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Join Me As I Get Off the Grid – Dump Bellsouth!

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After a 97-minute phone call with Bellsouth today and about a 43-minute call yesterday, I have decided to come one step closer to being “Off the grid”.

I have been with Bellsouth forever (I mean, there are so many other choices here in the Southeast, right?), but I have also been a customer of their DSL product for about three or four years with few, if any, problems. I was even on their dial-up plan for about three years before that. All in all, I have been pretty satisfied with them, unless I had to call customer support (God help you if you ever have to).

I use Outlook 2007 as my e-mail client at home. I’ve used it with Bellsouth for a while and I use it at work and love it. Last night, for the first time, I found I could no longer send e-mails, but could receive just fine. It is also worth nothing that Bellsouth/AT&T have no instructions for Outlook 2007 on their Web site, and their tech support reps' latest instructions are Outlook 2003. I found it comical.

This obviously being a port 25 issue, I naturally called Bellsouth to have them offer me a solution. I’ll sum up their solution in a few words (which took me almost an hour to get):
When the tech couldn’t figure out the problem, they sent me to a “higher level” tech, who would gladly charge me extra money to diagnose the problem. It was their pay tech support.

Thanks, but no thanks. I declined.

It was nearing 8:00 PM and I wanted to play the husband role and spend time with my wife so I ended the call.

Today, I came home early from work to tackle this issue again. After 97 minutes and talking with five, maybe six people (none of whom could understand the issue or seemed to know much about this port 25), here is summation of the support I got.

Outgoing e-mail uses something on the Internet called a “port,” specifically port 25. Since my regular readers don’t claim to be all too technical in this regard, I won’t try and confuse you, but the bottom line is that Bellsouth/AT&T have been dropping their residential customers from using this port to send mail since 2003. My time ran out in late 2008 I guess. Their reasoning was that spammers find it easy to relay spam/junk mail through this port, and since Bellsouth business customers complained about spam (to which I'd say, “welcome to the Internet”), Bellsouth shoved the residential customers in the corner, told them to shut up and stop crying, and catered to the business customers. And as we all know, spammers will never find a new way to send spam e-mail now that port 25 is closed (yeah, right).

So, after hearing these long explanations, I replied quite simply “That’s fine, give me another port to use and I will set up Outlook to use it.” They replied “I’m sorry, there is no other port you can use.” I asked, “Then, what can I do? I want to send e-mail like I have been doing for years, like every Bellsouth customer does.” They replied, “Let me send you over to someone in billing…”

Great. Billing got on the line and explained to me that this can all be solved if I am made into a business customer. I thought, “No big deal. They make me a business customer, and discount my plan so it stays the same.” Then I was reminded that they are Bellsouth, which is about two inches short of being the Federal Government. No discount, no credits, no way.

At best I would be able to get away with only paying 10 dollars more a month to do exactly what I was doing 48 hours ago, for 10 dollars less. Their solution is to make me a business customer and raise my rate.

I begged, I pleaded, I started to sound really pitiful. I had been on the phone over an hour and a half. I needed to walk away with a kill across my shoulders, something to pridefully show my wife and child that the man of the house was providing for the family. I got nothing. I asked for higher-ups, and they told me the same thing.

They are just randomly pulling port 25 send-abilities from Bellsouth residential customers, and solving their complaints by making them pay more. Well not me. I am slowly informing all my contacts to e-mail me at my Gmail address, contacting my cable company to set me up with cable Internet, and dropping my land-line altogether and living off the cell phone, which is kind of exciting to me. It is one step closer to being off the grid and one step closer to my fantasy of living on a commune and not being found by Big Brother.

So, if you use AT&T or Bellsouth for your Internet access, particularly if you use Outlook for e-mail, I'd suggest dropping them as soon as you can because one day soon, they will drop you and ask you to pay more to get back up.

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About Jamison BraIy

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Dude..your a Technology Coordinator!? This article sounds a bit outdated.

    It is one step closer to being off the grid and one step closer to my fantasy of living on a commune and not being found by Big Brother.

    That was a joke..Right? I think you need to subscribe to some sort of Tech Mag.
    Actually, using a cellphone puts you on a bigger grid…I just need yourphone number!

    AND, being on the internet basically pinpoints your location via IP Address unless you use a proxy & with something that slow you might as well go back to dial-up.

