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Switch to dial-up irks user

>Q: AT&T sent me a notice saying it would end my Worldnet DSL service March 31. Then it migrated my DSL to dial-up the next day without asking me. I am irritated, to say the least.

A: This reader's e-mail led to many head-scratching moments, starting with this: Is AT&T dumping Worldnet -- the online service an earlier version of the company launched with a flurry of publicity in 1995?

The Dallas telecommunications conglomerate is doing just that. In December, it notified subscribers to advise them of Worldnet's imminent demise and outline options to move their e-mail addresses to a different connection. In this customer's case, she could choose an AT&T dial-up service or DSL provided by Covad, a San Jose-based telecom firm.

But AT&T set up this process in a way that required users converting to Covad to make that switch first and then move their e-mail. A paragraph of boldface text in a lengthy tech-support article warns them that migrating their e-mail to a new, Yahoo-run system before transferring DSL will result in "a disruption in service."

The distinction between an Internet connection and an e-mail service might be obvious to Internet veterans. But it's likely to confuse nontechnical subscribers to a service that spent years marketing itself to beginners. AT&T should have provided a simpler, more tolerant migration path.

The reader was among those confused and was understandably irked to be knocked down to dial-up. AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel researched her case, apologized for the miscommunication and recommended that she switch to the Covad service (covad.com/att).

That would be my advice as well for any Worldnet users looking to keep their old e-mail addresses.

Got a question on personal technology? Send a note to Washington Post columnist Rob Pegoraro at robp@washpost.com. Questions can be answered only through this column.

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