Friday, April 25, 2008

AT&T and parental controls

I've been online now for some 13 years. I started with AOL and quickly learned that they'd rather promote spam than provide me with real email filters. I switched to BellSouth and had been a happy customer for most of those 13 years...until now. AT&T now owns BellSouth and I'm paying them the very same price for less service.

A couple of years ago dsl finally came to our neighborhood. I was one of the first to sign up and it's been great. Pretty good speed, no dial up screech, people can still call me while I'm online---Papa really likes that feature. After a couple of years the 2Wire 1700HW modem BellSouth provided me has, according to AT&T tech support (there's no way he's really named Martin) died.

They'll ship me a new'll only cost $$ plus shipping...No. If you can't provide a new modem free, I'll find someone who can....Oh, I don't know. I'll have to check with my supervisor...Good news, Mrs. Brooks, we can provide that for free with a 2 year commmittment...No. Do you see how long I've been a customer...Good news, Mr. Brooks... just shipping of....I'm not paying shipping...Good news, Mrs. Brooks.

So I get the new 2Wire 2701HG-B. We get it hooked up and running. Things seem to be working just great until I realize that the parental controls the old modem had aren't available on this new modem. That's not going to cut it. Too many children, too many devices---I gotta sleep sometime.
I call tech support and they tell me I have to download AT&T parental controls software. Fine. I do that. But the trick is it won't control the network that is our computer use around here. I call tech support back and they confirm that I have to install their software on each of the computers that access the 'net. Great, but how do I install the software on the game system? Or my Palm? Oh, that can't be done. So I'm paying the exact same price for less service? Oh, no. It's a better modem, they tell me. Better how? Because from my vantage point, I've lost a BIG service that I counted on to monitor Internet access in our home.

I spent a week emailing back and forth with AT&T asking them if there is a way around this, pointing out their webpages that say these controls are available, asking why they've downgraded their service and I'm still paying full price. I'm done. It's clear to me they don't care about providing the service I'd been using, appreciating and paying for all these years. Apparently, customers with home networks and wireless toys aren't worth bothering with. Surely, some company out there realizes that there is a need for router based parental controls.
Any suggestions for ISP's that do provide this service? Routers that do what my old 2Wire1700 did without subscribing to a service I'm already paying for but not getting?

Does someone out there have good news for Mrs. Brooks?

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