I have watched the costly AT&T TV ads implicitly urging support for the AT&T and T-Mobile USA merger. These glossy ads touting a wonderland of wireless connectivity both amused and aggravated me. An increase in AT&T customers because of a merger is not a 57 million increase in cellphone users. I have seen what the AT&T merger with Alltel produced here. It has been genuinely crappy service with nothing working the first week, partially working the second week, and sporadically not working in the past weeks. Two, three, four hour periods when there were no error messages or any other indication other than that your AT&T cellphone might just as well be a block of wood. And, never so much as a penny reduction in monthly bills because of the lost service.
As indicated before here at Dakota Today, calls to AT&T "help" produced responses indicating the whole problem here was phone user incompetence. That the system was working even when AT&T technicians working here indicated the systems had been dead for hours or days. AT&T apparently used that variation of the mushroom treatment on the SD PUC.
Why regulators would even think about allowing AT&T to swallow up another cellphone system after the way this South Dakota transition went is a mystery to me.
We picked the Samsung Rugby II phones because we liked our Samsung cellphones provided by Alltel. AT&T converted a good phone into a better marketing tool than a communication device. Obvious buttons that will get pushed on the assumption the interface is rational and intuitive instead connect to AT&T with notices like "If you do not desire service "X" for $9.95 per month, push softbotton "whatever".
Our SD PUC tells us they have no regulatory power over AT&T because of an FCC decision magically converting phone serice into information service.
Driving a few miles out of Winner turned an AT&T cellphone into a useless power consuming brick. However, that aggravation may be less now than it was a month or two ago. I was surprised to find the cellphones working next to the Platte-Winner bridge.
Regulators should be a lot more concerned about reducing Cellphone charges since they have become almost as ubiquitous as hard-wired phones but with only a fraction of the infrastructure required. They should also be concerned about cellphones providing their primary communication function consistently rather than how much can be charged for another unnecessary trendy "service".
The AT&T monopoly on wired phone service was broken up for good reasons. Why any regulators think it rational to allow AT&T to con them into allowing the same kind of monopoly in the cellphone market seems more than passing strange.
NOTE of September 1, 2011: About 11AM today I received a call from the SD PUC regarding this post suggesting they would contact AT&T about service interruptions. I then talked to a local businessman who is also on the AT&T cellphone system. He and his wife had the same loss of service that we did. He noted that such calls leave no "missed call" notice on the called phones. The PUC caller noted that every transition in the past has also produced a blizzard of problems. I may have forgotten the problems with the transistion to Alltel years ago, or we were using the phones so much less we did not notice. I do remember however that when there was a serious disruption of service that Alltel did not charge for that day or two. ---- Doug Wiken
*** Stay tuned even if your cellphone can milk the cows, fry the eggs, and connect flawlessly with your mother-in-law anytime night or day with never a roaming charge--- Doug Wiken