Frustrated with iPhone data service in San Francisco? Call 1-800-331-0500 and complain; AT&T claims they have no problem. #attfail.

I'm an enthusiastic iPhone user. I'm a captive AT&T customer. They're not awful as cell phone companies go. But their data network is terrible in San Francisco. It's totally random whether I'm going to be able to load a web page at any given time or place; I'd say about 25% of my network requests fail. I've taken to using an offline map just so I don't get lost. I'm not the only one: every iPhone user I know hates the service in San Francisco. So I called today and tried to do something about it. Specifically, I asked for a refund for the $30/month data plan.

It didn't go well. The customer service reps I talked to were all polite and communicative and did a game job in dealing with an unhappy customer. They also refused to admit they had any real problem. In the end they gave me a one-time $10 refund just to shut me up.

The astonishing part of the call was that the CSR did have access to my data records and said she saw some pattern in the data that suggested only 3 requests out of 4 worked. (Specifically, 1kb downloads, which she took to be evidence of a failure.) According to her, a 25% failure rate isn't a problem. And the fact that I've never called and reported problems before must mean everything is OK. No one in San Francisco calls and reports problems, she said, so they must not have any.

Hopefully AT&T doesn't just rely on customer reports and has actual network engineers monitoring their networks. But what we really need is some external, objective measure of network quality that AT&T can't deny. Or just a couple of Apple execs living in the city, fed up with the way their monopoly network provider makes their flagship product look bad.

  2009-08-17 21:45 Z