AT&T has a special place in my heart.
One of my clients is a small business with its own domain name and several users receiving POP3 mail addressed to that domain name – firstname.lastname@example.org, for example.
The business has an AT&T DSL line.
A couple of months ago, they started having trouble sending mail – AT&T’s SMTP server refused to take outgoing messages from Outlook.
Eventually we discovered that AT&T had sent this message a few months earlier, warning that its SMTP servers would only accept outgoing messages on an AT&T DSL line if certain conditions were met.
The first condition wasn’t terribly unusual – Outlook had to be set up to authenticate itself to the SMTP server with an AT&T account – an email address and password. The business had set one up as part of the DSL account (email@example.com) and we were able to dig that information out.
But wait! There’s more! The outgoing mail also had to be set up as an SSL connection for additional security, on a non-standard port. You know, the settings in Outlook under Tools / Account Settings / Change / More Settings / Advanced – surely you’ve been there? Yeah, right.
I sympathize with the difficulty for ISPs of dealing with an unimaginable amount of spam, but this is a terrible, unforgivable thing to do to people.
We were able to get the mail flowing again for a couple of months. It stopped again with no warning.
I’ve spent more than two hours and although I found a workaround, I’m still pretty horrified at what appears to be going on.
I tried every combination of SMTP server name, authentication on/off, SSL on/off, port 25/465, with no success. The returned messages had an unfamiliar error in them – the sender’s address was not “verified” to use the SMTP server.
AT&T and Yahoo have set up an extraordinary labyrinth of conflicting sites to log in with a @pacbell.net account. Eventually I found the Yahoo login page and was able to get to Member Center / My Account & Billing, where there was a reference to “Alternate email addresses.”
“Your alternate email address is an address you can add to your AT&T Yahoo! account for use with a variety of products and services across the AT&T Yahoo! network. An alternate email address can be used any time you don’t want to use your AT&T Yahoo! member ID for a particular function.”
Great! Put in the business email addresses, respond to an email confirmation, and the addresses showed up as “Verified.” Problem solved!
Not. Outgoing mail was rejected just as firmly. I kept typing test messages and pushing “Send” over and over, because I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
I located an ominous sentence in an AT&T support document –
“Please make sure that you have entered your AT&T Yahoo! Business Email address as the “From” address in your email client. You will not be able to send mail if you have entered another address.”
If I read it correctly, that support document only applies to people using an “AT&T Yahoo! Business Email address,” whatever that might be.
Outgoing mail immediately started flowing. And every outgoing message shows the sender is firstname.lastname@example.org, from every computer onsite.
I spent more time and got nowhere. I thought about the horror of calling AT&T for technical support on an issue like this and put the idea out of my head. We may get to that point but my hourly rate becomes a very real consideration for this kind of headache.
And that’s where things stand. Somewhere there’s an answer. It can’t be the case that a business cannot send email using its own domain name on an AT&T DSL line – but, well, that’s where it stands.
By coincidence, Susan Bradley complained recently about changes AT&T has made to her incoming mail at an @pacbell.net address that make the account virtually unusable.
Sonic is still taking orders for DSL, and I’m hoping this business will just switch over and we can put this behind us. But what will we do when AT&T is the only DSL provider left?
[Postscript 05/30 1pm: after more experimenting, I found that mail.pacbell.net is apparently still running – messages can be sent from the business address. (Settings: authentication required; port 25; no SSL.) It’s not clear whether this is a permanent solution or whether AT&T intends to shut down those servers, as their support letter suggests. But for the moment, the business can use its mail again]