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A few days ago Sarah and I switched our internet service from Time Warner cable to AT&T DSL. I was skeptical when the sales representative said that the transition would be smooth, and all I had to do was connect the DSL router to the phone line and wait for them to connect it on their end. I was surprised when it happened as he said.

As soon as I saw that the DSL modem had an internet connection, I found an ethernet cable in the back of the basement and connected it. I set up the wireless network on the new router just as I had on the old one, disconnected the cable, and loaded up Firefox to see that it was working.

Instead of Google's homepage, I was taken to a 2wire/Yahoo site explaining that more steps were necessary before I could access the internet. I had to create a att.net e-mail account, and an ActiveX plugin was required to apply that e-mail address / password combination to the router firmware settings. I dutifully switched to IE7 and allowed the ActiveX plugin installation.

I was almost finished with everything when I got a "Page could not be displayed" error. Confident that ActiveX had worked its magic, I copied and pasted the URL into Firefox, got to the same step, and received the same error. I tried to go back to Google's homepage. It worked. I celebrated by playing a few rounds of TF2, to "test" the connection.

E-mail Issues

Later on that night, I asked Sarah what she thought (we still had the cable modem and wireless router available, just in case), and she said that it was fine. The only problem she had was that she couldn't send e-mail using her Thunderbird client. After checking into it myself, I found that I couldn't send mail from my laptop either.

I checked the router settings, and the firewall allowed SMTP traffic, port 25, as it should. After a quick search, I found that AT&T blocks port 25 by default, and provides a secure SMTP server with authentication. So, using their instructions, I configured my e-mail client.

When trying to send a test message to myself, I was prompted for my username and password. I entered my e-mail address and password that I had registered previously. It didn't work. I tried it again, just to be sure, and it still didn't want to log me in. Then I realized I was using the wrong password. I tried it using the password I knew to be correct, and it still wouldn't take.

Then I had the idea to try and log in to AT&T's webmail service, hoping it would either let me change my password or at least explain the problem. The only explanation I got was "Invalid e-mail". I would have expected my password to be invalid, but not my e-mail address. Thinking that it was possibly an error as helpful as IE's javascript console errors, I went ahead and tried to change my e-mail password. It asked me the questions I had provided in the account setup, and I was able to set my password to what I already knew it to be, because I didn't want to have to set the new password in the router firmware.

After following the online instructions to wipe out my cookies and browser cache, I tried logging in once more, and received the same helpful error message - Invalid e-mail. I also tried sending the test e-mail from Thunderbird again. Still no luck.

By now it was getting late, and I decided I had probably been flagged by the system for trying too hard to get in. I know many authentication systems will lock users out temporarily, so I went to bed in hopes of trying the correct combination the next day.

During my break at work, I decided to give it another shot. When it still didn't work, I knew I had to contact someone at AT&T, and remembered that they provide online technical support via chat. His name has been changed, but this is a transcript of what took place:

