Dear AT&T…

To:     AT&T, Uverse Division

Fr:     Gary Szabo, a loyal but disgruntled customer


Dear AT&T:

I’m writing to recommend some changes to your next version of the Pace 5031NV DSL modem, aka “the 2WIRE Uverse modem.”

The Pace 5031NV modem, with lights on. But is anyone home?

I UNDERSTAND the importance of making a trouble-free device; one that’s so bulletproof and simple in its’ execution of one task set that it doesn’t need firmware upgrades.  It also improves your bottom line, to make an inexpensive device for the masses.  I used to work in manufacturing; so I know the eternal dichotomy of designing the best box vs. the box people will buy based on price.

However, in my experience, the Pace 5031NV DOESN’T just work.  Let me recommend one fairly simple change (that could perhaps be implemented in firmware) that might cut down on a lot of people choosing to move to Cox, Suddenlink, Comcast, or whatever non-Ma Bell option that’s available in their areas.

  1. The Uverse modem goes to sleep on the LAN side — maybe just choosing to sleep open ports to devices (connected to WiFi but inactive) as a way to keep the WiFi network more open to streaming boxes or other things requiring more high availability.  I get that.  My NAS box does that, too.
  2. However, when those LAN devices (like my laptop) try to reconnect and do network resolution (to named services like,, etc.) the nslookups often fail.  Repeatedly.  I would say that maybe 1 out of 6-8 times it will work right off the bat.  Even typing in non-ATT DNS servers, like Google, doesn’t really solve the sleep issue.
  3. The issue: the Pace 5031NV has the AT&T DNS servers hard-wired, and the LAN device can’t get the Pace to wake up from its’ narcolepsy fast enough.  Or ever.  My solution is often to power off the LAN device, then power off the Pace for 2-5 minutes to force a reconnect to your DSLAM aggregator module.
  4. One solution would be to allow additional DNS caching space within your firmware of common sites, and a better method to send a network wake command upstream.
  5. I know many folks have solved this by changing the Pace into bridge mode and getting a second router of their own choosing to do all this.  I certainly could — but I’d prefer to leave network complexity at the office.  Much like I say about my Dyson: I like things that just work.

I can see where this product’s design pedigree smacks of the old “Net head vs. Bell head” arguments from the late 1990s, but this is 2018.  The war is over, and unless you’re Microsoft or Google, central control is over, and packet-switching won.

April 30, 2018 UPDATE:

So after conferring with my consigliere Rex Brown, who hasn’t experienced this issue with his Pace/2WIRE modem, I called AT&T a week ago yesterday.  The nice lady ran some tests and said: “Yes…it does appear that your modem is misbehaving.”

So she created an order for a new modem to be shipped, set for delivery last Tuesday.  So I waited, and on Wednesday afternoon I called back — no modem.  And the UPS tracking number they sent me showed the airbill was created but hadn’t yet left the warehouse.

The tech I texted with this time was adamant that my modem would arrive any day now.  I had my doubts.  So long story short:  after more texts and phone calls, on Friday afternoon a tech visit was scheduled for this last Sunday.  And he’d bring a new modem.

Sunday, Technician Mike arrives, hears my tale of woe and says: “Oh, you obviously have a malfunctioning wifi.  And you’re getting the last modem I have.”  He does say that the 2WIRE modems seem to be on their way out — they used to receive them by the pallet load, and now they are few.

The new Uverse modem is MASSIVE.  Takes 15 minutes to boot up fully, vs. the 5-7 minutes the old one did.  But it seems pretty sweet: it isolates the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz traffic to separate interfaces, so the lesser bandwidth traffic doesn’t impede the delivery of the fatter bandwidth traffic.  My IoT devices (thermostat, garage door opener) keep to themselves.

I have high hopes that it’ll behave…

One comment on “Dear AT&T…

Update to the update: last Sunday this newest unit misbehaved a bit. Called AT&T and they said: “Yeah…it does appear that the unit is unable to accept a firmware upgrade from us. We’ll send you a new one.”

The one that arrived is the latest version of the previous model — equally big, but apparently designed more for the copper last mile. Swapping it out was a breeze, and didn’t require any calls. So far, so good.

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