I ordered DSL service from AT&T recently. There were a lot of things they did wrong early on. They made it difficult for me to get naked DSL. They refused to allow me to transfer my existing service. (I’m in California now, but I had an account with Bellsouth in Mississippi.) They didn’t support their own modems from Mississippi. Etc. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I got my new modem today, along with it’s lovely installation software, and let’s just say that the installation wasn’t exactly smooth.

Broken Out of the Box

DSL modemFirst problem, it doesn’t work out of the box. There’s no reason why a DSL modem shouldn’t just work when you plug in the wall. AT&T already knows who’s paying for the line. There’s no question about that. So why doesn’t it just work?

The modem wanted a username and password to connect. Okay, this is stupid, but whatever. I entered my username and password (actually the default one that tech support gave me when I was trying to get my old modem working). It still didn’t work.

Oh, the DSL connection was established. It passed all of its internal tests. I could even ping, dig, etc. from the command-line. But I couldn’t get my browser to connect to anything. Why didn’t it work? Damned if I know. Apparently it’s intentionally shipped in a half-working state, so that you’re forced to use the install software it ships with. The software is the source of the real problems.

Stupid Software

There’s is no reason any user should ever have to install software to get an external DSL modem to work. The software is completely unnecessary to actually use the modem once it’s configured.

It is absolutely obnoxious that users are forced to install extremely invasive software that is unnecessary for actual use of the device. All necessary configuration should be exposed through the modem’s own interface.

This software committed a lot of sins. Very briefly:

  1. It’s slow. Extremely slow. The software felt like I was running it on a 386. I could hear the hard disk and CD churning each time it loaded the next step in the wizard. And oh yes, there were a lot of steps. It probably took me 15 minutes to go through all the steps. And of course, there was no option to skip any steps. I had to click through ten pages on how to install line filters. I’m not using line filters. I bought naked DSL.
  2. It’s invasive. The software installed new hardware drivers. Why in the hell is this software installing drivers? I don’t even know what these drivers do, but they sure as hell aren’t necessary. There’s no option to not install them, though.
  3. It’s inconsiderate. Aside from generally being all-around poor-quality, the software also installed icons on my desktop, changed my homepage, installed unnecessary services, and rebooted my computer without asking me. After it installed it’s idiotic drivers, it actually rebooted my computer with no request and only about two seconds of warning. Who does this? After it started back up, Windows requested that I reboot again, but at least Windows gave me the option to decline.

There were plenty other issues with this software, but let me just move on to the grand finale.

The Trojan

AT&T TrojanAfter the AT&T software finally finished installing, I got a nice message from my antivirus program. Apparently, the AT&T installer let a trojan in, or installed one directly. Maybe it’s even a false alarm, because the installer just exhibits such inappropriate, trojan-like behavior. I don’t know, and I really don’t care. There is absolutely no reason that this should have happened. This goes past incompetence into the realm of gross negligence.

In order to get my DSL modem, I had to install unnecessary software, sit through a ridiculously long install procedure, receive totally unnecessary drivers and services, have my computer reboot without warning, and be infected with a trojan. Are you serious? How much do you have to despise your customers to put them through this crap. It almost makes me wish I’d gone with Comcast. It definitely makes me wish I’d had more options.

Oh, and by the way, this software is version 7.6. Does that mean that the previous versions were even worse, or that it took them 7 major versions to screw things up this bad?

AT&T Trojan in Virtual MachineI actually got all of AT&T’s crap removed from my computer. Thankfully, I installed their stupid, infectious software in a virtual machine, so all I had to do was revert to a previous snapshot. I feel really bad for the majority of their customers, though. The average person isn’t going to have access to a virtual machine, and wouldn’t know to use it anyway. Instead, the average person will sit through the whole install, and then after it’s all done installing all its trash, wonder why their computer seems slower and less stable.

AT&T, you should be ashamed.

21 Comments on “DSL Hell – Or – Screw You, AT&T”

  1. William Furr Says:

    My girlfriend’s mother just went through something similar when she had Comcast come replace her broken cable modem (thunderstorm). I had previously purged all of the Comcast spyware a few months earlier (among other things) when she had complained about her computer being slow and crashing.

    As part of replacing the modem, the tech reinstalled all of that junk, including a Firefox extension or plugin that changed the user agent ID so that Yahoo! Mail wouldn’t support her browser even though it was Firefox 3.0.1. I had to completely delete the Mozilla application data directory to get it to work again.

