I’m occasionally asked why I have such a negative opinion of AT&T’s DSL service.

This chilling account should answer that question – a complete log of one person’s experiences on two different occasions, dealing each time with more than a dozen customer support reps over a period of more than three hours each, on problems that should have been simple. A slow DSL connection at home, a failed login to AT&T wireless service, problems that should have required five minutes but turned into hellish nightmares.

I’ll add one more awful, unforgiveable story, just the latest in my own run of unhappy experiences with AT&T.

Last week, AT&T started blocking all outgoing email with no notice for one of my clients running Small Business Server. A business was suddenly, unexpectedly cut off from communicating with its customers. For better or worse, businesses live by email! This was potentially devastating.

When I investigated, I found that port 25 was completely blocked, so no other outgoing email server could be used; AT&T’s email servers could only be accessed over port 465 with SSL authentication, which is not supported by Exchange 2003. I researched the problem online and discovered that there was no solution; a handful of people who had survived AT&T’s stupefyingly awful tech support process had been told that AT&T was simply not handling outgoing email for anyone with an Exchange Server – no apology, no excuse, no solution.

(This is a variation of the problem I ran into a few months ago. I solved it this time by buying service from NoIP.com that sends outgoing mail on a nonstandard port. Later I learned that ExchangeDefender also can be set up on a nonstandard port. I’m still going to insist that both clients leave AT&T.)

It’s still possible to sign up for DSL service with Sonic.net, which consistently employs the nicest people in the world. If you are signing up for DSL service, don’t even consider signing up with AT&T. If you currently have AT&T service and you want to do something proactive for your future mental health, think about switching your service. If you’re a business, make it a priority.

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