Saturday, January 16, 2010

AT&T strikes again

This time, a routing error sent cell users into the wrong Facebook accounts.  Oops.

After typing into her Nokia smart phone, Candace Sawyer was taken into the site without being asked for her user name or password. She was in an account that didn’t look like hers. She had fewer friend requests than she remembered. Then she found a picture of the page’s owner.

“He’s white — I’m not,” she said with a laugh.

Well, yes, that would be a sign you’re on the wrong page.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

And yet another

From a woman in San Francisco:

I hate AT&T and I call them and tell them this on a near-constant basis. When I can’t get data (which is every day because I live in San Francisco) I call them and ask them why I’m paying $125 a month for a service that doesn’t work. But something interesting happened today that piqued my interest.

Pretty much every 3rd text message I send I have to *resend* because it fails and I get that little red exclamation point icon next to the failed text. Well today I sent two messages in a row to my friend, and the first one failed. So normally when I send two in a row it says “Sending 1 of 2” then “Sending 2 of 2.” This time, because the first one failed, I resent the first failed message and suddenly it said “Sending 2 of 3.” This is especially curious to me because I do not have unlimited texting. I pay for 1500 a month and really never go over. Last month, however, my bill was $20 higher than usual because I was over my texting limit. I chalked it up to the holidays and being busy, but I remember that last month I had an unusually high number of failed texts that had to be resent. So I’m wondering, do I get double charged for resending failed texts? Is there a way to find this out? Any insight would be much appreciated.

And another

This guy is so pissed he’s badgering the Attorney General in Connecticut.

I don’t know if this will fit into your agenda, but here is a message that I’ve sent to the Attorney General of Connecticut. I’ve had problems using my iPhone in the Boston area with lots of dropped calls and attempted to contact AT&T. I’ve been ignored every time and the support has basically called me crazy. At home, my parents are having problems with the audio on their AT&T U-Verse service. The sound drops every minute to thirty seconds. … I’m going to email AT&T as well and bring this to their attention. They have straight up refused to admit that this was a problem despite the issue being talked about in 100-page threads on their own forums. AT&T is just neglecting its customers now, and it doesn’t feel good. I want to bring the issue to the attention of as many people as possible so that they can call in and demand $10/month discounts on their service until the issue is fixed. It might not affect their bottom line much, but lost revenue will hopefully start making them take responsibility for their shortcomings.

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 5:47 PM
Subject: Consumer Protection: Widespread AT&T Uverse Audio Problem; Customer Neglection

Dear Attorney General Blumenthal,

My parents have had problems with their AT&T U-Verse service since its original installation. Over the past 6 months, we have called several times and attempted to get some real answer or solution to their problem. Unfortunately, I am usually at school and my parents do not understand why the problem is occurring so it is difficult for them to articulate the cause to AT&T. I have called several times for them and we have had technicians visit our homes. AT&T’s field technicians have handled the situation well for the most part, and have always been exemplary in terms of actual service that they have performed while attempting to fix the problem. Each has admitted that they have seen the problem before and that there is a known issue but they do not know whether a fix exists or is being worked on. However, AT&T’s phone representatives failed to acknowledge that this problem existed and continued to send field technicians to our homes despite us telling them that it is not necessary. We have wasted at least 20 or more hours between phone calls and field technician visits. Our time could have been saved if they openly admitted there was a problem to us and informed us what they were doing to attempt to fix the problem. This issue is widespread and has been articulated on their own forums in hundred page threads by their own customers. This is not the first time this has happened to me, let alone my parents. AT&T has a bad habit of not publicly acknowledging that a problem exists, and wastes the time and resources of both the customer and themselves, this is in addition to causing lots of frustration for the customer. I would have been happy had they just admitted openly that a problem existed initially. However, they have wasted both my and my parents’ time with this issue.

