Wednesday, September 12, 2012

AT&T “Ignorance Technology” Strikes Again

Last month I reported on how dealing with a DSL disruption problem led me to declare AT&T to be “the model example of how ‘knowledge technology’ can turn a mediocre service provider into a thoroughly stupid one.” Since that time I have had a series of further engagements with AT&T service providers, almost all of which provided me with little more than further warrants for my original declaration. Finally, I had to deal with a service provider in a chat room who tried to convince me to buy a new modem, which only convinced me that, for ATT, upselling was synonymous with customer service.

At that point I did what I should have done much sooner. I consulted a friend who knew more about these matters. It turns out that he had experienced exactly the same problems I was enduring, and he had been given the same advice. However, another service provider suggested that this was actually a power supply problem. If the modem was not getting the right level of power, it would act up with exactly the symptoms I had been observing. As a result, while my friend had already purchased a new modem, he decided to swap only the power supply; so he would not have to worry about reconfiguring all of the devices on the wireless side of his network.

Sure enough, this took care of his symptoms. He even brought his new power supply over to my place; and I experienced the same improvement in the modem’s “cold start” behavior. It thus seemed as if all I had to do was order a replacement power supply. Using the URL given to me by the service provider who insisted that I buy that new modem, I found the power supply and ordered it. Today it arrived, I hooked it up, and all of the lights on the modem remained dark, a condition far worse than any I had previously observed. I did not need a voltmeter to tell me that the power supply was not putting out any power.

To be fair, after making me wait the usual aeon, AT&T wasted no time in initiating a replacement. Supposedly it will come with paperwork for returning the defective one. Still, this raises some interesting questions about quality control. The fact that they reacted as quickly as they did indicates that I was far from the first customer to experience this problem. Did they think that, having tried the cheap way out, my first instinct would be to accept their advice to replace the modem?

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