The End of an Era: No More Choice for AT&T Internet Customers, Unless They Switch

Some AT&T customers in Grass Valley have just received a form letter indicating they are being involuntarily switched to U-verse High-Speed Internet effective Wednesday, August 15, 2012. If a customer has been thinking of switching AT&T DSL Internet service to a local or regional DSL provider, it must be done within the next few weeks. Other areas are, most likely, soon to follow. Coupled with AT&T’s new pricing for limited bandwidth, the end result will be higher pricing without the ability to switch.

Customers Have a Choice by Switching to Local Providers before August 2012
A closed AT&T network here will result in no competition, since there are many areas where Comcast doesn’t offer service in AT&T DSL coverage areas. Customers can contact local provider Spiral Internet at (530) 478-9822 for more information or read more on the website, to find out how they can keep their Internet options open. Many of the local providers, such as Spiral, offer unlimited Internet access at flat pricing.

AT&T Internet Access to be Suspended Unless Customer Calls
In AT&T’s Grass Valley mailing, they write “If we don’t hear from you by Wednesday, August 15, 2012, as a reminder, your service will be temporarily suspended until you contact us.” In addition, AT&T writes, “If you have phone service that depends upon your high speed Internet line (i.e. Voice over IP), this means that you’ll experience an interruption of your voice service – including 911 emergency services.” For example, if a customer is using Vonage with AT&T DSL be aware that Internet and phone service could both stop working. Download a PDF file of the full letter.

Lack of Circuits and Capacity is Also Creating a Serious Problem
AT&T announced earlier this year that they will not be expanding their DSL or U-verse service in the near future nationwide. This has created an emergency situation locally in several areas including near Crown Point Circle and Loma Rica Road in Grass Valley, where there are no more circuits to be had. If a business or residence shuts off their DSL, a new business or resident in the same location is typically told DSL service is no longer available.

Barbara Winn, an AT&T Regional Representative, was quoted at a recent Gold Country Broadband Consortium meeting, “We are having capacity issues. In Grass Valley, the central office cannot handle more broadband because of streaming videos and high demand. If someone disconnects, we won’t fill it back in, as we don’t have the capacity.

AT&T Does Not Offer “Triple Play” in Nevada County
In urban areas, AT&T’s U-verse is a “triple-play” service offering voice, Internet and TV;  an alternate to cable company services. Locally, U-verse is a “next-generation” DSL that may offer faster Internet speeds if you are located close to an AT&T central office or remote terminal (those large pale green or beige metal units that are located along the roadside).

U-verse Phone Service Needs Bandwidth
AT&T U-verse means the end of their legacy voice telephone service (POTS – plain old telephone service) and replacing it with VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) service. This means that U-verse voice service will now require bandwidth, subtracting from Internet speeds.

AT&T Creating a Closed Network
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 opened up the legacy copper “baby Bell” telephone network to third parties, creating thousands of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) across the country. For years, customers had a choice among many dial-up and DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) providers. Last year, the 1996 Act sunsetted, allowing what has now become AT&T again, to begin closing their network.

If a residence or business currently has DSL service with Spiral Internet, Full Spectrum (SmarterBroadband), ( or others, it appears – at least for now – that AT&T will not be switching those accounts to U-verse. However, once a switch is made to U-verse, that location can never go back to another DSL provider over the copper telephone wires.

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