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tigger, dogs

Looking Out at the U-Verse

I got a flier in the mail for a new broadband and TV service available in my area, AT&T's U-Verse.

Expecting to toss it after a cursory look, the offer instead soon looked quite compelling. Currently, I pay about $86 per month on TV and internet access. We have an ancient DVR that is starting to crash about once per day. Crashing means power-cycling the DVR and waiting 2-4 minutes while the satellite signals are re-acquired, and self-diagnostics performed.

The DVR can only record 1 show at a time. We could upgrade it, but we own our current one because we ordered this service so long ago, when it was first available in our area. Now, DISH TV would charge us a monthly fee for a new DVR, and I wasn't overly thrilled with the specs of the new model either.

With U-Verse I could get IPTV and 1.5 Mbps internet access for $74 per month. For $5 more, I could get 3 Mbps internet access. Local channels are included, and I would get pretty much the same channels that I do now. I could also get a one-time $100 credit. And a DVR that can record 4 shows at a time. I could program my recordings by accessing my account via the internet, anywhere. Installation is free, and it includes up to four lines put into my house.

All of this represents a big upgrade, at least at first glance, than what I now have, and for a lower price. If anyone can recommend for or against U-Verse, or maybe has even heard others talk about it, I would greatly appreciate any input before I jump off the cliff.



When it comes to finding useful information about U-Verse, there seem to be only two sources: AT&T and the politicians who are repeating what AT&T tells them to say.

I wasn't particularly happy with those options, so I pulled on my coveralls, got my hard hat, a canary in a cage and a pickaxe and went data mining.

It's dirty work, but somebody's gotta do it.

The mine I selected is UverseUsers (http://www.uverseusers.com), a website for, well, U-Verse users. I mined anonymously, don't have an account there, but the information is available to everyone, although not always so easy to find. UverseUsers has many of the characteristics of a social networking/web chat site: Some relatively informed people; some folks looking for honest answers; some U-Verse defenders; some U-Verse skeptics and several folks who can't even spell "social skills."

I spent some time there over the weekend, and here's what I have brought to the surface from the first trip. I probably will go back, after I'm able to sit up and take nourishment again.

NBC and cropped pictures (http://www.uverseusers.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,2/topic,90.0/topicseen,1/)
In this one, it is observed that U-Verse may only be picking up the HD signal from local stations and then cropping it to fit on SD sets. What's more interesting is the post from IcePlanet, who works at a local affiliate in San Antonio who says "I know that AT&T is going to set up a fiber link to the local stations to get their signal directly..."

Something to ponder is whether AT&T expects the local stations to pay for that link or will AT&T pay for it? If one is of the opinion that PEG stations should be treated no worse than local broadcasters, this would be an interesting topic to watch. For those who don't know, AT&T expects your local Public Educational and Governmental stations (PEG) to pay to have their programs delivered.

out of area local channels? (http://www.uverseusers.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,2/topic,2626.0/topicseen,1/)
In this one it is suggested that AT&T has the power to direct individual channels to the correct subscribers. As many of you know, AT&T is trying to cover up its inability (or, more likely, unwillingness) to keep PEG channels contained within their home communities. In fact, AT&T appears to take the position that once the PEG signal is in their clutches, they're free to distribute it anywhere they see fit.

Many of us see this as problematic.

Picture Quality for now, iffy very iffy?? (http://www.uverseusers.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,2/topic,197.0/topicseen,1/)

In this one it becomes apparent that consistent picture quality via U-Verse is still under study by top AT&T management.

Current Drawbacks (http://www.uverseusers.com/component/option,com_openwiki/Itemid,36/id,faq/#current_drawbacks)

This is a subchapter of the FAQ (http://www.uverseusers.com/index.php?option=com_openwiki&Itemid=36) on the Wiki. It addresses some shortcomings of U-Verse, which of course AT&T keeps forgetting to mention to the Legislatures or in their publicity liberature.

Or perhaps they're still under study by top AT&T management.
Hey thanks a lot. The drawbacks section was intersting, particularly this:

Internet Speeds are not competitive. Very fast Internet with speeds of 15/10 Mbps and faster are available in many areas from many providers. AT&T’s Utopia, a public / private partnership has 15/15 Mbps for $39.95. Verizon’s FIOS offers 20/20 Mbps in many markets for $64.99/month. Cable operators are offering 50/20 Mbps in some markets. U-verse Internet Elite at 6/1 Mbps, while consistently very close (within 20%) to of rated speed, is barely faster than Elite DSL (6/0.768 Mbps).

I am not aware of any 15/15 service in my area for $39. In fact, I have comcast and pay that much for 6/1. I can get U200 + 3/1 from ATT, and will mostly likely be pretty happy with it. I was concerned about 1.5/1, but for only $5 more per month I can get 3/1. They also have 6/1, but I will have to check the price.

As for the HD image quality, I have heard it's MPEG 4 and would assume it's as good or better than your typical satellite options, some of which are still MPEG 2. And it's probably as good as comcast cable, but not as good as getting locals with an HD antenna, which I don't want to bother with.

I guess I am going to jump off the bridge and hope they've worked out the kinks, and hope since I am an early adopter they will keep me on this introductory rate for a long time.