Here's a brief piece on AT&T's year in review. Guess what, it's not a positive review:
The review points out continued troubles with AT&T service, but it's also interesting to note that most of the problems listed are basically PR problems. AT&T has to fix it's service issues, which it probably eventually will, but the question is, what kind of perception will people have of the company when it finally gets around to providing decent service? Right now, the company is losing a perception war very quickly. It's become a poster child for a bad corporation.
I'm sure AT&T execs look over long term plans and know that at the rate they are upgrading, eventually they'll handle traffic. But what if by the time that happens, they have serious competition, for example on the iPhone? How are they going to hold on to customer's that have had problems for years, and get new customers who have listened for years as AT&T's bad service become a one-liner joke?
AT&T has been playing based on an old corporate model that simply won't work in a new age. Buy up as much market share as you can, provide basic service at a premium rate, and brand yourself into a monopoly. AT&T either has to prepare for being the lowest cost provider, or offer premium service. Right now, it offers neither. It spends tons on advertising, but thanks to the internet, a small blog like Fake Steve Jobs can take over the media with something like Operation Chokehold, IF he points out something that is obvious to everyone. Like AT&T service in New York sucks and costs too much. You can't ad buy your way out of the truth anymore.
AT&T could have responded by apologizing for service, offering some rebates, promising (and delivering) to improve and won the PR battle. Instead, it responded by more huge ad buys of Luke Wilson saying vague things, planting fake stories, and burying it's head in the sand. It's not going to work and if AT&T doesn't change soon, it's going to have another bad year.