Chokehold, Phase 2

The guys who run Operation Chokehold, who call themselves The Three Musketeers, are still on the case and cooking up ideas. “The interest in holding a real-life protest outside an Apple and/or AT&T store is incredibly strong,” they tell me. But they’re not sure that’s going to be effective. They’re also working on a letter-writing campaign to Randall Stephenson, and a YouTube contest.

Another idea: a blackout map. The idea is, people send in locations where their iPhone doesn’t work, and the Musketeers pin the locations to a map. Would be even cooler if people could take a photo of the deadspot location, and the photo could pop up when you clicked on the dead spot.

Naturally this one needs (a) someone to code it up so that it works; and (b) loads of people to participate by sending in deadspot info. If you’re a coder and want to help, write to the Three Musketeers via their Operation Chokehold Web site, or just send email to

Once we get the map up we can just watch the black spots spread, minute by minute, day by day.

The advice I’ve given to the Musketeers goes like this. AT&T has two constituencies — customers and investors. These two groups have opposing needs. Customers want the best possible network for the least amount of money. Investors want AT&T to take in as much money as possible from subscribers and spend as little as possible on the network.

So far AT&T management has aligned its interests with investors. They get compensated based on financial results and stock performance. As long as the stock stays up, they have zero incentive to fix the network.

In other words, when we went after the network, we went after the wrong target. We need to go after the stock price instead.

The good news is that stock prices are relatively fickle, and are based in part on things like psychology and sentiment.

A few thousand people can’t crash a data network, but they can definitely create enough noise and bad publicity to move a stock. Especially if they feed their noise into the amplification system known as Facebook and Twitter, and then take that amplified signal and pump it into that giant Marshall amp in the sky, aka the mainstream media.

That was the lesson of Chokehold Phase One. A tiny random joke on a blog — a prank that never had any chance of working — was picked up by a few hundred people on Facebook, spread by a few hundred more on Twitter, and ended up on Wolf Blitzer.

And suddenly AT&T started putting up cell towers.

The lesson in this: Keep up the pressure on the stock, and they will keep improving the network.

This isn’t vandalism. The point of having a system in which companies sell stock to the public is to ensure that the public can hold these companies accountable.

You want a better network for your iPhone? We have the power to make this happen. Ain’t capitalism cool?

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