Thursday, February 4, 2010

Business Week Plugs AT&T Critic!

Roben Farzad gives AT&T Critic a great plug in Business Week's cover story:

While it was nice to see my name in a major business journal, the most interesting part was reading another promise from AT&T Operations President John Stankey that iPhone tethering is coming "soon."

But why not now? Well, according to Stankey, "You don't want to throw more gasoline on the fire." What? You're kidding? Roben, did he really say that?!

So let me get this straight. The "gasoline" would be extra data use by tethering on the iPhone? The "fire" would be AT&T's inability to handle all that data?

So if there's a "fire" why not stop iPhone sales? Or, why not charge extra to new customers to discourage more traffic than AT&T can handle? Or, charge a lot for tethering until AT&T's networks can handle it. No, instead, AT&T needs to "manage" it's current customers by preventing them from doing what they would like on the iPhone. So current iPhone customers get to pay $120 a month to have their uses "managed" so AT&T doesn't have to slow their market share growth. Thanks, AT&T!

Even if that was remotely defendable in terms of handling unexpected iPhone demand, it certainly doesn't fly when AT&T is planning to be the exclusive provider of service for the iPad, which will use exactly the kind of data stream that tethering would require. So AT&T prevents it's $120 a month customers from using their technology so it can sign up millions of more customers at $30 a month to do what it's old customers wanted to do.

And then, I guess, once AT&T is in control of enough market share, they'll give us the honor of charging us for tethering too. Just so long as it doesn't effect it's quarterly profits. Because despite AT&T's problems servicing it's customers, it's making tons of money on them. Money that could have been invested into fixing it's cell towers, but that might hurt short term executive bonuses. AT&T's customers can wait, or rather, they have to wait because they have no choice. AT&T has a monopoly on the iPhone in America.

Communist countries fall apart because when you have an economy that isn't based on a free market, where the government isn't answerable to the people it rules, it rots from mismanagement. The government makes decisions based on staying in power, not on what is best for the people it governs.

This is why business monopolies are generally illegal in true democracies. Because the bosses of a monopoly make decisions mainly based on keeping power, not serving their customers. This is what has happened at AT&T because they have a monopoly (of questionable legality) on a key piece of technology, the iPhone. They are making decisions not on what is best for the iPhone customers that are shelling out big bucks every month, but based on their desire to grow market share and dominate the market. So tethering doesn't fit in AT&T's plans for control of America's cell towers. So iPhone customers can't have it (but AT&T Blackberry customers can because AT&T doesn't want to lose that market share). This is wrong.

In his Business Week piece, Mr. Farzad says that the "Mackay Bells of the world" wouldn't be a problem for AT&T if it still had a strong landline business (a fading monopoly). But while I specifically may not be a problem for AT&T, others like me are. And AT&T needs to stop abusing it's monopoly power and start competing like a free market corporation. Charge for your service, charge more if it is expense or scarce, but don't exploit one set of customers to finance market share growth on another.

I started this blog just a couple months ago as an experiment. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I'm able to broadcast it globally 24 hours for free. I've got no advertising, no name, no access to politicians. But in that short time I have a growing audience and am now quoted by big business journals. I don't expect to be able to have a large impact on AT&T's business practices, but my complaints, and my ideas, do have merit. They circulate to others. And other "Mackay Bells" who are unhappy with the way AT&T is handling it's monopoly are also writing to the world. This is the way revolutions are started. AT&T needs to consider what happens to tyranny when enough people get pissed off.

If Apple doesn't allow other carriers to service the iPhone soon, the US Government needs to step in. American's will demand it. And if Apple does allow other carriers, AT&T needs to consider the way it has mistreated it's customers, and quickly change if it wants to compete in a truly free market. I humbly suggest it starts practicing now.

Meanwhile, everyone else needs to understand why laws enforcing net neutrality are critical to our democracy.


  1. Wow, Uncle Bell! You're on fire today! Congrats on the Business Week article.

  2. My opinion and experience is that AT&T is primarily concerned with AT&T's balance sheet. Customers are an after thought and only considered when the bottom line is threatened.

    No matter the consequence, consumers must vote with their cash and find the best deal for themselves. Other wise, corporate America wins and the consumer has to wait for other market forces to influence change.

    Continue the good fight against this Corporate mentality that permeates all AT&T business units and models!!!

    BTW, Congrats on the Business Week shout out.