Friday, May 28, 2010

Why Did AT&T Execs Lie About iPad Data Consumption?

I've mentioned before how weird it was that AT&T execs dismissed the strain the iPad was going to put on their cellular system. Well, what should they have said? Kind of like what these European telecom executives say in anticipation of the UK iPad release:

Now, we could credit this to a better educational system in the old country, or maybe that they hire smarter executives over there. But the real issue is not the lack of intelligence of AT&T's leadership, we already know it is subpar, but why it is they are so quick to simply lie when confronted with facts they don't like.

Even clueless AT&T exec's knew the iPad would put a strain on their system, and consume tons of data, but for various reasons they wanted to downplay it. I can understand that, but what I can't understand is how executives of a major telecom in this day and age think they can get away with lying to the public over matters they will quickly be proven to be wrong on. There's something very dysfunctional in that thinking and it seems to be a pattern in AT&T's entire operation. Lying to people that they are getting a rate cut, when in fact it's a rate increase, lying that a service contract is a good deal, when it's a bad one. Saying dropped calls are a design flaw in the iPhone. Saying they're going to come out with tethering when they have no intention to. This feels like an institutional problem, and they are going to be stunned at how quickly iPhone customer's flee for another carrier the moment they have a chance. Habitual liars are the last to know when people are fed up with their lies.

Now, of course, the European execs quoted aren't beyond distorting the truth. They say increased iPad traffic will speed up the switch to tiered pricing, something that they say is inevitable (it isn't). But at least they are consistent, AT&T execs desperately hunger for the scam of tiered pricing (the better to confuse and rip off it's customers) but they fumbled with the iPad like a liar who has told so many untruths they can't figure out what to say when confronted with the fact that nothing they are saying makes sense.

If tiered pricing is necessary for the "survival" of telecoms, the iPad is a device that absolutely would require it. AT&T execs should have said exactly what the European ones did. The iPad is going to demand a lot of data, and to "survive" we'll have to charge extra for it.

But tiered pricing is not enviable, and in fact makes no technological or business sense except as a way to inflate customer bills for short term profits. (Long term, it's better for customers to have access to limitedness data. The internet has already proven that time and time again.) Ironically, the fumbling of AT&T execs over the launch of the iPad may have killed any chance AT&T has of pushing through tiered pricing. It may be too late to put that horse back in the barn. And we can thank AT&T's knee jerk dishonesty for exposing that.

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