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Angry AT&T Customers May Disrupt Service 572

g0dsp33d writes "Fake Steve Jobs, the alter-alias of Newsweek's Dan Lyons, is calling disgruntled AT&T users to protest comments from AT&T’s Ralph de la Vega that smart phone (specifically iPhone) usage is responsible for their network issues and his plan to end unlimited data plans. The post, dubbed 'Operation Chokehold,' wants AT&T customers to use as much data service as they can on Friday, December 18th at noon. While Fake Steve Jobs is notable for its satire, many Twitter and Facebook users seem to be rallying to its cry. It is unclear if there will be enough support to cause a DDOS."
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Angry AT&T Customers May Disrupt Service

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  • Should be (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:23PM (#30458944) Homepage Journal

    This thing isn't only for iPhone users. It's for every user of the AT&T network with a 3G device. And if AT&T had trouble with casual usage, wait until a lot of users try to bring the network down.

    Can't wait to hear how the whole thing went for both sides of this story.

    At least you guys have a choice of providers. Here in Canada, we almost have government-backed monopolies with even higher monthly bills.

  • Counter-Productive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Akido37 ( 1473009 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:23PM (#30458954)
    And if they can, AT&T will just say "I Told you So", and continue their plans to gouge iPhone users anyways.

    The only way this can go well for AT&T customers is if a large, well-documented group gets together, attempts a DDOS, and fails. Then what can AT&T say? "Well it's not THOSE iPhone users, it's the ones who live in their parents' basements..."
  • Pirates (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Krneki ( 1192201 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:24PM (#30458968)
    At least for once the P2P users are not blamed for excessive network usage.

    Of course when we pointed out that the pirates were only the first one to encounter network bandwidth limitations we were told to buzz off and the whole net neutrality debate was pointless too. :/
  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:27PM (#30459016)

    Don't fall for the crap that network bandwidth is somehow limited because of usage problems. That's never been the issue with AT&T's network. The problem is simply that they don't have enough cell tower capacity to handle that many simultaneous users. This is why your phone service cuts out in very crowded areas.

    So if a bunch of people simultaneously try to use the network, the cells will max out and a lot of people will be out of coverage, but the network as a whole will continue to run just fine.

    Getting AT&T to increase cell density is a nice goal, but so is getting cells to remote areas. It's a matter of priorities, but a covered area that has insufficient capacity is better than an uncovered area with zero capacity.

  • Not the best idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ezberry ( 411384 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:28PM (#30459024)

    How could anyone really think this is a good idea? AT&T has effectively admitted that the data usage growth for smartphones is above the rate that their data network will be able to grow. Using more data intensive applications will only show them how correct they are ("Look how much data will be used in the future when more people are streaming data")

    In addition, what if this actually interferes with an emergency call?

    Sorry that this might not be anti-corporate enough, but Operation Chokehold really isn't a great idea.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:31PM (#30459092)
    ...and "noon" should be tied to a timezone, otherwise it's several smaller spikes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:35PM (#30459130)

    What time/day do we throw flaming trash cans through store windows?

  • How mature. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:39PM (#30459216) Homepage Journal
    You know, it's times like this that I'm glad I have Verizon.

    Seriously, folks, this is like crazy Berkeley behavior. All you're going to do is make sure that every other AT&T customer - like the ones whose family members are sick in the hospital, or who just got in a massive wreck, or who just got carjacked, or maybe are waiting to hear from a family member overseas - can't get service. All so you can point out that AT&T has a grossly inadequate network, which is something that everyone knows already. The completely nontechnical people I know at work all complain about AT&T service even when they don't have 3G service at all. What's your point?
  • Uh oh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ambiguous Coward ( 205751 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:40PM (#30459232) Homepage

    Pretend-inciting a virtual cyber riot? Why, that hypothetically violates some possible public safety laws! This guy had better watch out, he might go to meta-jail for his semi-crimes!

    But seriously, AT&T is going to try to sue him. :(

  • Bait and swtich? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:41PM (#30459236) Homepage Journal

    Selling us all unlimited *contracts* that they know they cant deliver, then later switching it to limited while we are still stuck with the contract should be something the FCC should look into.