Here is a copy of the complaint I’ve filed with the Department of Public Utility Control:

We have been subscribed to AT&T’s U-Verse television service for several months now. We have had an ongoing issue with audio quality and have had technical repair men out to our home at least four times. Each time the technical repair man was very helpful and informed us that this was a known issue. Every call placed to AT&T has resulted in them telling us that the issue is unheard and must be the fault of a cable we’re using. Both AT&T and I have replaced the cables several times and the issue still stands. Finally, today a “Tier 2” technician admitted that the issue was known. This reconciliation did not happen until many conflicting stories were told to me by the technician. He is the only person that has admitted over the phone that the problem exists. There are many forum posts on AT&T’s support forums detailing the issue, but every time that we have called they have failed to correctly diagnose our problem, despite us telling them specifically what it was. We have had to take time out of our days to be home in order for the technicians to perform work that the previous technician had already done. Basically, AT&T has given us a very long-winded answer after over 20 hours of wasted time spent between phone calls and Technician visits. The issue has been voiced by many customers on private forums and even forums owned by AT&T themselves. The issue was not admitted as a real one until I made it painfully obvious many times over on the phone with “Tier 2” technical support. The technician could not give me an estimate of the delivery date for a fix, or if a fix was even being worked on. We have paid a high price for a premium service and they have consistently delivered flawed service. They have not offered compensation until we demanded it, and we have wasted lots of time just trying to bring it to their attention and have them acknowledge it.

During my experience with AT&T there has been a reoccurring theme of neglect when it comes to handling widespread issues with their products and services; I thought that it should be brought to your attention if it has not been already. I appreciate your time and effort trying to protect the citizens of Connecticut. Thank you for reading my message.

Another cry for help

This time from a network engineer in Florida:

Thank you for everything that you have done and that you are still doing. I have been fighting with AT&T for three weeks now. I have several current tickets with AT&T engineers and have been promised 3g service now on 5 different dates. Every time I call and complain about crappy service (no phone service, no data service, I can’t do two things at once, etc) they keep telling me that I am in a great coverage area and that I have no problems. After running test on my phone and sending them screen shoots of my phone they finally understand. Their service sucks. They keep telling me that Destin, FL has 3g service per their coverage map. I finally told them they are full of shit and the CSR laughed and finally said that I was right. She even told me that service sucks so bad in Atlanta that she has T-Mobile service.

The dates that they promise me every time come and go. Nov. 16th, Dec. 1st, Dec. 31st, Jan. 1st and now Jan. 13th. I told the engineer that I will not hold my breath and she said if I did I would be holding my breath for a long time. I asked for a copy of AT&T’s coverage map and she was not able to send it to me. Her manager got on the phone and told me the same line of BS, that per their map I have 3g service and was hung up on. I called back and got the same girl. She then put the same manager on the phone. After a total of 6 hours on the phone, nothing changed with my phone service. I have 4 iPhones on my account and they told me that I have bad phones. I have 2 3gs 32 gig phones and 2 3g 16 gig phones. So two different models are bad.

Long email but I want to tell you about the shitty service and line of bull AT&T is giving us. I have lost money and business due to their crappy network. After speaking with the right manager I now have FREE service for all 4 phones till they get 3g in this area and get what their ads say I can do. Can you think of the amount of money that AT&T will lose if we can get everyone to call in and do this? Per their contract they have to provide the service that they promised you when you sign up.

I went out today and bought 2 Verizon Droid phones for my IT company so I do not lose any more money or customers.

AT&T customer service: We can’t connect calls in very tall buildings, sorry

The Jobs Pod is swamped with email from people who are having hassles with AT&T. I guess they’re hoping I can help them. Truth is, I have no pull at AT&T these days. Randall won’t even take my calls. But I can provide a forum to publicize the hassles people are having.

Like this guy, dear reader Mark S., who lives in New Jersey and tried to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau because he and fellow iPhone users in his building could not get AT&T service in their homes. The BBB says they can’t take complaints on behalf a group, only from an individual. Whatevs.

Meanwhile, this is an excerpt from an email Mark got from AT&T customer service:

Network has researched the issue and confirmed there are no current outages in your area. They have advised that your current home address is on the 28th floor of the building. This is considered out of AT&T’s coverage range-meaning the towers in the vicinity are not tall enough to provide adequate signal on the 28th floor. The fact that you are able to place & receive calls with 2G signal confirms this. Based on your information that the issue “got worse” around the time that you purchased the iphone 3Gs, I researched your account. The billing address was updated from [15th floor] to [28th floor] on July 8, 2009 which does coincide with the timeframe you experienced the change in service availability.

Seriously. The AT&T towers can’t shoot the data up that high. Amazing, right?

He also sends me the following other excuses that AT&T has given him for his lack of service.

