iPhone Users Revolt Against AT&T


Note: This story was updated after the revolution took place. Read to the end to learn the outcome.

If your iPhone starts running slower than usual today, take it as a sign that the consumer revolt against AT&T (Stock Quote: T) is under way.

What’s the iPhone revolt? Ask Jamie Richard… he’s one of the revolters.

Richard, and potentially thousands of his comrades, are taking part in Operation Chokehold, which aims to get as many iPhone (Stock Quote: AAPL)  users as possible to “turn on a data intensive app and run that app for one solid hour,” starting at 12pm PST. By doing so, these frustrated customers hope to freeze AT&T’s network, holding it hostage. The reason why so many may be taking part is because while many people love their iPhones, they often hate the service provided by AT&T. (Read MainStreet's previous coverage of AT&T service complaints.)

Richard, a 22-year old computer networking student at Rochester Institute of Technology,  can list off a million reasons why he is dissatisfied with his AT&T service.  Every week, he says, anywhere from 10-15 of his calls are dropped. When he’s in rural areas, like his parents’ home in Western Massachusetts, he can’t get any service, but when he’s in densely populated areas, he finds the service is overloaded and slow.

Yet, even with all of that, Richard continues to stick with AT&T for one reason: he loves the iPhone. “I have a family of iPhone addicts on my hands,” he said.  “I have tried the Droid, the Pre, several other Android handsets and a myriad of dumb phones, but none of them provide the same level of satisfaction as the iPhone.”

Many other iPhone users face a similar dilemma: they say they have the perfect phone with the lousiest service. Until recently, these customers had only two choices. They could either grin and bear the choppy data service and frequent dropped calls, or they could jump ship.

But earlier this week, a plan was hatched to fix AT&T by bringing it down. If this comes across as an unrealistic goal, just keep in mind that AT&T recently argued that their service is usually slowed by just a few bandwidth hogs.)

Operation Chokehold is the brainchild of Dan Lyons, better known by the pseudonym Fake Steve Jobs, who runs a satirical technology blog. He called on disgruntled iPhone users to “create a digital flash mob” that would highlight the flaws in the AT&T network in the hopes that the phone company might take steps to fix itself.

All of this might sound ridiculous until you consider that one Facebook group for Operation Chokehold already has more than 3,000 members, many of whom are putting it all on the line.

“This will hopefully provide AT&T the wake up call they need to start upgrading their network,” Richard said. “If this doesn’t happen, and quickly, I’m gone, along with everyone else in my family.”

Other members of the revolution feel just as strongly. “Operation Chokehold will show AT&T that their customers have absolutely had it with their antiquated network and horrible service,” said Kipp Bolt, an account manager for Advanced System Designs.

AT&T has already come out and condemned the revolution as “irresponsible and pointless.” According to one spokesperson, “There is nothing amusing about advocating that customers attempt to deliberately degrade service on a network that provides critical communications services for more than 80 million customers.”

The FCC has echoed this criticism, calling the plan “irresponsible,” and urging consumers to use common sense. Even Fake Steve Jobs has tried to water down the revolt a bit in response to these complaints.

Ultimately, both the FCC and AT&T have labeled this effort as a joke started by a satirist that went too far. For consumers like Richard and Bolt, however, there is nothing funny about it, and the revolution will continue with or without its leader.

“I will continue to participate in the event because AT&T needs to know that they can’t continue to promote how ‘good’ their service is while the rest of the world knows otherwise,” said Bolt. “AT&T needs to learn that they can’t continue to screw the user and make a buck doing it.”

UPDATE: Operation Chokehold seems to have failed to bring down the AT&T network.

It's unclear just how many people took part in the revolution. However, dozens of people did post messages on Facebook and Twitter, describing their attempts to slow down the network by streaming videos and music on their iPhones. Yet, shortly after the one-hour fight ended, Fake Steve notified readers on his blog that "there's been no impact at all."

Still, as one person wrote on Operation Chokehold's Facebook page, "AT&T Survived. We knew they would. But that wasn't the point. The point was getting everyone to realize that we shouldn't have to choose between a great phone and great service!"

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