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AT&T Midwest page on DSLReports
Six Month Rating

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Review by justbits See Profile

  • Location: Chicago,Cook,IL
  • Cost: $55 per month (month by month)
  • Telco party Ameritech
Good "DSLReports tech support is great! Extremely frustrating Tier 1 tech support for guru customers."
Bad "No speed upgrades in years. Failed to troubleshoot a recurring RF interference problem."
Overall "Relatively cheap; mediocre speeds; unlimited dl/ul. If you get RF interference, you're SOL unless you're patient and persistent."
Pre Sales information:
Install Co-ordination:
Connection reliability:
Tech Support:
Value for money:

My Other Reviews

·Comcast Business..
20101209 Update:

It's been 1.5 years since my last update. ADSL has been stable, but it's a dead end technology. ADSL2+ has been out for years, but AT&T refuses to switch to the newer (yet still OLD) technology. VDSL/U-verse was just installed 1 cross connect North of mine, so it's unlikely I'll be getting U-verse any time soon. It took 6 months for AT&T to install that VRAD and another 6 months to turn it on! That's pretty glacial progress if you ask me.

I have static IPs so, the cost of service is significantly higher now.

Due to being at the upper distance limit for ADSL 3.0Mbps service, I'm stuck at this speed for the foreseeable future, unless I switch ISPs. My coworkers and neighbors complain about Comcast, so that seems to not be a viable option.

One more thing. My SBC Yahoo email has been overrun with SPAM. I never publicized or shared the email address, yet it receives almost 20 pieces of junk per day! I've tried resetting the SPAM filters, but it still keeps coming. This is extremely disappointing. I regularly login and mark all the SPAM as SPAM, but it doesn't help.

20080512 Update:

Earlier this year, Yahoo! changed the way they provide SMTP access and added a 10 "authenticated email" address mechanism. For people like myself that run their own mail server, this resulted in me not being able to originate email because I have wildcard email addresses used to combat SPAM. So a limit of 10 addresses is completely useless. For more details:

»Re: AT&T and Yahoo servers

The way that Yahoo! runs their SMTP message submission servers are *not* suitable for an ISP email account, as currently configured by Yahoo!. The current workaround I have to use is to submit email for relaying through smtpauth.sbcglobal.net. If AT+T changes this SMTP authentication server to implement the same policy as Yahoo!'s SMTP servers, I may be forced to switch to a different ISP to run my email server.

20071115 Summary:

I've had AT+T ADSL service since Jan 2003. AT+T's Internet backbone is very reliable. It's just maintaining that last mile of copper that they have a problem with. I am a customer that was affected by radio frequency interference (RFI) for more than 18 months. The RFI was strong enough to interfere with TV, ADSL, and AM radio with nearly predictable times and durations each day. It was extremely hard to get AT+T to deal with the problem affecting their service. The quick initial fix was to switch my F1/F2 pairs to an inferior line that could barely handle 768/128. Anyway, after I bent over backwards to prove that no equipment in my home was generating the RFI, the AT+T RFI crew came out. After several visits by AT+T's RFI troubleshooting crew and several grounding/bonding checks/fixes, they did not successfully identify the source of the interference, but did fix a few bonding problems. After a while, they again decided to do what was easiest, they switched my F1/F2 pairs to a very clean line (probably my original SDSL line from Telocity), which turned out to avoid the daily RFI problem. However, a new non-periodic problem turned up where I'd have no DSL service and TV/AM would be flooded with RFI. AT+T believed this was no longer their problem and that they had fixed everything they could. So, my only recourse was to contact my power utility. Each time the severe powerline RFI occurred, I'd call and log a problem report with ComEd. After several visits by the wrong troubleshooting crews, ComEd finally fixed the problem in May 2007 when I finally was connected with ComEd's interference troubleshooting crew. I can only assume that ComEd's RFI crew fixed the problem because the problem stopped occurring after my first contact with them.

