Wednesday, October 22, 2008

U-Verse Experience - Update

While checking through my site meter logs I noticed that I'm currently getting a lot of hits from people searching for U-Verse information, obviously due to my lengthy post regarding my personal U-Verse installation saga. A lot of this may be due to an ongoing dispute between Time Warner Cable and the local NBC affiliate here in the Austin area that has resulted in our NBC programming being unavailable on cable for several weeks now, and lots of folks looking into alternatives to cable. Due to both my utter loathing of Time Warner Cable and in the interest of providing a complete portrait of my experience I wanted to post a follow-up review, so that folks can make a more informed decision.


First, a follow-up on the installation issues. Briefly, after a whole lot of back and forth and hours upon hours of time on the phone with U-Verse/AT&T customer service, we were completely unable to resolve the issue regarding my loss of my phone number. This was entirely due to an error on AT&T fault (they messed up the order intake and never issued the phone number port request, so when my I ended my cable service my phone was disconnected by Time Warner and my old number dropped into their available number pool, from which they -- TW, that is -- are apparently unable to specifically request it again.

So, corporate backend idiocy on both parts, with the end result being my loss of my phone number. AT&T was fairly accommodating with reimbursement for my trouble, although ther was an end-stage compensation agreement that they sort of just stopped pursuing (I wanted them to credit me something for all the time and effort I spent trying to help them straighten out their errors, and they were working on something but never got back to me. Rather than waste anymore time and energy pursuing it I just threw in the towel and dropped it).

Now, several months later, I continue to be a U-Verse customer, and overall am pleased with the service. However, although I tend to recommend the service, I also STRONGLY suggest that if you are porting your number from another provider you do not cancel service with that provider until AFTER you are certain the number port has been completed. This was an enormous source of frustration for a solid 2 months, and if you can avoid it by any means (including just sticking with your current provider for telephone service) you should do so.

Now, that said, some far-from-authoritative reviews of the U-Verse service itself.

U-Verse Television: Channel selection is quite good, especially for the price. Video quality in standard definition is excellent (easily equal to or better of TW, equal to DirecTV, Dish, etc.) while the HD is good/very good (equal, sometimes superior to TW, not quite as good as DirecTV. Compression can become quite obvious in some programming, especially in darker scenes where there are lots of muted colors/blacks). the whole house DVR, now that it is finally available, is terrific, and the DVR interface and performance is the best I've experiences outside of TiVo (still the gold standard, IMHO). Some other features are unimpressive (most of the other interactive features, such as the U-Bar, are pretty much useless in my opinion, since it's easier for me to get the local info using a computer or other device than it is to wait for the U-Bar to start, etc.). Haven't used the pay-per-view type services so I can't really talk to them. Overall grade: B+.

U-Verse High-Speed Internet: I've got the Elite level of service (up to 6.0 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream). Mostly rock-solid connection with good>great throughput. Occasional oddness (seems to forget where the DNS server is sometimes, resulting in a fairly lengthy -- 10-15 sec. -- delay when looking up a web site), but nothing worth contacting support over. The residential gateway they installed does a pretty solid job overall, but it does not support UPnP, so if this is something you rely on be prepared. No serious concerns or problems, but nothing overly stellar either. Overall grade: B.

U-Verse Voice: After a very rocky start, issues have settled down nicely. We were getting intermittent service outages for the first month or so, but these seem to have been initital "growing pains" in our area and they have since stopped. All in all it's a solid VOIP package, with some really nice features available via their web interface (makes setting up call forwarding, voice mail, and lots of other features fairly easy). It could stand some improvements -- I'd like to be able to just receive voice mails as an MP3 via email, whereas now I just get a notification that there is a voice mail waiting and I can then log into the web interface, download the VM, and then listen to it -- lots of steps for a fairly simple problem task. Personalized greetings for specific caller IDs would be a fantastic feature that, again, should be simple for them to implement. But overall, it's as good as any other VOIP solution out there. Overall I'd say if you're satisfied with your current phone service there's no compelling reason to switch, although AT&T's package deals might make it more attractive. Overall grade: B.

So, all in all I'd say I'm satisfied. There's plenty of room for improvement, but the great thing is that AT&T really seems to be willing to make improvements to make thier service more attractive, whereas TW has just sat back on their install base and let the money flow in. Also, AT&T's customer service has been in every sense superior to ANY experience I've had with Time Warner. While I initially had a buttload of problems, AT&T's staff worked very hard to solve the issues and were courteous and accommodating every step of the way.

So, should you sign up for U-Verse? I'd say yes. It has some downsides, but the upsides (features, cost, etc.) do a nice job of outweighing them. In short, if you're looking for a change you could do way worse.

Mood: Tired, achey (hard workouts the last two nights)
Now Playing: Nothing

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