    I feel your pain but I cannot believe that someone in your position didn’t take advantage of the latest technology that really doesn’t cost that much extra anymore considering the competitive market.I’m pretty sure you had other solutions there in Alabama even though the stereotype suggests otherwise(smirk). Really, Outlook has been worthless for the last 4-5 years easily,especially with Mozilla’s Thunderbird(2004) available. I still don’t see the point why anyone would still wanna use an email client that is physically located on one’s computer(security wise). I always suggest Gmail paired up with Firefox’s add-on Greasemonkey with Google Secure Pro

    For anyone that wants a decent Internet experience & doesn’t want to spend a whole day when d/l’ing, DSL hasn’t been a viable solution for 5 years now(again,easily). Only because ADSL++ is offered in Japan(I gathered from my research) and DSL speed,in general(VDSL,VDSL2), deteriorates with distance unlike Cable/ Fiber Optic.

    Just my opinion…

  • http://www.techtipsforparents.org Jamison

    Well done Brian;
    Rather than seeing the point you used the opportunity to flame someone :)
    Nothing makes a geek like you happier than when he can nit-pick an article to flame someone.
    I know you feel better, there’s one of you in every forum. I am glad I could be of service to you. Flame on you crazy diamond.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    What?? I saw your point, I just don’t think that this type of “woe is me” complaint of outdated services & applications belongs on a supposed “up & coming” Tech blog!

    If you consider that flaming then your a little bit further behind the curve than I thought.

    As for your website, maybe instead of focusing on articles about spyware & “scareware”(which already have a ton of easy & free solutions but you mention NONE), you should warn people about Clickjacking
    and that you can battle this vicious type of fraud with Firefox & the NoScript add-on ClearClick.

  • http://www.techtipsforparents.org Jamison

    You know what? You are right. I am so sorry for stepping on your overly certified toes. Let me re-reply to your effort to make yourself feel smarter than me via your keyboard.

    “Dude..your a Technology Coordinator!?”
    No. But they pay me anyway. I am really dumb. Don’t know why the system has kept me on for 8 years. You are right. I am wrong.

    “I think you need to subscribe to some sort of Tech Mag.”
    I know. I am REALLY dumb. I bet all the smart people like you do this. Does Nintendo Power not count though? You are right, I am wrong.

    “I cannot believe that someone in your position didn’t take advantage of the latest technology that really doesn’t cost that much extra anymore considering the competitive market”
    I know, being a husband, father, leader of several outreach programs at my church, traveling almost every other weekend for my wife’s side business, working hard to pay my house off in 2 years (before I turn 30), then trying to have a social life with my friends (you do have a social life, right?) youd think I would know more about every little thing related to technology with all my free time. Boy, I wish I could devote more time to technology like you but (sigh) I do so many more things that give me greeater joy. I am so stupid. You are right, I am wrong.

    “I’m pretty sure you had other solutions there in Alabama even though the stereotype suggests otherwise”
    (Inserting straw into mouth, removing shows) Naw, we jest lurned wut a sell fone is. We is so stupid har in duh south.

    “For anyone that wants a decent Internet experience & doesn’t want to spend a whole day when d/l’ing, DSL hasn’t been a viable solution for 5 years now(again,easily). Only because ADSL++ is offered in Japan(I gathered from my research) and DSL speed,in general(VDSL,VDSL2), deteriorates with distance unlike Cable/ Fiber Optic.”
    Gawl-lee you folks thar in the north er war ever yer from sho do talk purty.

    LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! BRIAN IS SMARTER THAN ME! SHOUT IT FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOP.

    Thanks for your comments! And thanks for being more right and smarter that all of us here, or at least just me.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Jamison is the Technology Coordinator for a private school in Montgomery, Alabama. He also gives lessons to kids about Internet safety and presentations to adults wishing to learn more about protecting their kids online. In his free time he writes for techtipsforparents.org

    Boy, I wish I could devote more time to technology like you but (sigh) I do so many more things that give me greeater joy.

    So, tell me… What kind of useful & accurate information could you be teaching?? I mean, if I’m the geek & you don’t care as much as me then I can only picture the kind of education that these people are getting. I can’t fathom how you are coordinating technology for a private school…

    Thanks for your comments! And thanks for being more right and smarter that all of us here, or at least just me.