Robert Paulson:
Hi y5!
y5:
Hi Robert
Robert Paulson:
I see that you have an issue with regards to accessing your email?
y5:
Yeah.. if I go to this link
Robert Paulson:
I see.
I already had the feeling that I was in for it...
y5:
and type my email (yellow5@att.net) and my password, it says invalid e-mail
Robert Paulson:
I do apologize for the inconvenience that it is causing you but let me try my best to help you resolve your issue.
Robert Paulson:
I will send you a link to log in your email address.
Robert Paulson:
Please click on the link.
The agent is sending you to http://sbc.yahoo.com.
y5:
I did try to log in a few times but had the wrong password at first, so I wonder if it didn't lock me out
y5:
same thing.. invalid email.. It doesn't say invalid password. and I checked my e-mail account using the forgot password tool, and everything checked out.
Robert Paulson:
Have you changed your email password recently?
Fair enough...
y5:
It's been the same since the beginning. I went through the "change password" dialog but I just changed it to what it already was, hoping to reset something
Robert Paulson:
I see.
y5:
It's a brand new account, I've never been able to log in. I don't mind giving you my password so you can see what I'm getting at. I'll just change it later anyway.
Robert Paulson:
Are you using Internet Explorer?
This is where I knew this guy had no intention of helping me. He was on the clock, and that's all that mattered to him.
y5:
I tried IE and same results. But I usually use Firefox
Robert Paulson:
In your IE, click on Tools then Internet Options.
About 45 seconds slowly pass...
Robert Paulson:
Let me know when done.
Wow... It's been less than 5 minutes, and evidently I've proven myself so incompetent that I have to notify him of every mouse click?
y5:
Done, i was waiting =)
Robert Paulson:
Under "General" tab then click the "Delete Cookies" button, when done, click "Delete Files" button (put a check mark on "Delete all offline content") then click "Ok" button. When done, click the "Clear History" button.
Robert Paulson:
Proceed to the 2nd tab (Security). There would be 4 icons, click the first icon(Internet) then click "Custom Level" button.
Robert Paulson:
Inside Custom Level, down bellow there is a "Reset" button (click that) then hit "Yes" button. Beside the "Reset" button is "Reset to" field settings (it should be in the lowest level). When done, click on "Ok" button (one time only).
y5:
same thing. I tried clearing the cookies last night and still couldn't get in. I don't see how "Invalid e-mail" would be a cookie issue though.
My gosh I'm so diplomatic!
Robert Paulson:
We are not done yet.
LOL! This guy is definitely on auto-pilot!
Robert Paulson:
Please do the same steps for the last three remaining icons (we need to reset all settings for each icon, then let me know when done).
y5:
I really think something's wrong with my account since I tried to log in with the wrong password a few times in a row
Robert Paulson:
Now click the next tab (Privacy), make sure that the slider there is set to "Medium", if there is no slider, thats okay.
Robert Paulson:
Proceed to the last tab (Advanced), down bellow there would be "Restore Defaults" or Restore Advance Settings" button (click it) then hit "Apply" button and "Ok" button.
At this point he's not just ignoring what I have to say; he's not even acknowledging that I've said something.
Robert Paulson:
Now that your browser is optimized, we need to close your Internet Explorer for it to take effect.
Optimized? What the hell...
Robert Paulson:
Let me know when done.
y5:
All done
Oh yeah, everything but the plastic smile!
Robert Paulson:
Are you sure you did all the next steps I gave you?
What do I say to that?
Robert Paulson:
I need you to do all that/
What a prick...
y5:
Yes. I'm using Firefox to chat with you so I don't have to reset the browser I'm using
Robert Paulson:
I aske you to open Internet Explorer did I not?
I love it when people are both dense and condescending...
y5:
Please don't talk down to me. I ran IE so I could do what you asked, and restarted IE, and that's where I'm at.
The only thing keeping me from going off is the fact that this guy can easily screw me and my new internet connection right over.
Robert Paulson:
Who is your favorite singer?
Robert Paulson:
I will now reset your email password.
y5:
::redacted for security purposes::
y5:
I did that last night too
Robert Paulson:
Click the link I will send you, log in your email address using the password : AQJ650
The agent is sending you to http://sbc.yahoo.com/changepassword.
y5:
Invalid email, please try again.
y5:
Try it yourself. It's not a problem on my end.
Robert Paulson:
The problem is that you did not do what I asked of you to do, I reset your email password already and that should work by now. Your computer does not respond to the new email password so we need to reset its settings.
I wasn't being rude by suggesting he try it. I guess he took it that way..? What an unprofessional asshole.
Robert Paulson:
One last time.
y5:
Were you able to log in to my e-mail?
Robert Paulson:
Yes.
I was pretty sure this was a lie, and later on I was able to confirm that it was.
Robert Paulson:
That is why we need to reset your browser's settings.
y5:
I'll follow the steps one more time.
I should have left it here, but I knew it was hurting him as much as me. Why not keep going?
Robert Paulson:
Click on Tools in your Firesfox.
y5:
Let's stick to IE, since I'm using Firefox to chat with you.
Having worked tech support before, I know the tricks. You're not getting away that easily!
Robert Paulson:
Okay.
Yes, I was really performing all the steps, just as I did before. It's not like I use IE7 anyway.
Robert Paulson:
Click Tools then Internet Options.
y5:
Done.
Robert Paulson:
Under "General" tab then click the "Delete Cookies" button, when done, click "Delete Files" button (put a check mark on "Delete all offline content") then click "Ok" button. When done, click the "Clear History" button.
y5:
Done.
Robert Paulson:
Proceed to the 2nd tab (Security). There would be 4 icons, click the first icon(Internet) then click "Custom Level" button.
y5:
Done.
Robert Paulson:
Inside Custom Level, down bellow there is a "Reset" button (click that) then hit "Yes" button. Beside the "Reset" button is "Reset to" field settings (it should be in the lowest level). When done, click on "Ok" button (one time only).
y5:
Done.
Robert Paulson:
Please do the same steps for the last three remaining icons (we need to reset all settings for each icon, then let me know when done).
y5:
Done.
Robert Paulson:
Now click the next tab (Privacy), make sure that the slider there is set to "Medium", if there is no slider, thats okay.
y5:
Done, it's Medium
Robert Paulson:
Proceed to the last tab (Advanced), down bellow there would be "Restore Defaults" or Restore Advance Settings" button (click it) then hit "Apply" button and "Ok" button.
y5:
Done.
Robert Paulson:
Now that your browser is optimized, we need to close your Internet Explorer for it to take effect.
Again with the "optimized". He needs a new copy/paste script.
y5:
It's closed.
Robert Paulson:
Good.
Robert Paulson:
Please reopen IE then in the address bar, type : sbc.yahoo.com/changepassword
y5:
I'm there.
y5:
It came up to the login box that I'm used to seeing
y5:
Should it be something different?
I was referring to the /changepassword part of the URL. It took me to a place to log in, not change the password.
Robert Paulson:
Log in your email address yellow5@att.net and use
Robert Paulson:
AQJ650
Robert Paulson:
Again that would be : AQJ650
ROFL!!
y5:
Invalid e-mail, please try again.
Robert Paulson:
As your default password.
y5:
I copied and pasted
y5:
six characters, no spaces on either end
Robert Paulson:
No, you need to type your email manually and the password.
I would think that copy and paste would be more reliable, not less.
y5:
I typed my e-mail manually. I just tried typing the password manually and it didn't work, so I tried pasting it and it didn't work either.
Robert Paulson:
All small letters.
Robert Paulson:
yellow5
y5:
yes.
Oh my gosh, what a prick.
Robert Paulson:
Have you tried to use a different pc?
y5:
Actually that's why I decided to chat. It didn't work at home, so I waited to come to my work machine and it still doesn't work.
Nice try again, you're still not getting away that easy.
Robert Paulson:
Because I see no error either in your account nor your Email password.
y5:
It's the same account my DSL router uses to connect
y5:
with the same password.. so technically I agree, there shouldn't be anything wrong.
y5:
(not the same password anymore of course, since you changed it)
Robert Paulson:
I see.
He either gave up trying, or he finally understood that it wasn't a problem on my end.
Robert Paulson:
There are steps we need to perform but that will get us disconnected just trying the first procedure.
Mission accomplished. I got him to admit that he's clueless, in his own pricky way.
Robert Paulson:
For your convenience, I would really advise you contact our voice department for continuous trouble shooting.
Robert Paulson:
Do you agree?
y5:
I think I might just call later. This is taking way too much time.
y5:
Robert, take care... and please stop assuming everyone you chat with is an idiot. You really need to give people the benefit of the doubt a little more.
Diplomatic to the very end... Maybe I should be proud, but deep down I wish I would have torn into him.
Robert Paulson:
I appreciate that.
Robert Paulson:
Anything else I can help you with?
Robert Paulson:
By the way.
Robert Paulson:
The number would be 877-722-3755, that is a toll free number.
Robert Paulson:
Have a great day to you ahead.
Whatever that means...
y5:
Thanks Robert.