  • Missing Option (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grolaw ( 670747 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:41PM (#30459248) Journal

    I'm changing my plan to the lowest pricing structure possible. I am going to log every dropped call and file a FCC complaint as it will have "stolen" minutes from me.

    I have two iPhones with 3000 min day & 3000 min night + rollover, unlimited texting and the required data plan.

    I'll send letters off to the AT&T consumer oversight about the obvious overselling of the data//cell service by AT&T - much like the old airlines used to do with seats and overbooking - betting that the no-shows will prevent bumping. Here, we have virtual bumping from saturated networks.

    Frankly, AT&T ought to be dissolved - the Corporate Death Penalty and give the shareholders not a dime. The company has, through several iterations, demonstrated its gross incompetence too many times to exist. It is a monopoly and all monopolies must die. Let's kill AT&T - screw the shareholders. Time for "too big to fail" to take a nosedive into history.

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:41PM (#30459254)

    Disconnect those users. The iPhone zealots have nowhere else to go. Telling them to go for the Droid is like telling a crack addict to drop their habit by smoking pot and slurping vodka. Take down a few thousand users, and the majority will quickly stop complaining.

  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:43PM (#30459290) Homepage Journal

    i have an iphone 3gs and i max out at 2GB per month if i stream pandora almost all day for a month.

    2*1024*1024*1024/(8*3600*30)*8 = 20Kbps. That's some darn good compression they're using.

  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:44PM (#30459306) Journal

    I agree, and yet I don't. Unlimited means unlimited, it doesn't mean "Within reason."

    AT&T needs to get it's shit together.

  • Cutoff sentence (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:45PM (#30459330)

    It is unclear if there will be enough support to cause a DDOS...

    ... or, if they're successful, whether AT&T wireless customers will notice anything has changed.

  • Re:Should be (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:48PM (#30459378) Homepage Journal

    If they change the terms of the contract then those contracts are no longer valid, allowing customers to cancel them prematurely.

    Given that those contracts are used to subsidize the cost of the phones, I don't think it's going to happen.

  • by g0dsp33d ( 849253 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:48PM (#30459380)

    I was standing on top of a mountain and could get 4 networks.

    That is not necessarily a meaningful metric. Mountains tend to be the highest point in the area so you get bonus distance due to a clear line of sight.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:51PM (#30459416)

    There is a time zone. It's noon PST.

  • Re:Should be (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:54PM (#30459448)

    Don't forget option 3:

    AT&T's network is fucked over more than usual, and some people die because they couldn't make 911 calls. What, you thought taking down the data connection would have no effect on voice? HA!

  • by PKFC ( 580410 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:55PM (#30459466)

    If emergency calls cannot go through under "100%" usage of the tower, something is seriously wrong. There needs to be bandwidth provisioned and reserved for emergency calls for every tower and trunk.

    If this does affect emergency calls, AT&T really does need to get their shit together. I assume there are laws in place to enforce the transmission of emergency calls. Hell AT&T gets a free stress test of their network which is something they should be doing anyway. Real world data of extreme usage. Study, learn and yes: build a better network because of it.

  • Re:I read this as (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:59PM (#30459542)

    Except the iPhone get blamed for the wrong things. Does it have problems, sure, but don't blame the phone for problems on the network. I'm on an iphone in Europe and 99% of the criticism out there doesn't apply to me because I'm on a decent network. Most of the "problems" are pretty minor though so why do people feel the need to talk thrash about the iPhone instead of just accepting they don't like some aspects of it and getting another damn phone ?

  • Re:I read this as (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jitterman ( 987991 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:02PM (#30459572)
    I actually do have an iPhone, purchased about 6 months ago (and while I like it, it's far from perfect - overall I dislike Apple as a company). Before that, my service was still AT&T using a Motorola handset. They both drop(ped) calls at about the same rate. I'm all for AT&T users demanding that the company provide service for ALL of its customers via a reliable, properly scaled network. If they're willing to sell the hardware that consumes the services, they need to buck up and provide the infrastructure to support those customers.