Over the years, I've been able to successfully upgrade from 768/128 to 1535/384 to 3008/512 with the current F1/F2 pair that I have. It's about 13kft long. I will never be able to get the Elite 6.0Mbps package with this telephone line. (Maybe a 4Mbps package if they eventually offer one though.) Most of my neighbors can't get 1.5/384 or even 768/128 because no other telephone lines are as noise free as the one I have. The moral of the story: if you have a DSL line problem, AT+T can sometimes find very clean F1/F2 pairs. If you have an RFI problem like mine, you may need to get all utilities involved. In my case, telco and electric.


AT+T Direct problem references:

»[TROUBLE] Speed drop from 2400/443 to 1500/443

»[TROUBLE] F1/F2 pair changed 2 weeks ago... powerline RFI causin

Previous problem summary:

My DSL had been suffering from RF interference since May 2005. AT+T was unable to identify nor eliminate the source of the RF interference.

In the beginning, I had SDSL with Telocity. It rocked. When they went out of business, I switched to AT+T (Ameritech/SBC at the time) and I have been with AT+T since. For the most part, AT+T provides an excellent Internet backbone. But, they really suck at maintaining "the last mile" of wire between you and the Central Office.

In March 2005, I upgraded to the Pro package. It worked... but then, every day between 6am and 11am for two 40 minute intervals, my DSL would be unable to maintain sync. I had to bend over backwards to prove that it was not my wiring at fault. It took almost 18 months to troubleshoot the problem. And then, they attempted a quick fix that had failed before. They switched me to a new pair of wires. I suppose by luck, they managed to find a pair of wires that had the same attenuation (approx 52-54) that I originally had before the problem started. I wouldn't doubt that this is the original pair that I started with.

AT+T did all they believed they could do to properly ground my telephone wires. In the end, they had approached Com Ed (IL electric utility) and after determining that this problem was no longer AT+T's fault, AT+T left the problem in Com Ed's court with no recourse for me.

Since I've been switched to the new wire pair, I have found that every few weeks, the power lines behind my home emit very strong RF interference that causes DSL to not hold sync and severely interferes with AM radio, NTSC OTA TV and ATSC OTA TV (HDTV). The interference doesn't seem to affect any of my equipment that uses 2.4GHz (WiFi, telephones, room to room video/audio transmitter). If the DSL modem does manage to hold sync, hundreds of thousands of CRC errors occur during the problem period that cause packet loss resulting in a poor Internet surfing experience (loss of TCP connections and dropped and restarted PPPoE sessions). So, I have been contacting Com Ed when the power line interference problem does occur. Fortunately, I finally have made contact with the interference team at Com Ed. Unfortunately, the problem is not reoccurring very often.

(Attached is "HDTV-RFI-Example.mp4", playable with Apple's QuickTime software. If you have power line interference, you can bet that your ATSC HDTV viewing will look like this example: jerky, missing frames and corrupted frames.)

AT+T seems to be unable to identify or efficiently troubleshoot radio frequency interference and power line interference problems. I have invested a few hundred dollars so far in filters, books, radios and DSL modems and countless hours of my free time. I suppose it's not all that bad for me, since it gave me a new hobby. I have become an expert on how DSL functions and have written software to visualize the Speedstream 5100b/4100 ADSL technician readout data. I have a few DVDs worth of raw data samples collected every 5 minutes during this problem (since May 2005), which I plan to use as evidence with future actions that I take with AT+T and Com Ed. A waterfall plot of an entire year's worth of RF frequency spectrum data is coming soon.


Update 20070509:

Two weeks ago, a ComEd worker responsible for RFI issues contacted me. I now have a direct phone number for requesting someone to come out 24/7 to look into the interference problem. Unfortunately, it's been 30 days since the last power line interference attack, but such is the nature of this beast.


Update 20070412:

The treadmill is not the cause of the RFI. In fact, AT+T never found out exactly what was causing the two 40 minute disturbances every morning. And, to this day, I can still observe two extremely minor 40 minute RFI disturbances in the ADSL spectrum shown by the Speedstream 5100b/4100. Why didn't AT+T find the source of the RFI? Well, they couldn't locate the source, so they wound up swapping my F2 pair onto a "better" pair of telephone wires. This better pair has lower attenuation, which is good. But, I no longer can get the Pro (3.0Mbit/512kbps) package anymore because my previous telephone wire pair had previous been disqualified as being able to support the Pro package.

So, this new pair of telephone wires went from having a twice a morning problem to a problem that occurs every few weeks in overnight hours. The new problem is that severe broad frequency spectrum interference is being radiated from the power lines. I have contacted Com Ed several times now. Of course, their turn around time is about 2 weeks and they never come out when the problem is actually occurring. So, they keep telling me that there is no problem when the come out to investigate. This is the same thing that I had to go through with AT+T.... they had a very hard time scheduling their servicemen to come out WHEN the problem IS occurring!


Update 20060809:

The RFI has been found to be generated by a large treadmill that has a TV and telephone connection. One solution was attempted but was revoked when the treadmill was found to have a Coax/Cable TV connection.

I changed my rating for tech support to the lowest possible. Not because there are individuals that are specifically poor at their job... but because this problem has likely been in the hands of both management and technicians; and only one actual solution was deployed for less than 1 day in the last 1 year and 3 months of experiencing the problem. I've been told there are people working on my treadmill RFI problem, but with a 1 to 2 week turnaround on AT+T Direct posts for status information, I'm believing that to be less than true. In particular, it's making me more and more frustrated that I am not as informed about what's going on.

Switched to monthly billing last month. Maybe it's time to start shopping around. *sigh*

I've become very knowledgeable about ADSL. I believe that the loss of sync issue would be eliminated if ADSL2 or ADSL2+ were deployed for my circuit. And that ADSL2/+ wont solve the fact that the treadmill is still likely violating FCC part 15 rules due to how much freaking interference it gives off. (It obliterates all AM radio stations within 100 feet of the treadmill owner's residence.)


Update 20060222:

Well, it's been 8 months and 22 days and my RFI problem has not been solved. This monster thread in the SBC Direct forum is tracking the issue.

»[TROUBLE] Speed drop from 2400/443 to 1500/443

Since November 1st, the RFI problem has been back. In reality, the RFI never went away and I have nearly 9 months of data logged to prove it. From July through November, the RFI problem was still occurring, but it just wasn't strong enough to knock DSL out of sync. Things seemed very promising when Justin picked up the ball and realized that I truely did have an RFI problem around Thanksgiving... and he had a Noise Mitigator contact that would be able to locate the RFI problem. Due to some delays, it took til the first week of January to locate the source of the RFI. It is approximated to be coming from one of 6 houses 900 feet west of my home. However, with the RFI tools the Noise Mitigator had, he was unable to specifically pinpoint a specific home.

So, the current problem with locating and eliminating the RFI source is coordinating with the power utility (ComEd). Apparently it's very hard to get ComEd to take responsibility for the RFI problem. They've failed to rendezvous to solve my RFI problem for the last 4 weeks or so.

Then, last Thursday through Sunday I had 27 hours of useless DSL due to a new problem that seemed to coincide with the strong lightning storm last Thursday. I say DSL was useless because the modem was resyncing every 15 minutes or less at low bit rates (between 600 and 900 kbps on a normally ROCK SOLID 1536/384 line), the SNRM was very low and the error counts were so high that I couldn't effectively use the Internet connection. New TCP connections would fail due to high packet loss over the DSL link. I have ping latency and ping loss data logged. It was extremely frustrating. My posts to SBC Direct about this issue went unanswered and uninvestigated when the problem was occurring. I suspect that this problem will recur when the April rain storms come. Lucky me! :-( This is a new problem and it's likely related to water in the telephone system somewhere.

Overall, I've personally spent about $300 on items (books on dsl, ferrite cores, multi-meters, cables, wire, RFI filters, DSL RFI filters) to troubleshoot this problem. Not to mention the hundreds of hours of my time spent analyzing the data I collect every day as well as continuing to be a squeaky wheel. Also, I've had to personally become a SpeedStream 5100b expert since the DSLAM collects inferior data about the quality of the DSL line where RFI is concerned. (Come on, upgrade to ADSL2+ already and you'd have excellent stats from both the DSLAM and the CPE modem!)

