Broadband (Cable, DSL, Satellite, Fiber Optics)/Broadband outage


On some occasions our Uverse internet goes down at our company.  Most times it just takes a modem power reset to come back on so no call is necessary to AT&T.  Rarely it goes down and stays down for hours.  When we call service, of course all we get is someone reading from a computer screen to guide us on the reset or they might send a reset signal.  A couple of questions on this aspect first:
What is it that actually happens on the lines when this happens?  And why does a reset usually resolve the problem?

The last couple of days we have had hours long outage.  By coincidence we have seen AT&T trucks out and around by the side of the road and we half believe they are working on a broader issue in our area.  But the person we call at the help line never knows what's going on locally.  All they can do is read canned responses from their computer screen or schedule a service call.  If it is a broader issue they are already working on, a service call will be useless.  Is there any way behind the scenes we can find out about more general outages in the area as we can for electricity outages from the power company?

When asking questions you need to indicate if this is DSL, Fiber, or Cable connectivity.  I'm going to assume it is fiber.  Basically going down with a power cycle fixing it is due to poorly designed equipment.  Your gear runs a small computer program called "microcode" that when it hits something unexpected, it doesn't know what to do so it crashes.  You reboot it when you power cycle it.  All you can do is repeatedly complain.  They might already know about the problem.

For an outage that is down and stays down that isn't your gear it could be a lot of different things in the network.  Maybe they are adding capacity.

It is common for customer service to be completely decoupled from the actual servicing end.  Most customer service calls are for viruses on PCs and other such junk, they come from people who don't know how to troubleshoot.  These are time-wasters and cost the ISP.  So all support calls go first to an outsourcer who's job is to separate the wheat from the chaff.  The outsourcer has very limited visibility to what is actually going on.  They will NOT escalate calls to the real support people who actually work for att until they have gone through their prepared script and stuff is still broken.  If they reset their own gear and it fixes it then they will end the call.

ATT monitors their support stats.  If they see an excessive number of customer-support-initiated resets in a particular area they will investigate and see if a piece of gear in the area is failing.  Otherwise, your individual problem is just lost in the noise of all the other support calls.

You are buying discount no-frills residential internet service.  from the ISP's POV, if 90% of the customers have connectivity 90% of the time, that 90% will suffer through the occasional need to power-cycle and won't quit service - thus the ISP makes money.  And for the 10% who keep calling and screaming at them, it's cheap to pay a support person in India to listen to them and eventually the 10% realize they are talking to a wall and give up, or quit service.

Only people who pay $1000 a month or more for real business quality fiber get a real support engineer who actually will investigate and make sure that any chronic problem is fixed.

An expert support engineer working for ATT who can actually permanently fix problems probably costs ATT $100-$150 an hour.  He might take 3-4 hours to really diagnose a problem.  If you are a faithful residential customer then perhaps ATT is making $300-400 a year in PROFIT (not sales) from you.  It would not be cost effective for them to finance a good engineer to fix your chronic problem that is why they pay the guy in India $10 an hour to read you a script.  And the fact is that there's not enough experts that are on the job market that they could even hire to do this for all their customers.  Lastly, with technological advancements - in 5 years all their back-end gear is going to be obsolete and replaced with new gear and in 10 years your gear will be replaced - and all that new gear will have it's own unique problems so you would have to start all over again.  It's the law of diminishing returns.

Broadband (Cable, DSL, Satellite, Fiber Optics)

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Ted Mittelstaedt


I will answer questions on the following kinds of High Speed Internet connectivity; ISDN, Frame Relay, dedicated T1, higher speeeds such as DS3/OC3, wireless such as 802.11 and DSL. No questions on dialup V90 or Cable access. I can also answer questions on many types of Cisco routers, and a number of other brands of business routers as well.


I am the technical manager of Internet Partners Inc. an ISP.

I've written a book titled "The FreeBSD Corporate Networker's Guide" published by Addison Wesley

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