    I really don't care WHICH phone Mr. Asshat Bossman of AT&T thinks is the main cause of his company's illness. Point is, they constantly rate dead last for reliability AND customer service among all national carriers. I can tell you this - ATT doesn't fix their problems in a fair (to the consumer) manner, when my contract is up I'll sell this little bugger to a "fanboi" and get a Droid phone, or even just a fucking regular handset, to get away from these clowns.
  • proof (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Elwar123 ( 1053566 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:05PM (#30459648)
    By everyone using as much bandwidth as they can, they can demonstrate to AT&T how much money they could have made if they had a cost per bandwidth setup going. The accounting guys are foaming at the mouth for this to happen.
  • Re:I read this as (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:08PM (#30459702) Homepage

    If they drop the unlimited plan then they will lose me as a customer.

    Really? What if the new plan offers more data than you currently still use in a month?

    If you do leave, where will you go to? You realise other networks are likely to follow suit?

    The problem in the US isn't the proposal to cap data. It's the complete and utter lack of affordable data in the sort of quantities the mass market needs to encourage mobile internet use to take off.

  • by buelba ( 701300 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:08PM (#30459710)

    They are protesting AT&T's announcement that smartphones are disrupting its network. By using smartphones. To disrupt AT&T's network?

  • Re:I read this as (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NikLinna ( 1232172 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:14PM (#30459820)
    Perhaps because the closer something is to what a person wants, the more they're likely to notice and bitch about what's missing. Why bother bitching about the crappy products, after all? You know their makers aren't even trying.
  • Re:Should be (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:17PM (#30459886)

    The plans aren't unlimited (at least as far as I understand reality), they are just unmetered. If the end game results in ATT charging people for what they use, who exactly suffers?

    (I don't expect ATT to actually charge people what I see as reasonable prices relative to their costs for providing services, but that's just smart business on their part, there are many people who are willing to far more than what I see as reasonable, to the point that they pay large amounts to use a congested network)

  • by harmonise ( 1484057 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:18PM (#30459924)

    In addition, what if this actually interferes with an emergency call?

    People don't place emergency calls over 3G data connections. Those are voice calls.

  • Re:Should be (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hynee ( 774168 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:29PM (#30460110) Homepage

    If they change the terms of the contract then those contracts are no longer valid, allowing customers to cancel them prematurely.
    Given that those contracts are used to subsidize the cost of the phones, I don't think it's going to happen.

    Not really, there is always force majeur []. They could use this "digital flashmob" to change their plans permanently, and carriers and ISP's in the US have been wanting to introduce bandwidth caps for a while now...

    Either Dan Lyons is a complete fool, or is a man on the inside trying to change the attitude to bandwidth permanently. So who is Newsweek owned by?

    I strongly suspect this is a stunt for the corporations, not to humiliate them.

  • Re:Missing Option (Score:3, Insightful)

    by castironpigeon ( 1056188 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:30PM (#30460116)
    First - no, you won't.
    Second - even if you did, why should the FCC care? No, really, think about it. Do you think any government agency is going to purposely put thousands of people out of jobs, cause stocks to drop even lower, and send a great big Fuck You to the corporate bosses who pay their paychecks all to make a couple thousand disgruntled geeks happy? When those disgruntled geeks are just going to go away if they're ignored for a while?

    I feel your pain. I don't have a smart phone, but broadband is in the same boat. Just bend over and take it like a good consumer whore. The only people who can change this system are the people running it and I don't think they have any intention of changing it in our favor.
  • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:52PM (#30460468)

    0% of iPhone users on AT&T can get a tethering plan from AT&T.

    the crying to pay is crap - what your hearing is the bait and switch complaints.

    they sell it as unlimited - and are now using their lack of network growth to justify changing contracts to 5gb max meaning unlimited while pocketing the money.

    As far as i'm concerned the tethering iPhone users can be cut off - they knew when they bought the phone that it wasn't allowed. In fact that is the chief reason i don't have one, because i do tether a lot.

