Millions of Americans live in deserts with broadband without access to anything resembling modern internet service. But few people have it as badly as those who have to rely on AT & T’s old DSL network.
One of those hapless AT&T DSL customers is Kathie McNamee of Raymond, Mississippi. McNamee said she pays AT&T $ 35 a month for an internet plan of up to 768 kbps that rarely works well enough to be usable for her, her husband, and two teenage sons. McNamee contacted Ars after reading a story on AT&T falsely claiming that some Mississippi homes have broadband access when in fact AT&T is not able to provide service to those addresses.
AT&T has received more than $ 283 million from the Federal Communications Commission since 2015 to expand home Internet service to more than 133,000 potential customer locations in Mississippi. AT&T says it will exceed this requirement by the end of 2020 deadline, but the company’s mapping errors have led to unpleasant surprises for customers who thought they would get modern broadband.
McNamee and her husband bought their house about two years ago. She told Ars that AT&T told them in advance that they could get U-verse Internet service of around 5 Mbps. It’s slow by modern standards, but it would have been way better than what AT&T ultimately delivered.
“The tech comes over here and he does his thing and he said, ‘First of all, you’re not eligible for the U worm. It doesn’t exist here,’” McNamee told Ars. “Looking at the tests he was doing, he said, ‘you’re not going to get 5 Mbps. I don’t even know why they would sell you this. “He said to me: ‘You will be lucky to have 1 Mbps.'”
That’s because the old phone lines to McNamee’s house are too far from AT&T nodes to qualify for fiber-to-the-node service that offers faster speeds than basic DSL.
“I called AT&T and walked around with them to sell me something that wasn’t available,” McNamee said. “They had me on their card as eligible for all of these things, but I’m not eligible. [I told them], ‘I need you to change your card because I know you take federal funding and say you serve all of these places and yet you are not able to.’ “The AT&T card has then changed by entering McNamee’s address. AT & T’s online service checker now displays a message that no internet service is available at home.
Basic tasks not possible with AT&T DSL
Dealing with horrendous internet service has been a challenge, especially during the pandemic. AT&T DSL is so inconsistent that the family rarely uses it even for basic tasks like browsing the web, McNamee said. “I want a home security system or maybe a garage door that I can open remotely in case I or my kids are locked in”, but the internet connection is not good enough, a- she declared.
Even AT&T cell service is unreliable in their homes, McNamee said. “It has to be crystal clear outside, no rain, no wind, nothing, and every now and then we can use“ AT&T phones as mobile hotspots, ”she said.
McNamee’s husband sometimes has to travel 80 kilometers to work on the weekends to take care of things that could be handled at home if he had a good internet connection, she said. Their teenage sons have similar problems completing their homework. Even sending emails from home is risky, leading to problems at school when homework by email was not received.
“If they have to use a computer, my oldest daughter lives in Madison County and they have [Comcast] Xfinity, and so I take [my sons] home for the day and let them do anything that requires real IT work. They can do their job there and email it from there, ”McNamee said.
Stories of children sitting outside schools, McDonald’s libraries and stores using Wi-Fi has been common during the pandemic, and the McNamee area is no exception. “There were kids going to school and sitting in the parking lot” to use the Wi-Fi, she said.
Netflix and other streaming services don’t work in their homes, she said. McNamee said they pay around $ 250 a month for DirecTV’s satellite video service, which is also owned by AT&T.
McNamee’s house is about three-tenths of a mile from the nearest national road, MS 18. “There are 12 houses on our street. It’s mostly rural but we’re not isolated in a hole somewhere,” she declared. Raymond has about 2,500 inhabitants.
“We’re not asking for 5G coverage, New York or California, but decent service so our kids can do their homework at home,” she said.
McNamee also tried to get fixed wireless service from AT&T, which the company uses to meet network expansion requirements it has committed to in exchange for funding from the FCC. But their home is too far from the AT&T cell tower to get home wireless Internet service, McNamee said. McNamee said neighbors she spoke to are also frustrated with the lack of broadband availability. AT&T DSL is “the only thing available … each of us has the same problem,” she said.