As we all know, AT&T has been having serious issues with their quality of service thanks to the iPhone. What most people don’t know is that it isn’t a problem that can be solved by simply putting up more towers1. But that’s not what I’m upset about. I’m upset about their handling of the “3G MicroCell”.
I live in Cambridge MA, just across the river from Boston. There are millions of people here (literally), and, like many AT&T users my calls get dropped even when outside, on bright sunny days, with five bars of service. In my house maybe eight feet from the windows I’m lucky if anyone can understand what I’m saying, or can even hear me in the first place. My girlfriend works from home, and for the most part, I don’t attempt to call her, because it’s not worth the frustration, but then I get my hopes up, call, can’t understand her, and eventually have the call dropped. But she’s just screwed if she needs to call someone on her cell. But, like I said, I’m not actually that upset about the crap service. It’s like being mad at someone with a broken leg for not being able to run. Of course, their leg was broken years ago and they still seem to be hobbling around acting as if it were fresh…
But AT&Ts handling of the 3G MicroCell is absolute bullshit. In the promo video on their web site they’ve got a guy attempting to make a phone call by holding his phone out the window, before being told by his wife that he doesn’t have to thanks to the 3G MicroCell. “So, no more leaning out of the window or standing on the porch to make a call?” the man says. Ok. You’ve got service so crappy that not only do people have tolean out their windows to use it, but you explicitly use that problem in promotional material as a reason for getting the 3G MicroCell and then you have the gall to charge $150 for the privilege of getting the coverage iPhone users are already paying at least $100 a month for? Even worse, you use our bandwidth to do it. Even worse than that, while users or the MicroCell have gone out of their way to take themselves off of your overloaded network by using the MicroCell AND giving you free bandwidth that they’re paying someone else for you’re still going to make any minutes used talking that way be removed from their account. On top of all that, if we want the privilege of getting the service we’re already paying for, and give you free bandwidth, but don’t want those minutes to count, we have to pay you another $20 a month?!
Your proposal is essentially that your service is such shit that your customers should pay you $150 *and give you free bandwidth?!*And let’s not forget the option you’ve given us of paying you a recurring fee (and give you more free bandwidth) if we find that we like talking to the people we were paying you to let us talk to in the first place, now that they can actually hear us.
In what universe does this make any sense? You should be giving them away to anyone who wants them and giving people unlimited minutes for calls made on them. If your service actually worked it would be reasonable to charge for it, but it doesn’t, and it’s not reasonable for people to have to pay you to compensate for failing to give them what they’re already paying you for. This is bad economics and it is utterly disrespectful.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough. I’m probably going to have to buy the fucking piece of shit because I can’t use my fucking phone without it. If I didn’t think the iPhone was a brilliant piece of technology that I loved using I would cancel my service and pay pretty much any termination fee just to get away from you, your blatant disrespect of your customers, and your shit service. I’d go to tiny little T-mobile in a heartbeat, even though they’ve got less coverage than you, because where they have coverage it actually works, and they try and do the right thing for their customers.
Shit like this gives AT&T an even worse name than they already have, and makes me seriously consider ditching the iPhone. It will be a monolith of my hatred for AT&T. It will glare at me saying “sucker” until the day I finally cancel my contract with you and joyfully smash it to pieces with the nearest hammer.
Fuck you AT&T.
- All the people you’ve been shitting on for years now.
P.S. While I have you: I already bought an iPhone from you. You’re charging me a hundred bucks a month for it. Stop trying to sell me an iPhone!
[Update]: A lot of people just don’t get why I’m so upset, and in explaining it to someone I came up with this metaphor: Why should I have to pay AT&T anything (for a MicroCell) to compensate for their failed service promise that we’ve already been paying ~$100 a month for? That’s like telling someone you’ll come cook them dinner every day (no matter where they are in the US) if they pay you $100 a month, but then you only show up occasionally, and sometimes you leave half-way through the cooking, and then you ask them to pay you an additional $150 to get you to show up, but only at their home, and only if they’ve gone out and bought all the fixings for dinner and paid someone else to make sure they can have access to the stove. Would ANYONE, EVER find that acceptable? No. You’d get fired and they’d hire a cook that actually did what they were paying them for.
putting up more towers. Someone with a good understanding of the technology described it to me like this: Imagine that you’re at a table with 4 other people all talking. With a teeny bit of effort you can listen to what any one of them is saying. You are the cell tower, and each of the other people are cell phones. Now, imagine there are a thousand people at the table. They’re all talking, they’re all within hearing range, and they’re all speaking at roughly the same volume. You’re going to have a damn hard time listening to any single one of them. It wouldn’t matter if there were fifty “towers” in the room attempting to listen to the people’s conversations because they’re all going to have the same problem. It’s just too hard to listen to a single voice in that cacophony. Other cell phone providers don’t have the same problem because they use different technologies.
- With regards to [return]