    AT&T justs wants to continue over selling their network and charge more for it too - all to fund the top people and not actual network expansion.

  • Re:Should be (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sylver Dragon ( 445237 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:54PM (#30460496) Journal
    The spectrum is auctioned off the highest bidder. For a few billion dollars the entrenched interests can just gobble it all up regardless of whether or not they need it or intend to deploy on it.

    This has always been one of my biggest complaints about the FCC's wireless spectrum auctions. There really needs to be a use requirement attached to the sale. For example, anytime a company/individual purchases a chunk of spectrum, there are required to put it to use. If they don't utilize it or under-utilize* it it gets taken back from them (no refunds) and then re-auctioned.

    * - Under utilization would cover buying a chunk of spectrum which can carry far more information on it than a company does regularly. In which case, that chunk should be stripped from them and a less valuable one given for their current use. This is to avoid the purchase of a valuable chunk and then using it to send control messages or the like to avoid it appearing unused.
  • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:56PM (#30460536)

    why? when i bought the router it said on the box 100Mbps Ethernet. And thats what i got. they don't say unlimited.

    whats happening is they are saying Unlimited for X and then charging you X+Y where Y is usage over 5gb.

    if they want to do that then they need to state that and remove the word Unlimited as that is false advertising.

  • by Xeno man ( 1614779 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:05PM (#30460702)
    If a few users could actually bring the network down with high usage, then the network itself is shit and can't support the product they are selling. During an actual unplanned event like the balloon boy or 9/11 or anything that gathers national attention thousands of people take and upload photos, video and text to website as the events unfold in addition to making actual phone calls about said events. If an actual emergency can prompt the fall of a network preventing me from calling 911 about an emergency, then the said company is endangering lives just to not spend money on network upgrades. This protest won't even be noticed by the network admins let alone be a fraction of a real peak of data usage.
  • by TheEvilOverlord ( 684773 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:07PM (#30460744) Journal

    As various people here keep saying, you have to consider the whole lifecycle.

    I'm not defending the entrenched oligarchy of providers in the US, as they probably are gouging customers to an extent and not being as flexible as they could be. However when quoting all the amazing price deals available there, you have to consider how this is linked to pay levels, because to a certain extent the amount you pay is going to be affected by how much it costs to run the infrastructure, and paying people is a large part of that.

    There are also probably far fewer regulations on cell tower placement and power. Building anything probably costs less because labour is again cheap and there are fewer building regulations, environmental regulations and labour laws to comply with. It all costs money.

  • Re:Should be (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeURL ( 890801 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:09PM (#30460776) Journal
    The word "unlimited" just has to come out of all advertising everywhere. There is no such thing as unlimited supply of anything so it is, on its face, false advertising.

    I'm not a huge fan of "there oughtta be a law" but in this case I'd support the FTC severely limiting the use of the word 'unlimited'. If you use the word then you should be held to people actually using it as if it really is unlimited. That would mean that you could stream video, music, and torrents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on your iPhone--if you want to. if they don't actually mean unlimited they should advertise what they actually can support.

    The problem is that giving up the word "unlimited" puts a company at a competitive disadvantage because if AT&T gives it up then Verizon will beat the crap out of them, even more, in their ads touting THEIR fake unlimited data plan. So it would help if the government would just come in and say "NONE of you can say unlimited unless you really mean it and we will fine you heavily if you don't live up to it."
  • Dan Lyons? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dwiget001 ( 1073738 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:27PM (#30461052)

    Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

  • by NevarMore ( 248971 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:32PM (#30461154) Homepage Journal

    Doesn't matter. The chokepoint is at the local tower not at the backhaul. So doing this at noon in your timezone should be adequate.

    Now if their network is so janky that New York is still seeing problems at 3PM when LA starts in...

  • Re:I read this as (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timepilot ( 116247 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:51PM (#30461446)

    Yes, geeks are supposed to be knowledgable and have a penchant for solving perceived problems through creative methods:

    Is spending $300 to update my 1yo phone to get voice dialing that already works on my 4yo razr "creative" or "stupid?"

