OFF THE GRID

AT&T Sucks

Dec 29, 09 | 8:01 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Let’s try to do this reasonably and with particularity: Every call I made yesterday on my iPhone dropped. A number of them were to my 84-year-old mother who has a hard time understanding why telephones no longer work.

I have a hard time understanding this, too.

Is it mere success, as AT&T seems to suggest? The iPhone is just too popular, straining its network. The fault, in other words, lies with consumer demand and great design, and not with AT&T and its resources and infrastructure.

But how come for the last two years I go dead in the East Thirties, on 57th Street and Sixth, on 72nd and Madison, on Bleecker and Lafayette, on the Williamsburg Bridge, and about a hundred other specific locations I’m too irate to remember now?

Overload would be random (of course, iPhone calls drop randomly, too), but a plainly crummy system is one that can’t cover some of the most well-trafficked thoroughfares and intersections in the world.

Even though this dysfunction has been going on since the dawn of the iPhone, AT&T now seems to be claiming there’s especially high data volume in New York—hence, brilliantly, no more iPhones for New Yorkers. Or, that’s not the reason, some other PR star at AT&T seems to have decided; rather the reason the geniuses at AT&T won’t sell you an iPhone if you’ve got a New York City area code is because of something to do with “increased fraudulent activity.” Whoops, forget all that: Sales of iPhones in New York are back on.

Sometimes, in a cab, especially after I get through the long dead stretch in the East Thirties, I’ll call and berate them. The folks at AT&T may not know how to build a cellular network, but they do know how to train their operators to remain unruffled (it is, perhaps, a legacy phone company skill, training operators). Try as I might, I can’t get an AT&T operator to admit they have had thousands of such calls like mine. Rather, what they want me to believe, believe in a way in which my own sanity seems at issue, is that I am the only one who has ever suffered so.

And, after all, why blame AT&T at all? 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.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.
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