    Can you not get Speakeasy DSL where you are? After that kind of bullshit, I’d seriously consider other options. I know I didn’t have to go through that to get my AT&T Wireless GSM card to work. I did have to install some software, but it’s decent wireless management software. I actually prefer it to the built-in Windows Wifi utility, and I really only have to use their software for the GSM connection, and I’m pretty sure I could figure out how to set it up without the software now anyway if I wanted.

  2. Ben Says:

    I agree, yet I am amused at your righteous anger. :)

  3. Derek Park Says:

    > Can you not get Speakeasy DSL where you are?

    Nope. That was my first thought when I moved here, but their site says they don’t offer coverage where I live.

    Actually, my first thought was that I’d just use GoogleWiFi, but I can’t get the signal in my apartment. I’ve been leeching off a neighbor for the last two months, but I feel bad doing that long-term.

    I really don’t understand why the cable and DSL companies do this crap. They know they don’t need the user to install software, so what’s the point in making them? Their buggy software can’t possibly encourage customer retention. All I can think is that no one switches because they know the alternatives are just as crappy.

  4. Derek Park Says:

    Ben, I was definitely pissed last night, especially about the Trojan. Everything else was obnoxious, too, but the trojan is just retarded.

  5. Jerry Says:

    I am impressed you managed to get naked DSL (presumably at a lower price than the bundle?).

    I am also impressed you installed a Windows virtual machine before running that crappy software.

    Yes. AT&T works hard to be irritating.

    Hard to understand your limited choices where you live when I get fiber optic to my house in Jackson, TN.

  6. Derek Park Says:

    The Naked DSL was somewhat lower, but not a lot. Their local service here is pretty cheap, something like $10/mo, and I pay an extra $5 for having DSL unbundled (so I’m saving $5/mo). Their local service here is pretty poor, too. I think they said long distance starts at only 10 or 15 miles from the nearest switching station.

    I actually have the Windows VM for work. I use a mac laptop, because I wanted the command line. I’ve got Windows in a VM so that on the rare occasion I need it, it’s available.

    I’m not sure why my options here are so limited. From what I can tell, my broadband options consist of only ATT DSL or Comcast. I’m pretty sure there are more options in the broader area, but for some reason my immediate area is limited. I wonder if the free Google WiFi (I can’t get the signal) is making the area less attractive to providers. I was really hoping for fiber, but I couldn’t get it.

  7. Andrew Says:

    There are probably other DSL options, but you’d have to get a full line from AT&T. I have an AT&T line and use Worldspice for DSL service. They mostly do business lines, but a friend of mine is their head engineer, so…

    Anyway, good luck. That sounds crappy.

  8. Peter Burns Says:

    I’m glad to see people calling out such amazingly obnoxious software.

    The barely hidden disgust that some windows software has for its users is one thing that pushes me away from the platform.

    There’s plenty of good, well written software for windows, but you just don’t see this kind of user-hostile behavior on other desktop platforms.

  9. John Says:

    that’s a motorola 2100 modem. you do not need to install any software to make it work. just access the modem’s GUI and put in your username and password and you should be able to get on the Internet.

    the trojan your AV detected is probably that tool they have to check for QOS. irritating, but not quite dangerous.

    funny you should get pissed just after a few hours. that’s not the end of it, believe me.

  10. Derek Park Says:

    John, I did that. It didn’t work. It refused to connect until I went through the software setup process.

  11. wow Says:

    I’ve had nothing but problems with AT&T modems. I’ve gone through 6 modems in a year and a half. The garbage is made in China and overheats and fails. And yes they do put a trojan into your system when loading the software. If you try to contact them all you get is misery. Do yourself a favor and go somewhere else for your DSL service.

  12. Steven Says:

    I would be happy to get anything, even if it is buggy, besides this craptastic Hughesnet. Please if you know anyone, or even if you meet someone on the street that is thinking about getting HughesNet tell them to do their research. HughesNet sucks! It is absolutley worthless for gaming, streaming video, downloading large files, and internet phone. Virtually anything you get broadband internet for it cannot do. Its service as a whole is an EPIC FAIL. Avoid at all costs unless you have no other option to dial up, and even then seriously consider it. You get locked into a 24 month contract and it runs a minimal of $60 a month.

  13. Wrangler Says:

    I had the same problem. I recently lost connection & upon re-establishing the connection I was directed to an AT&T webpage that said they had detected that I needed new software to connect. I tried to avoid downloading their software but every other webpage I went to was pre-empted by this AT&T page. Once I downloaded their software, I got a connection but lost all of my passwords in my keychain & now my keychain seems permanently broken. Upon restart, my computer won’t remember any passwords so I have to reenter my internet connect password every start up & I have lost all my website passwords.
    I now hate AT&T and their bogus software. I am switching to Comcast cable internet. So long AT&T.