    Jailbreaking an iPhone may be considered creative to some. To me, needing to jailbreak an iPhone to get basic functionality is flawed, not creative. Really, are people still patting themselves on the back for jailbreaking?

  • Re:I read this as (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thrawn_aj ( 1073100 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:02PM (#30461590)

    You forgot to note that he said "join their clause", rather than "join their cause", thus making himself just as guilty of typo's as the submitter of the article.

    *cough* =)

  • Re:Should be (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:10PM (#30461702) Homepage Journal

    I can get mobile service from Videotron, Rogers, Fido, Telus, Bell, Virgin Mobile, and their discount spinoffs like Koodo. There are plenty of companies to compete against each other.

    Multiple choices doesn't mean there is any actual competition...

    Fido = Rogers [].
    Koodo = Telus [].
    Virgin Mobile Canada = Bell Mobility. []

    And thanks to the CRTC, companies such as Globalive had a hard time coming to Canada. And no thanks to Videotron, they won't be available in Quebec.

    The only question is, which of the three big companies, Rogers, Telus and Bell, will buy the other two. The way things are going, it seems to only be a matter of time.

  • Re:Should be (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MikeURL ( 890801 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:26PM (#30462002) Journal
    The only reason I'm afraid of a per-megabyte charge is that my ISP is, effectively, an unregulated monopoly. The electric company is a very heavily regulated monopoly (it has to have rate increases approved by the PSC).

    So far the only thing restraining the ISPs are comments like Chuck Schumer saying "we're watching you" (which can actually be pretty effective). So if they do go to a per-megabyte charge I hope it is watched very carefully by the governments who enforce their monopoly position.
  • Re:I read this as (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Penguinoflight ( 517245 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @08:40PM (#30467160) Homepage Journal
    3. Realize that you're still making bucketloads of money due to the overpriced nature of cellular and broadband services in general and stop whining.
  • Re:Missing Option (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grolaw ( 670747 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @11:38PM (#30468664) Journal

    The current "Great Republican Depression" is not felt on Wall Street - but Main Street is bleeding.

    In 1929 the bankers had the decency to jump from high buildings. Today, they borrow from the FED (Federal Reserve, a PRIVATELY HELD company) at 0.0% interest and can buy T-Bills at 3%.

    FDIC/FSLIC are federal insurance companies.

    We (the USA) used all sorts of tricks to impose high-interest loans on Argentina post the Malvinas/Falklands war. It was Hugo Chavez who (with vast profits from the Bush Administration run up of oil prices by speculation) paid off those debts and restructured them.

    I am an attorney, over 50 years old and I think that this nation has become an oligarchy serving only the top 30,000 citizens. Consider that they command more assets than the entire lower median income population - 30,000 have more assets than 150,000,000.

    The French (and, all other empires - especially water empires) overthrew their rulers at asset ratios far lower.

    This is a nation formed "Of, By and FOR the People" not corporate empires. I could go off on the railroad tax cases of 120 years ago that conveyed "human" standing to corporations - but I won't.

    Off AT&T - we broke them up once and they are pulling the same BS today. Burn them. Burn their shareholders and bar the top three layers of management from ever working in telecommunications forever - as a criminal sanction similar to Boesky in the 1980s.

    The rest of the employees could easily fill the demand for experienced workers in the competitors.

    But, burning the investors - 0.0% return and no tax deduction for the loss - that's what will start changes in our corporate culture.

    What, Maddoff didn't do worse?

    At least this time, there will be a point to the crash & burn....

  • Re:Missing Option (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grolaw ( 670747 ) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @10:41AM (#30473168) Journal

    Oh, status quo.

    The FCC doesn't have the power to nullify the corporate charter of AT&T and its affiliates.

    The DOJ does.

    In the past we have rarely used the Corporate Death Penalty - and your argument is AT&T is too big to fail - or be killed off?

    I'm for thousands of managers out of work - and out of the industry as a criminal sanction. The rest of the workers will find jobs with the competition.

    We are the people who control our government. Time to make a stand. Burn AT&T - twice is twice too often.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe