AT&T claims Apple cult hero Dan Lyons (aka the Fake Steve Jobs) perpetrated a reckless act of digital disobedience with a blog entry calling on all iPhone owners to overwhelm the carrier's much-maligned data network on Friday, Dec. 18th as part of what he terms "Operation Chokehold." The Monday posting spawned a Facebook fan group with more than 1,100 fans and a flurry of activity on social media site Twitter, as well as a humorless response from an AT&T spokesman, who called the planned stunt "irresponsible and pointless"..
Lyons urged iPhone users, starting 3 p.m. Eastern time (12 noon Pacific time) to activate a data-intensive application and run the application for one hour. "Send the message to AT&T that we are sick of their substandard network and sick of their abusive comments," wrote Lyons, posing as Jobs. "The idea is we'll create a digital flash mob. We're calling it Operation Chokehold. Join us and speak truth to power!"
After the post went live, AT&T responded to a comment request by Apple blog CultofMac, lambasting Lyons for recklessness for potentially affecting emergency calls, though the spokesman also told the blog he doubted the show of protest would have an impact. "We understand that fakesteve.net is primarily a satirical forum, but 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 spokesman replied. "We know that the vast majority of customers will see this action for what it is: an irresponsible and pointless scheme to draw attention to a blog."
If that was Lyons' intent, it seems to be working. In his response to AT&T posted today, he noted The Wall Street Journal covered Operation Chokehold and crowed that protest talk is "all over Twitter." Lyons goes on to resume his attack on AT&T, accusing AT&T of "exploitative contracts and exclusivity deals" and drawing attention to the company's financial operations, which show a decline in capital expenditures while data revenues rise. "The fact that AT&T is already bonking, here in the first five minutes of a 60-minute game, is terrifying," he wrote. "It's their own fault, of course."
In recent months AT&T has come under heavier scrutiny by the press and consumers for its lackluster network performance. While the company promises 3G data speeds, many users in high density areas such as New York City and San Francisco struggle at times to even place calls. A decision by AT&T in September to allow a Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) capability further fueled fears of an overworked and underperforming network infrastructure.
This month AT&T released a free application called "Mark the Spot," developed to allow consumers to "mark" locations where a performance issues occurs. When an issue, such as a dropped call, is experienced, users can offer feedback "with as little as two button clicks," AT&T said in a statement. iPhone users (AT&T says the app will be available for other smartphones soon) can choose whether to simply report the problem or expand on the details, and the app automatically sends AT&T a report with the location, time stamp and device used.