Because of the problems I'm having, I've gotta rate the connection reliability at the worst and knock down the Value for Money to below average. (What good is cheap DSL when it's not really always-on due to RFI?) When my RFI problem is fixed, I'm sure my opinion on these factors will change significantly to the positive again.

I've been extremely patient. I'm sure most customers would switch to cable instead of trying to get a RFI problem like mine solved. I suspect that many people have RFI problems with their DSL, but they just don't realize it.

I had an excellent F1/F2 pair capable of sustaining 3.0/512 (54.0dB ATN, 16.0 dB SNRM, estimated at 9000 ft!) before the RFI problem started. In the process of troubleshooting, the first thing SBC did was change my F1/F2 pairs. The best pair I've gotten since is 1.5/384 (57.0 dB ATN, 16.0 dB SNRM, estimated 12000 feet). I doubt I'll ever get a pair of wires that are that well conditioned ever again. This sucks because I would otherwise subscribe to the Pro 3.0/512 package. I'll say it again, they just aren't equipped to detect or identify RFI problems. Yes, I'm very bitter about losing my excellent F1/F2 pair.

My co-workers keep telling me to give up DSL and go with cable. One of these weeks that may happen, even though I vowed years ago that I would never get cable Internet service. Cable has never been installed to my house, but if Comcast has a "free pro installation" offer, I may just have to switch.


Update 20050704:

In March 2005, I upgraded to 3.0/512 for $30/mo. The line worked fine all of April. On May 1st, every morning, the line would lose sync due to a really strong noisy interference signal. Since May 1st, I've been trying to troubleshoot the problem with SBC. The biggest problem I had to overcome was proving that my "Inside Wiring" was not at fault.

See my problem threads:

»Any 5100b technician page DMT/SNR data experts?

»Excelcus L-222RJDP RF Interference Filter

»Cumberland & Montrose, Chicago/RiverGrove problem

»Problem around Montrose and Cumberland

»OT: Satellite dish attached to utility pole?

As of now, the noisy interference problem has mysteriously stopped causing my DSL line to lose sync on June 10th. But, everyday, the data I collect from my SpeedStream 5100b shows that the noise problem still exists... however, it is not strong enough to cause my modem to lose sync anymore.

Minus one on tech support because their Tier 1 tech support is so scripted, it's terrible. If you are a technical or knowlegable person, Tier 1 tech support will drive you nuts. Use SBC Direct instead. The people at SBC Direct are very helpful and knowledgeable. When you have a trouble ticket number, the ASI direct phone number is extremely useful also.


Jan 2004:

In the beginning, Jan 2003, I ordered SBC Yahoo DSL when my DirecTV SDSL 784/784 line went out of service. For $37/mo for 12 months, I received 768/160 ADSL service, PPPoE, dynamic IP. My effective line speed was: 640/132.

The initial order/install process was very simple. I chose the do-it-yourself ADSL installation. The SpeedStream 5360 modem showed up in the mail, I plugged it in and *poof* practically instant on. The registration process took a little time. Originally activated using a PC, my primary computers are all Macs now. I liked the downtime warning facility provided via the PC software.

In Jan 2004, I upgraded my service to $27/mo for 12 months and was sold the 384-1.5/128 Standard package. The service representative at first didn't want to provide me with this service, saying I was too far from the Central Office. (> 9000 ft) Yes, I'm between 12000 & 13500 ft from the CO... read on. I requested that she talk with her supervisor. She did and my upgrade was accepted.

In the evening on the day of the 'upgrade', the speed changed to 640/215. After IMing one of the excellent SBC Yahoo tech support representatives that services the DSLReports forums, my line synced at 1289/215.

Overall, I haven't had any major issues with downtime or unexpected problems with my service. I'm a happy customer. I'd be gushing even more if I had a static IP address and ADSL that acted more like SDSL when concurrent uploads and downloads are occurring.

(This is the same review as for SBC Yahoo)

downloadHDTVRFIExample.zip 8,235,441 bytes

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