Saturday, February 21, 2009

ATT U-Verse vs. ?

About a year ago ATT started rolling out U-Verse in my neighborhood. Since then, every quarter or so, I get an ATT marketing visitor to my door trying to sell me the service which is, at its full glory, a combined phone-internet-cable service. (and I think, is fiber-optic to some sort of neighborhood box, but not to your house). Today was the latest visit, but the first marketer was the worst, they didn't know any details about the service except is fiber-optic and really great. They didn't know what channels they deliver, they didn't know the up and down speeds of the net connection, they didn't know the price of the accounts after the "promotional period" was over. Somehow they were trained to expect such exitement over the phrase "fiber-optic" that they could instantly sell the new U-Verse service. Oh, that and combined billing. I really really don't care about combined billing. I care about what I actually get for my money.

Since then, things have improved a little. At least the reps know the very basic details of whats offered, like what is the actual speed of the network link that I get. Still when the ATT rep shows up at my door again, and we talk about the detals beyond "its fiber-optic and it's great", I find again and again that for the services that I care about - all three categories are more expensive then my current services. Maybe I'm just an uber-consumer.

Actually, I think the fundamental problem is that ATT doesn't understand that I'm a telecom Luddite. My landline service is basic with no additional phone services like caller ID, etc. My cell phone is pay-as-you-go. Between the barebones local-only ATT account and my third-party long distance company, my family and I make basically unlimited calls for a combined 20-35 a month. The ATT price would be $30/mo. I only very occasionally break $30 a month so really ATT loses here.

My net connection is a third-party DSL provider at $20/mo for 3Mbps down and 768kbs up. ATT's rep today claimed 3Mbps down and 1 Mbps up (their website claims 512bps up) for $30/month, or for $20/month I can get 768/384 kbps. Either again the shiny fiber-optic almost-to-the-home service loses again. The ironic thing here is that ATT supplies the underlying DSL connection here either way, but can't seem to keep from offering pathetic value for internet connections.

Finally, I'm also a cable Luddite. Dish Network charges about $35/mo for local channels and a number of basic cable channels. It's pointless comparing the actual number of channels between a given ATT and Dish plan because it would inevitably end up with a race bewteen who offers more QVC or Jewelry TV shopping channels. ATT's U-Verse service starts at $54 a month. My family already watches as much programming as they have time for, and with a Netflix account, we what whatever piques our interest. Maybe that makes my family post-telecom consumers or something like that. I value the Netflix service more than I value a higher tier cable service, but if I added that cost in, ATT would come in at $4/mo higher. Still U-Verses loses again to the tune of $4 to $20 a month.

So for me, U-Verse offers no reason to pay more per month for about the same service. Maybe U-Verse offers some value to people paying for more premium services that I care to get, but until ATT offers some better value to this customer -- well, I guess I'll see them in three months.