AT&T, SMTP & External Email

I’m posting this as a service for all those people who have AT&T Uverse or DSL, who need to use the AT&T smtp server to send mail from non-AT&T accounts.

I was thisclose to throwing patio furniture at the next AT&T truck to enter my neighborhood, when I finally found the necessary solution on an external forum. Because I KNOW I’ll need it again, and because I suspect there are folks who don’t want to hunt down forum posts, I’m posting it here.

Several months ago, shortly after we canceled our ComCast account and switched to Uverse, which also required killing our backup DSL account (also through AT&T), we had to change all our mail settings because AT&T blocks port 25. No big deal, you just set your mail server to use port 465, and use login/password authorization based on your AT&T account.

For a while all worked sweetly. Then, one day in December or January, I stopped being able to send mail. Now, while I HAVE an at&t address, I don’t actually USE it, because I have my own domains. I also have work email addresses at their own domains. My Dreamhost accounts all have their own smtp servers, so that was fine for sending, except my parents’ server in Mexico wouldn’t accept relayed mail. The work pops don’t HAVE smtp service.

We called AT&T and explained the error, which at first was intermittent – maybe one in 12 email messages would bounce back with an error message that the server didn’t recognize my address. AT&T said, “Oh, we’re having a glitch.” The next day, all was well.

But then we started getting the error again, more and more often. Another call to Uverse tech support. “We can unblock port 25 for you, until we figure out what else to do.” Fine, okay. We have anti-virus and anti-spam software like crazy on our systems. We could deal with that. Except that after three weeks of this, we got a note from AT&T telling us that if we didn’t stop using port 25, they’d forbid us from relaying anything.

We complained about that. They apologized.

Meanwhile, when I tried to use the secure settings, I was getting more and more errors, until finally, this morning, I could not send mail at all. I sent in a ticket, they said, “We can’t find a problem, and we can’t reproduce it.”

I began searching the net for external information – users talk, after all – and found out that in order to send from an external email address, even if you’re using your own mail client (Thunderbird, Mac Mail, etc.) you have to log into your AT&T/Yahoo webmail, and add and verify all your external accounts.

Now, while this is time consuming, it’s not that difficult, and I’d have happily done so months ago, but AT&T NEVER TOLD US TO DO THIS. There was never an email sent, when the secure servers became required. The various calls and letters to tech support never included this information in their responses. And honestly, who would think to go to a webmail account they never use to set up external mail relay for sending through a regular client?

In any case, I spent about twenty minutes going through the necessary steps this morning, and while Thunderbird still can’t FIND my smtp server on my MacBook, Mac Mail works fine, and Thunderbird on my windows machines works fine, and life is good.

If you, too, need to make external email work on AT&T’s secure servers, the instructions you need are here: