Bypassing the AT&T Pace 5268AC Residential Gateway, Part I

Turn this into a high-tech doorstop

I’d been dreaming of getting fiber to my home for over a decade. It was that long ago that I spent my days hooking up ten-gigabit fiber connections to massive file servers at NetApp. I led a successful grassroots effort to lure Google Fiber to Raleigh, because competition can be a great way to spur innovation and investment. You can imagine in 2018 how excited I was to learn that fiber was coming to my neighborhood. While it wasn’t Google, it was AT&T. I swallowed my pride, quietly rescinded my ban of ever doing business with AT&T again, and signed up for their fastest package: symmetrical gigabit fiber. Cost was $80/month initially and thereafter $90/month. I’m sure I’m one of the few in my area who max it out. Hey, geeks gotta geek.

Why bother?

While I’m happy to use up as many AT&T bits as possible, I still don’t entirely trust the company (though I do trust them more than Time Warner Cable (TWC), a.k.a. Spectrum, and this as you know is not saying much). While providing direct access to my home network to a major telco may be a bit on the paranoid side, a number of security vulnerabilities have been discovered with other AT&T devices. Though AT&T might not be snooping around my network, I could not be entirely comfortable that hackers wouldn’t. AT&T’s RGs were discovered to have the built-in ability to do deep packet inspections (DPI) themselves, being able to snoop on the network traffic of its customers. For this and many other reasons, I just don’t trust any devices on my home network that I do not control.

I kept a firewall between TWC and my network for this reason. AT&T wants you to use their device, which they call a “Residential Gateway” or RG, as the firewall. It also acts as a WiFi point, DHCP server, and the like. This may be fine for most people, but I am an uber power user. As an engineer, I want to squeeze the maximum performance out of my networking. I will happily void the warranties on my networking gear. I didn’t spend time tuning my home firewalls for maximum throughput just to discard them when some corporate box comes along. This just won’t do, you see.

The Power User’s approach

My first approach was to switch things over to my TP-Link AC1750 access ponits, running OpenWRT. While my AC1750s could keep up with the slow (300 Mbps) speeds of cable Internet, they were balking at gigabit speeds. The hardware acceleration the AC1750s utilize require proprietary drivers which OpenWRT does not provide. It was time to list them on Craigslist and try something new.
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‘The ravages of cord-cutting’: AT&T’s race against time to save its TV business – The Washington Post

Traditional TV is dying.

On Wednesday, AT&T told regulators that it expects to finish the quarter with about 90,000 fewer TV subscribers than it began with. AT&T blamed a number of issues, including hurricane damage to infrastructure, rising credit standards and competition from rivals. The report also shows AT&T lost more traditional TV customers than it gained back through its online video app, DirecTV Now. And analysts are suggesting that that’s evidence that cord-cutting is the main culprit.

Announced last year, DirecTV Now was AT&T’s answer to Netflix and Hulu. AT&T initially sought to drive aggressive adoption by offering deep discounts, and it bundled it with unlimited data plans for cellphone users.

While those efforts have helped offset losses in DirecTV’s main satellite-based service, it’s that traditional TV package that remains the most lucrative product for providers. Streaming apps don’t do as much to bolster the bottom line — meaning AT&T would be in tough shape even if it were replacing TV subscribers on a one-to-one basis with digital app users, which it isn’t.

Source: ‘The ravages of cord-cutting’: AT&T’s race against time to save its TV business – The Washington Post

AT&T, NCNGN, and Google Fiber

I’ve had a lot of people ask me last week what the deal is with the City of Raleigh’s announcement that AT&T has been selected as an NCNGN provider. Most want to know how this affects the city’s work to get us Google Fiber. I was curious, too, so I gave the City’s CIO, Gail Roper, a call.

OMG! Did Raleigh just kill Google Fiber?

Let me say right up front that Google Fiber is safe. The city has been working hard to complete Google’s checklist which is due back on May 1st. The city is still on track to respond by the May 1st deadline. With that out of the way, allow me to explain a bit what NCNGN is all about.

The N.C. Next Generation Network (NCNGN, pronounced “NC engine”) is a regional effort to define common standards for building out fiber networks and to attract providers willing to meet these standards. The participating government entities are using the NCNGN plan as a starting point for negotiations with broadband providers. The goal is to bring some uniformity and predictability to what can be a very expensive process by standardizing on as many aspects of a fiber build as possible.
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AT&T gives up?

Wow. My ongoing saga with AT&T/Bellsouth appears to be reaching its conclusion. What’s more, it is concluding in my favor! I had a message left for me yesterday from Ms. Fuller, a representative at AT&T Southeast (which I assume is AT&T’s new name for Bellsouth). She referenced the N.C. Attorney General Consumer Protection filing and apparently was empowered to make things right, because she put in an order to AT&T’s collection department to drop the matter and to remove it from my credit report (if it has been sent there, which I don’t believe it has). She said because it was a business line that AT&T Small Business Services needed to actually act on it, but said she would send her request straight to them.
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AT&T dispute update

Progress was made this morning on my dispute with AT&T. I got a call from Ms. Cherry Johnson from AT&T, responding to the consumer complaint I sent to the N.C. Attorney General’s consumer protection office. I reiterated that I never put my social security number on the account in question and that I never worked for the company whose name is on the bill. After some polite discussion we agreed that I needed to fill out AT&T’s “fraud packet.”
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Get AT&T/Bellsouth DSL without the voice service!

It look some major sleuthing – all of my Internets skills, actually – but I finally discovered how to order standalone DSL (that is, DSL without phone service, a.k.a. “naked DSL”) from AT&T/Bellsouth! With this deal you can get high-speed Internet access without paying for a dial tone – redundant for people like my buddy Scott whose only phone is a mobile one.
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AT&T Is Evil, Reason Number 53462

I just posted this to the Internetworkers list. I thought I’d post it here for your comments.

Let me throw this out for y’all and see what y’all have to say.

In the past, I worked as a computer consultant. One of the things I did was install Asterisk servers for some local companies. One of those companies has since gone out of business and owes AT&T money. AT&T is now coming after me for the bill the former company owes, thinking that somehow I am responsible for this money. Continue reading

in Rant | 306 Words

On the Warpath with AT&T

Bellsouth (now AT&T) has crossed a line with me. They have mistakenly attached my name and social security number to an account to which I have no connection: an account which is now apparently overdue. At no time did I ever provide my social security number to them in reference to this account. I believe (and AT&T denies) that someone at AT&T looked up my residential account information and fraudulently placed my social security number on the overdue account.

I am currently seeking legal recourse against AT&T, starting with a complaint to the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission Public Staff. If AT&T won’t take my word for it (and they apparently will not), its time to gather up a posse.

in Rant | 125 Words

AT&T DSL for $10/month!

BoingBoing pointed out the secret deal where one can get DSL service from AT&T for $10/month.

BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow says AT&T is evil and doesn’t deserve your business. I say that’s precisely the reason everyone should sign up. At $10/month, AT&T must surely lose money on every line. Therefore, sign up as many of your friends and family as you can!

The Consumerist: AT&T’s Secret $10 DSL
Bellsouth: Bellsouth FastAccess DSL Term Agreement Plans Available