” that the box wouldn’t be punctured, but if the bullet hit a corner, it would puncture. Apparently a lot of people miss upwards, so they were aiming at center, and often hitting corners. By placing in corner, most misses didn’t hit at all, and I guess a hit satisfied them and they quit. Anyway, it saved $Ms per year.

    If a problem affected more than one home, it was most likely some kind of cable problem, maybe b) or c).

    These days, with people using landlines less, it actually takes longer to notice problems with them. Also, for emergency planning, be careful about *assuming* that cellphones always work. If a flood or something knocks out a cellphone “backhaul”, normally cable, that’s it, at least in that area.


  4. Beth Katz says:

    We came back from vacation in July to find our landline telephone service was out. No dial tone. No flood as an excuse. It took Verizon four days to come out and fix it even though they then learned that it affected more than one home.

    It was a good thing that I had recently started using an iPhone. But then I left for Boy Scout camp leaving my husband without a connection for a couple of days.

    I consider this one reason to not have all of your services handled by on company. If the cable goes out, I lose television and internet but not phone. I can use my iPhone for phone and internet.

    Thank you for the Tigers to Eagle story. That’s how I got to your blog.


  5. John Mashey says:

    In the old days, there was thing called the Bell System, with plenty of monopoly money, which among other things built systems of robustness that could fight army tanks and win. It had enough staff doing routine maintenance that when emergencies happened, it could throw them at the problems. A major switching center in NYC once burned down, and the Bell System rerouted gear originally routed for other places, brought in people from across the country, and got it rebuilt in an amazingly short time.

    BUT, in the effort to increase competition (generally a very good thing), the above approach was eliminated in favor of regulations that promote faster-moving, leaner, near-term-bottom-line-oriented companies. Of course, the phone companies have *always* been into automation, but automation doesn’t help much in emergencies.
    You get what you pay for, I’m afraid.

    [Having managed software for tracking outside plant repair, I’d say wires & junction boxes, especially older ones, have real trouble with heavy rains/floods, especially for the “last mile”. The fibre-optics pieces aren’t so bothered.]

    About 30 years ago, I had phone trouble (I think from heavy rain), and it wasn’t getting fixed. Fortunately, (since I’d inherited management of the relevant software), I knew a magic incantation:

    a) Phone the trouble-report center.
    b) Tell the responder “Please tell your District Manger that until this is fixed, their E2700 Repeat Report Rate is going through the roof and staying there.”
    c) Result: sudden jump in priority, fixed.
    d) Why: that particular wording told them I knew *exactly* how to zero the District Manager’s monthly performance-oriented bonus until my problem was fixed.

    I don’t know if there’s a current equivalent.


  6. Nick Kelsier says:

    I nearly fell out of my chair the other day when someone who was commenting on the murder of that census worker in Kentucky said that there are areas there that don’t have phone service at all.


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