AT&T Becomes Latest ISP To Promise New Homeowner Broadband Connection At Address They Won’t Actually Serve

You’ve heard it all before: a man buying a new home needs to make sure it has acceptable broadband connectivity, not just for entertainment but also because he works in IT. He calls the provider in the area three times before moving, and every time is assured that they service his house. Until he moves in and finds out that in actual reality, they don’t, and aren’t sure why they said they did. The last time we shared such a tale of woe, it was Comcast in Washington state. This time, it’s a homeowner in Michigan, and the ISP that doesn’t know what they actually do is AT&T.

Ars Technica has the story of a new homeowner stymied by his quest to get broadband at his new house. When David Mortimer went house-hunting in 2013, connectivity was a priority.

“I called AT&T on three separate occasions to verify that this home had U-verse capabilities or, at the very least, 20Mbps,” he told Ars. “I was told every single time ‘Yes, that service is available at that residence.'” He also checked his address against AT&T’s website and that, too confirmed that he could get U-verse at his new home.

Until, of course, he actually tried to get service at the house hooked up.

What AT&T was actually able to provide was old-school DSL at “up to” 768 Kbps (that’s 0.7 Mbps). 768K would be bad enough to work with, but what he actually was able to pull down was 300-400 Kbps at best.

The FCC’s minimum threshold for broadband service is now 25 Mbps — meaning his DSL service got to about 0.04% of “broadband.” Even under the old minimum threshold of 4 Mbps, Mortimer’s connection was not even up to 25% of where it needed to be.

Basically, a connection of 0.3 Mbps is all but useless for any streaming or real-time internet use. You can e-mail, and IM, and do the things you would have done in 1998 when that was super-fast, but say goodbye to Netflix, Skype, or online gaming. Even web browsing, with the current trends in design, is hard on connections that slow.

Mortimer’s story at least has a better ending than would-be Comcast customer Seth in Washington, who ended up with no real option but to move.

In this case, the homeowner was eventually able to get a wireless service, Vergennes Broadband, to work with him on a creative solution:

“I had them come out to try again, and they couldn’t get anything at the house itself, so me and the installer got a little creative,” Mortimer said. “We got a good signal with line of sight down by the road so we attached the dish to a tree, then buried the line, and in order to get it to my house over the driveway we had to snake it through some cracks in my driveway and cover it with dirt.”

It is true that anyone moving house has an obligation to check what services are available before they sign on the dotted line, especially anyone buying property. But in both of these cases and countless others, buyers have done their due diligence and then some, calling and checking with their area ISP several times. The problem isn’t a lack of research on part of the consumer; it’s a lack of clue on part of the provider.

“ISPs don’t actually serve my house even though they said several times that they would” has become its own entire genre of customer service complaint. And in order to solve it, ISPs are going to have to figure out what the heck services they actually provide, and then figure out how to be both honest and accurate when potential future customers call.

When AT&T promises broadband—but delivers only 300Kbps [Ars Technica]