Thursday, January 28, 2010

AT&T admits service on both coasts below par

They admit their service in both New York and San Francisco isn’t what it should be. Huh. Imagine that.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chokehold worked — or did it?

AT&T is promising to fix its network, and as Tim Cook said on our earnings call yesterday, “We have personally reviewed these plans, and we have very high confidence that they will make significant progress toward fixing them.”

Which all sounds great, right? Users complained, and the big corporate behemoth responds by promising to improve service.

Yeah. Except, no. You have to know how to parse Tim’s statement.


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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Verizon says, We’d love to have you

This just arrived from dear reader Dave, a long-time friend of the blog whose Web site is worth a visit. Much love, Dave. Here’s wishing you a happy solstice holiday.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Operation Chokehold: Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

15439_224499478063_224488903063_4219370_733626_sWe are monitoring the situation on the Intertubes to see whether O.C. is gaining adherents and the good news is, it appears to be catching on. A Google search turned up mentions on 9to5mac, Gizmodo, gadgetblips, the blog of Garrick Ansen (who recommends everyone watch some lame Russian sci-fi movie at the same time) and best of all, Cult of Mac. We’re also hearing reports that there is a lot of activity on Twitter, and some kid has started a couple of Facebook pages (here and here).

So we’re off to a good start. Apparently we’ve hit a nerve, and why not? It’s tough being an iPhone user and putting up with the kind of abuse that we’ve had to suffer. Enough is enough! Keep spreading the word, people. Heck, maybe we can organize physical get-togethers, so Chokers can hang out and choke it together in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood. We’ll chant “Attica, Attica, Attica,” or something. Man I am feeling the way I did on the day I burned my draft notice at a protest. Anyone who’s in the executive offices — meet me in the David Crosby conference room and someone bring the bong. Peace.