    Anyone heard of similar problems with comcast?

  14. Joel Says:

    I recently got AT&T DSL too in St. Louis, Missouri. I just wanted a dry loop so I could use callvantage voip. I didn’t have a choice but to install their software. I had to use it to create my username and password.

    Don’t even bother calling DSL support, it’s all outsourced. I’m now accustomed to calling their cancellation department for support.

    I thought anything would be better than Charter Cable’s customer service. I was very wrong.

    The only thing I have good to say about the service is AT&T’s bandwidth pipe to a lot of places is a lot better than Charter’s and the service has been rock solid ever since I plugged it in. They also give you credit for service outages, something I have never seen before in my life.

  15. Carlos Ballejo Says:

    Yes you are absolutly right
    i just received a new modem after my old one broke and this new one already broke it goes off not letting me get on the internet really messes with my work time and it erritates me like hell

    yes ever since i installed the att modem software my computer dropped from 3.45 running speed to 2.95 and im very mad

    i totally agree with you i need to buy a different modem seeing how they only give these for free

  16. highlander Says:

    I had the exact same problem like you! Fortunately, I couldn’t install their crappy software on my PC. (this was in 2005). It just wouldn’t install. I discovered I really didn’t need their software when I connected my computer and it just worked. I had to enter a username and password on the DSL modem to configure it. That was it.

    When I mentioned this to the tech guy on the phone, he had no explanation. He just let it go.

  17. Andrew Says:

    AT&T is dumb. Whenever possible i go with ANYONE BUT AT&T. Comcast is amazing — and really, there is no comparison for speeds between DSL and Cable. DSL = real world 80Kb/s uploads. Cable = real world 1Mb/s Uploads — between 10 and 20 times faster. Downloads the same, plus you can still watch HD Streams while uploading tons of files.

    Unfortunately AT&T is very good at making sure they are the only option in many, many places. Like the place I’m in now — downtown L.A., so no cable. And guess what? NO OTHER OPTION BESIDES AT&T.

    And guess how fast it is for $50/month?? Their second slowest option. For $10 more a month, Comcast cable’s speeds are 5 times as fast.

    And yes, AT&T installed tons of crap that I didn’t need . They did have the forsight to realize that the “home page” I set my browser to wasn’t really what I wanted . They realized that and changed it for me, since they knew I must be a dummy. They changed my personal settings on my computer. Not just the behind-the-scenes stuff, but the actual personal settings.

    Fuck AT&T.

  18. Andrew Says:

    And — I forgot — they told me I had to buy a $100 modem. I asked them if there were any other options, since I wasn’t able to get TV from their “Uverse” package in the building. They had to talk to a supervisor, but I was allowed to buy an $80 one.

    The same modem that was being used in 2003. And in 2005. And in 2008 when I got AT&T (by no other choice) a 3rd time. 4th time, same tiny piece of plastic. They probably make 80% of the money in profit on those.

  19. Sue Says:

    AT&T — I don’t have all night to go into what a racket they are. What a shameful, sad, desperate, deceitful company they became once they actually had to try to compete. Long story short — our business modem crashed after a thunderstorm — they make you order their modem — one can’t buy a modem locally from an AT&T store (only residential modems available). They expect businesses to wait TWO days for a modem because they only care about their miserable greedy bottom line at the expense of customer satisfaction. Very short-sighted. Then, the silly new $100 modem and software installation disk finally arrives — and it’s loaded with Trojan viruses, which AVG would not allow to install. Had to call and have the nice (really-it’s not his fault) tech from the Phillipines help me install it without the disk. How does AT&T get away with this stuff for this long? They must have lots of friends in Washington that’s for sure. Can’t wait till our AT&T contract runs out in 2011. We are SO very tired of being scammed at every turn with them. They are the Bank of America of telecommunications, and no, that is not a compliment. Goodness — don’t EVEN bring up the Real YellowPages if you want a real earful!

  20. Joe Says:

    I installed many of these with no software. The trick is to get your @att.net email address first. HTTP to the DSL modem and enter your email and password. It will work fine after that. AT&T will give you a crappy DNS server that crashes a lot, and re-directs you to their own custom spam page. To fix that use Google DNS. 8.8.8.8 for Primary and 8.8.4.4 for Secondary. Have fun!

  21. Stacey Tandy Says:

    One thing is that one of the most frequent incentives for using your credit card is a cash-back and also rebate offer. Generally, you’re going to get 1-5% back upon various buying. Depending on the cards, you may get 1% in return on most expenditures, and 5% back on buying made in convenience stores, filling stations, grocery stores and ‘member merchants’.