    Not a problem…Your Welcome:)

  • http://www.techtipsforparents.org Jamison

    lol alright man, I give up, you win. Sorry for egging on the pointlessness of these comments. THey serve nothing for other readers. Though I could have done without the personal attacks on my job considering you don’t know me. They are quite insulting to me frankly. But hey, freedom of speech and all. Lets keep fighting for it. Vote in November.

  • Cathy

    It sounds like you’ve been sending email out through an SMTP service running on your own box rather than using the SMTP server provided by your ISP. Bellsouth certainly provides SMTP servers for their customers to use, and Outlook 2007 can definitely be configured to use them, so you’re clearly choosing to run your own mail server.

    I don’t understand why you think the cable company is going to allow you to do this either. While Time Warner doesn’t actively prevent me from sending out on port 25, they do not accept inbound email from a TW owned IP address unless it came from one of their known SMTP servers, and neither will many other domains that do reverse lookups. Currently I can send an outbound email from my machine to yahoo but not to gmail or to my own roadrunner inbox. Maybe your cable co is more lax in this regard, but I wouldn’t count on that lasting for very long.

  • http://www.techtipsforparents.org Jamison

    I dont expect the cable company to allow me to send through port 25. The point is that I specifically asked Bellsouth to help me configure my Outlook to send email.. I mean, that’s a normal request, right? I said “Then tell me another port that I CAN use.” They gave me nothing except to upgrade to become a business customer. and pay more.

  • Cathy

    Errm, no. Configuring MS Office apps is definitely not a normal activity for an ISP tech. Most ISPs have only two or three “free” email programs that they support. Anything more than that and you’re on your own.

    In this case you don’t need a port. You need the SMTP server name. You enter the server name in the box labeled “Outgoing mail server (SMTP):” when you are creating or modifying an account of the type “Internet E-mail”. You connect to the SMTP server on port 25, but you can only do it from inside your ISP’s network. If you happen to have a laptop that you use at home and at work, then you cannot send mail from the ISP’s server while you’re at work.

    It’s too bad that Bellsouth wasn’t able to explain this to you, but hopefully you have an unusually competent cable co that can give you more assistance. Good luck!

  • http://www.techtipsforparents.org Jamison

    You see my point now. Why should I spend 2 days on the phone, talk with at least 6 people, and not get that answer, if in fact that would even work. And why should anything be different than it was Wednesday of last week?

  • Merovance

    If putting the pop3 and smtp information in, is not sufficient for you to send email, ie port 25 is still blocked from your machine, try using port forwarding through a gateway or router to get around the issue.

  • http://www.techtipsforparents.org Jamison

    I did finally find a port that works for my SMTP but I fear if I publish it here Bell$outh will yank it LOL. I wonder why they don’t just give me another port to use. As an update, some lady with AT&T called me at my house today “confirming” with me (since I sent in a formal complaint) that indeed, port 25 is unusable. I asked her how on earth a residential customer was to send email through a client like Outlook. She told me “They can’t. They will have to use webmail.” … insane.

  • M. Phillips

    Hello Jamison,

    I am experiencing the exact same situation. I’m not a tech dude by far, and having read through some of the foolishness here, I appreciate your persistence. Understanding that you don’t want to publish, could you share the fix with me (alt email below). I am halfway across the country from home, working in disaster response and I NEED my (outdated) Outlook 2007 for work and school (yes, even the school is using “outdated… useless” applications). Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    phil257athotmailcom

  • boisterousbob

    I had this problem too. I ended up talking to my e-mail provider, they are the ones specialising in providing me with an e-mail service, my ISP isn’t.

    My mail service swiftly provided me with an alternate port for me to use.

    My ISP blocks port 25 as well, and by now I expect every one of them does. This was a global initiative not a Bell South issue.

    I am afraid Bell South was in the same position as the postal service, when someone moved and their mail forwarding expired. The fact that you were still using an old address was an issue between you and the recipient, not something the postal service could solve. Same thing with the email port. Bell South were just offering to redirect the (e)mail you sent at additional cost to you, to save you the trouble of changing the address you were using.

    It is however a shame Bell South didn’t advise you to go talk to your mail provider. They must have had many people equally confused. In the same vein, the postal service won’t tell you when mail is being redirected or when redirection expires either, even though in principle they could.

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