Higher Internet Speeds and Media Convergence at Home


I don’t usually write about specific technologies or vendors, but I’m sufficiently excited by a recent development in my home and home-office set up, and by my experience with the vendor of the new service, that I think it’s worth a mention.  First, some background.  I travel a great deal, but when I’m not traveling, I’m typically working from my home office, so reliable, high speed Internet access is essential.  Over the years I’ve tried cable (found that to be unreliable, though that was some years back) and DSL, which has worked well, especially in its latest incarnation in my neighborhood, BellSouth Fast Access, which recently got to 3 Megabit download.

Last week, given BellSouth’s acquisition by AT&T, an AT&T salesperson called at my door with an offer around the new U-verse product.  When I heard the magic “10 Megabit download” my ears perked up.  When I heard about the integrated TV feed that would replace my DirectTV satellite system, I was definitely interested.  When I heard about the DVR with up to 4 simultaneous recording channels, and the ability to program it remotely via the Internet, I was even more interested.  The final nail was the cost comparison between the U-verse system, with 2 phone lines, up to 5 PC’s wirelessly networked, video-on-demand, more content and more HD content than on DirectTV, I would save some money.  The last nail was the fact that this was a “no contract” month-to-month deal.  So I signed up.

Yesterday (yes, Sunday!) AT&T came to install.  They promised between 8am and 10am and were there at 8:05a.  Also, during the week they had called me to do a pre-install test.  The install turned out to be a very long job (all day!) – they hit various snags with my inside wiring (on a 3-year old house, theoretically “wired for the digital age”!) but they got everything working fine.  I’m getting the advertised speeds (makes a noticeable difference!)  The TV set-up is great (ability to manage the DVR through a computer is excellent) and there are all sorts of bells and whistles that my old satellite set up does not provide.

Finally, I have to commend the AT&T install guys (and sales person) for their extreme professionalism throughout – keeping me informed, donning little paper booties when entering the house, and making sure everything was working and I was a happy customer.  All in all, it was a very positive customer experience (I never thought I’d utter that expression in the context of an ISP or media company!)

I don’t know what all this means for AT&T longer term.  All the providers are wrestling with “the last mile” and competing vigorously for our hearts, minds and share of wallet.  Here’s an interesting and balanced article from Fortune that presents the challenge and opportunity well.  Either way, I’m thrilled and enjoying the new surfing speeds.  Ironically, I obtained other benefits I’d not even thought about.  My old set up had a mass of cables and power supplies under my desk – for the DSL modem, wireless router, PC, printer, USB hub, speaker phone, radio, etc., and phone cables, some with attached filters, going hither and thither.  The new set up has greatly simplified things, and cleaned up my under-desk spaghetti sprawl.  Hopefully, U-verse will prove to be as reliable as BellSouth Fast Access has been, and not so prone to TV signal break up in heavy rain.  Meanwhile – bring on the bit stream!

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