So far, I have received the following reasons from AT&T about why I have trouble with calls:
1) Our 2 devices may be bad. (Both devices work excellent when we are in upstate NY) – ruled out.
2) Our 2 SIM cards may be bad. (We had both replaced at the request of AT&T technical support) – ruled out.
3) Our apartment is too high off the ground to receive coverage. (AT&T Network related)
4) Big bodies of water do strange things with radio signals, thus we have trouble with service in Jersey City by the water. (AT&T Network related)
5) There are too many users on the network. (AT&T Network related)
6) Our phones are staying connected to towers in Greenwich Village (connecting across the Hudson River), thus why we have bad service. (AT&T Network related)

Mark says he wants AT&T to let him out of his contract, because if he can’t make calls at home, what’s the point? AT&T is refusing, saying that they have a disclaimer in the contract that says “service is not available in all places at all times.” Mark says if they can’t provide service at the address where they send him his bill, then, like, that’s a problem. More as this develops.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

AT&T is costing us customers

Check out this blog post by some lawyer in New York who loved his iPhone but had to drop it because AT&T sucked so bad. What put him over the edge was a call with AT&T customer service:

So I called A&T to see if their network was having unusual problems, especially in light of the fact that I knew they’d pulled the iPhone from their online store for about a day post-Christmas. Yup, I was told. AT&T has knocked down a bunch of towers in New York City and is in the process of re-building them. … Oh, and here’s the best part. They had no clue when they’d be ready to go. In the interim, New York City service is marked as “severely degraded.”

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A reader cc’s me on his letter to AT&T

This comes from a guy in New Jersey:

AT&T –

I would like to file a service complaint on behalf of 18 residents in my building (address erased ). We all have service issues in our apartments, and consistently have dropped/failed/missed calls. We also receive text messages late, and voice mails late. Many of us have had to resort to buying a landline for telephone service because our cellular coverage doesn’t work regularly. We’ve all received the run-around from customer service about how it’s not a network issue, but rather a device issue and are tired of hearing this. We would like a technician to investigate matters further, and to provide us with answers as to when our service will be up to par. Until we are provided with quality service, we would like to be reimbursed for all service outages and dropped calls. Until AT&T can provide a solution to our service issues, we will not accept this level of service. We pay for a service, yet only receive it about 60-70% of the time. The Terms and Conditions of AT&T state:

“Subscriber must live and have a mailing address within AT&T’s owned network coverage area.” According to this statement, AT&T recognizes and accepts that our apartments are within AT&T’s coverage area as we all receive a bill each month. We expect quality service in return, or refunds.

I have filed a Better Business Bureau complaint against AT&T regarding this matter as well. You can find below a list of residents in the building who have these same issues, and there comments about service and/or customer service provided by AT&T.

Please let me know if you require anymore information if you decide to pursue and investigate our service issues. Please feel free to contact me.

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?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

UK carrier for iPhone apologizes for sucky service

So it’s not just AT&T. O2 in Britain says its network got overwhelmed by smartphones and people couldn’t make phone calls. But at least O2 had the decency to apologize, and to add more capacity.

Michael Wolff joins the crusade

No kidding — media pundit Michael Wolff (of Newser and Vanity Fair) now piles on with a piece that bears the subtle title, “AT&T Sucks.” Apparently AT&T does not buy advertisements on Newser. Surely they do buy ads from Conde Nast, which owns Vanity Fair. So no doubt pressure will be applied from that direction. But maybe Michael Wolff just doesn’t care. He says his iPhone drops calls all over Manhattan, and he’s sick of it. Sometimes he calls AT&T to scream at someone, and they tell him they’ve never heard of anyone else having problems with a cell phone in New York City. Ahem.

Finally, Wolff turns his attention to us:

What’s Apple doing? Why did Apple do this deal with these stumblebums in the first place? And, surely, such flagrantly vile service is enough to call it quits on any deal. So what gives over there at Apple? Why aren’t they suing AT&T and making the iPhone an open network device? Steve Jobs is famously unsympathetic to human weakness and heartache, but AT&T is beyond normal sadism. I suppose, the great iPhone accomplishment, the test of its virtuosity, is that so many people believe they need to have one even if that means dealing with AT&T.

But enough. Come on. Please, God.