Thursday, June 30, 2011

Life, the Uverse and Everything

Yay! AT&T finally rolled out their Uverse offering in my neighborhood! In case you don’t know, Uverse uses fiber optic technology to deliver advanced digital TV, high speed internet, and digital home phone service. Uverse has been around for a while but, as usual, the Shoals is a little behind everyone else but I’m not complaining.

It was with great reluctance that I made the switch. I’ve been a satisfied DirecTV customer for many years. The last time I attempted to switch (from DirecTV to Dish Network) an actual angel appeared to me from above. “Angel” was the name of the installer who made a misstep while running the cable in the attic and punched a gaping hole through my ceiling. Anyway, I didn’t care for the service and, as soon as they compensated me for damages, I switched back to DirecTV.

I think I have a keeper now. Although I was still satisfied with DirecTV, I was paying a total of about $170 dollars per month for phone, internet, and TV. AT&T’s Uverse has a package that offers all of that bundled into one package for $99 per month for the first 12 months. I’ll examine the cost savings again in a year but, for now, that additional $70 bucks per comes in handy.

The installation involves installing a new interface box on the outside of your home then running a network cable to the inside of your house. It took my installer about 3 hours to complete the job. Now, all my voice, data, and TV now go through the internet. This allows for some cool technologies such as accessing voicemail from any web-enabled device, recording up to 4 TV shows at the same time and watching those shows on any TV in the house, pausing live TV and even broadcasting recorded programs to your smart phone. That last benefit is evidently only available to AT&T mobile phone users. Strike one, AT&T!
The standard equipment includes a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and a small set-top box for each TV, a “free” wireless router, and a battery backup unit that will power your phone and wireless internet even during a power outage.

I’ve heard reports of difficulties from some people. The copper phone cable between your house and the tan-and-brown VRAD (aka “central office”) neighborhood box must be absolutely pristine for this stuff to work as advertised. Your house needs to be within 2000 feet of the VRAD to get the best results. Any further than that and difficulties start to appear such as pixilation or pauses in high-definition programs and slower internet speeds. I’m picky about picture quality and can see no discernable difference between Uverse and my old DirecTV. Your mileage may vary.

Even if you don’t consider this service, you owe it to yourself to call your current provider and threaten to drop them. Keep threatening until the finally offer you the $200 gift card. DirecTV offered me all sorts of goodies to not switch. It was tempting but not quite enough to keep me—for now.

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