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AT&T

AT&T's De la Vega is getting in trouble for saying that they want to find ways to discourage people from using their data plans. It turns out that AT&T's data network is overloaded and rather than fix the problem, they think punishing their users will help.

As an AT&T customer, it makes me sick.

As an ex-AT&T employee, it just reminds me of why I was so happy to leave.

This is what you get for having salespeople run the company instead of engineers. Engineers would have budgeted for appropriate growth to match customer growth.

AT&T's mindset is that bandwidth is scarce. Every bit is so impossibly costly that it must be measured, counted, monitored, and charged for. On my first day as an employee I had to watch a 30 minute video that did nothing but explain that I can't make a single personal phone call from the office; it looked like it has been made when phone calls were still $3/minute. Don't waste their precious, precious bandwidth.

Bandwidth was expensive for the first 100 years of their history, but it certainly isn't true now. What made the internet great was thinking in terms of plenty, not scarcity.

I remember when "the web" (HTTP) was new. A friend at a different division of AT&T told me their engineers were fearful of HTTP and didn't want it to catch on because their network could never handle such a graphic-rich system (this was 1992 or 1993). I couldn't figure out why they weren't thinking, "Yeah! An opportunity to sell more bandwidth!" If you sell apples, don't you want to freely distribute apple pie recipes? If you sell paint don't you want to encourage everyone to repair their house? Ugh. If AT&T was selling bacon they'd be encouraging everyone to become a vegan.

At the time UUNET (the first commercial ISP) was giving away free Usenet feeds (at this time this was a HUGE amount of bandwidth) and paying people to develop open source Usenet software: all to make it easier for people to need more bandwidth. I thought UUNET's way was much smarter.

It also annoyed me, as an employee, that AT&T kept acting as if Moore's Law didn't exist. This is odd because the Moore revealed this observation during a presentation at AT&T's Bell Labs. Maybe they have to remember that Nielsen's Law makes similar claims about bandwidth. Pushed on by cheaper electronics, bandwidth gets cheaper too.

The biggest innovations in computing have come from brashly using more resources, usually slightly ahead of the supply curve. Textual user interfaces were a "waste of CPU" when first seen by batch computing people. Graphical user interfaces were a "waste of CPU" at first, but now it is what enables billions of people to use computers. RAID was a "waste of disk" but now I would never build a server without it.

The other attitude that I saw at AT&T was sheer shock and surprise that anything changes. "What? We built this thing for our customer base and... there are more customers a year later? They want new features? How could anyone have expected that?" Combine that with an intentional ignorance of Moore's Law and you have a disaster.

A disaster called AT&T.

Yes, AT&T, you have the best selling phone. People use it for data more than voice. The data apps are what make it such a success. Why do I get the feeling that when you negotiated with Apple you thought, "Sure, we'll throw in flat-rate data plans... it isn't like anyone is going to use that stuff!"

Are you still thinking that the internet is a "fad" like CEO Robert Allen?

My AT&T/iPhone contract is over in a few months. Maybe when it ends I should help De la Vega's bandwidth problem by not using his network at all.

P.S. I have a lot of pent up anger bout my AT&T service because twice a day as I take the train from Bloomfield, NJ to New York City and back I am faced with dead-spots at key locations such as the Secaucus transfer station, Watsessing Ave, and others locations along the way. It is frustrating to be on the train and see other passengers using Verizon and T-Mobile able to talk on their phone (and I presume surf the web) at all the points that I can't. It is my twice-a-day reminder to leave AT&T that I could be doing better with a different vendor.

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6 Comments | Leave a comment

AT&T Customers with iPhones can report their own issues with the network by downloading the free AT&T Marks the Spot app on the iTunes App Store. Please help us improve your quality-of-service!

Any AT&T employee can also report network troubles on behalf of customers as well.
--joe

I guess the company now known as AT&T is a fitting successor to the name: http://www.netfunny.com/rhf/jokes/97/Jan/lostemail.html

AT&T does believe in vested investments such as their copper plant. Instead of building fiber to the home and taking the massive capital outlay like Verizon, they have settled with using vdsl and concentrators in the neighborhood. This is likely a better business decision since they could buy their way into statewide cable franchises (Michigan at least). They also are bowing to union pressure to keep jobs. Building fiber that is managed by a different union guy than the copper plant. Can't have an efficent workforce like everyone else this generation.

This is why those that live in AT&T territory are screwed. They are making pure short term profit decisions instead of building the best network. They will continue to fall and slowly spiral to obselesence.

I don't know if it's going to make you feel any better or not, but it made me laugh.

http://www.fakesteve.net/2009/12/a-not-so-brief-chat-with-randall-stephenson-of-att.html

I live in Brooklyn and everytime we drive on the BQE or the Belt Parkway (they both have huge stretches of deadzones, I lose calls. My girlfriend in a doctor and she loses calls with the hospital on her iPhone. She can't wait to get rid of AT&T, only she loves her iPhone.

As I wrote in a blog post, their AT&T Mark the Spot app is at best a partial attempt at caring about the problem (http://eric.lubow.org/2009/misc/att-reactive-vs-proactive/). Only their logic is flawed, how are you going to AT&T that there is a dead zone somewhere when the app is being used from a dead zone and can't get the location data.

Thanks AT&T, maybe I'll be waiting for the droid.

I use the Palm Pre on Sprint, and not only is the service solid, dependable, and rarely drops, the device is certainly better (to me) than the iPhone. Hopefully the applications will catch up and make it more attractive than it may be now, but regardless of the device, Sprint works everywhere I need it from all over NYC to the middle of nowhere in the mountains where I live.

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