Later on, I called the number. Within about 30 seconds tops, they realized the problem: I didn't continue registering my account (which I was prevented from doing at the time), and it would have been impossible for me - or Mr. "Paulson" - to log in without doing so. But hey, at least it works now, right?


4 CommentsRSS

1 RC wrote: [5:12pm on January 31 2008]

Oh, the joys of dealing with tech support. I have a similar story involving paypal that I should post on my blog... the short version is, Kelley is locked out of her account because she changed the associated email address. Tech support can verify her identity based on questions and answers on file (all kinds of stuff)... but they can't fix the problem to let her log in.


After days of this, she finally got fed up and wanted to just close the account. On the phone with tech support, they verify her identity, and she says she wants to close the account. Only (get this) she has $13 sitting in the account, so it can't be closed with balance. How do we take care of that? "Just log in via the paypal webpage and have paypal cut a check to your bank." -- I'm not kidding, that is exactly what the lady said, after 45 minutes of trying to fix a problem that is /preventing us from logging in/.


Bottom line, we have an account we can't access (with money in it that we can't get to) that we also cannot close. Yay for outsourced tech support.

2 Matt Schmandt wrote: [8:43pm on January 31 2008]

Wow, it is really amazing how bad their tech support is. How much cheaper is AT&T and do you still think it is worth switching to?

3 y5 wrote: [9:49am on February 1 2008]

It's sort of a long story. We're paying the same as we were with RoadRunner and digital phone, and now we have DSL and Sarah has a cell phone. The phone was free, the DSL router was free (and we own it).


Soon AT&T will offer (in our area, at least) a TV package similar to Dish network but through the phone line, called "U-verse". It includes ESPNU and the Big Ten Network, both of which TWC refuses to offer. Not only is it not satellite, so the weather won't be as much an issue, but it also has no contract attached, similar to TWC's monthly plan. And it includes a free 200GB DVR. In addition, they'll offer higher speeds for DSL than they do now. Right now I'm getting 3MB down, 500K up, which isn't great but I don't really get into measuring contests too much =)


Once that kicks in, believe it or not we'll be paying a few dollars less than our TWC package, and we'll have a cell phone, DVR, a faster connection, and extra channels. So in the long run, it's worth it. Right now it's pretty much a wash.

4 Kyle wrote: [2:40pm on February 16 2008]

Well I was calling regarding my connection setup. I signed up for 1.5mbps but I doubt that I got that much speed so I checked my speed test online and I only got 640 kbps download speed. I later found out that 192.168.0.1 which is att default modem setting shows that I have a basic dsl connection! wtf! downstream is 768kbps not 1.5mbps! Okay... I'm lazy to call them on phone because they make fun of my broken english so I tried to use help chat.


I told him that ATT modem supposed to the exactly speed information with my service plan? He said yes!!! ok then I asked him.. why would the modem show different now? I have 768kbps downstream instead of 1.5mbps downstream! He is like a prick now! clueless and punk! He asked me to check the speed online! wtf! thats not my question! Ok I followed his steps! Then he said "ok! your speed is fine! as in contract! ur speed should be between 384kbps to 1.5mbps! so ur fine!" damn it! I'm not talking about my speed test now! I'm talking about my connection information!


THEY ARE JUST CLUELESS AND DID NOT WANT TO GIVE ME THE RIGHT SPEED! ALRIGHT COOL, NOW THIS MONTH! THEY WILL INCREASE THE PRICE TO 5 USD EACH FOR EVERY LINE!


ONLINE and PHONE HELP is sux! they will not help you! even the manager and supervisor.. they are just clueless!

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