December 16, 2009
Journalist Dan Lyons, a.k.a. Fake Steve Jobs, wants AT&T (NYSE:T)'s iPhone subscribers to show their displeasure with the carrier's attitude toward customer service by intentionally flooding AT&T's network with data traffic.
In a Monday blog post, Fake Jobs urged AT&T customers to turn on a data intensive iPhone application at noon PST, Friday and leave it running for one solid hour. Called 'Operation Chokehold', the effort will seek to "overwhelm the AT&T data network and bring it to its knees" and create a "digital flash mob", according to the fictional Apple CEO.
Unsurprisingly, AT&T, which has been facing growing subscriber dissatisfaction over service issues and an advertising assault from rival Verizon, doesn't appreciate the humor behind Operation Chokehold.
"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," an AT&T spokesperson said in an e-mail. "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."
Operation Chokehold may have been presented as a joke, but it's highly likely that some fed-up AT&T customers are going to take it seriously. And given the iPhone 3GS' video support, and the existence of video streaming apps on Apple's App Store, iPhone users will probably be able to put some serious strain on AT&T's network.
AT&T recently claimed that 3 percent of its smartphone customers account for 40 percent of wireless data traffic and blamed iPhone customers' proclivity for bandwidth-intensive apps for the disparity. AT&T charges a flat rate for wireless data on the iPhone but is now considering usage-based pricing to stem subscribers' bandwidth usage.
Although carriers often whine about customers' bandwidth usage, AT&T isn't getting much sympathy because of the exclusive iPhone distribution deal it has with Apple, which has helped revitalize its business. And the same will probably hold true even if Operation Chokehold succeeds in wreaking havoc on AT&T's network.