Suppose someone tried to shut down AT&T’s wireless network tomorrow at Noon and nothing happened? Besides in New York and San Francisco, that is the likely outcome of Dan Lyons’ urging his blog readers to use so much iPhone data that the carrier becomes blocked during midday tomorrow.
(Note: I have added a response to readers at the bottom).
I am asking readers not to take part in this silly protest. Why? Because to the extent it hurts anyone, it won’t hurt AT&T. The actual damage will be done to customers–businesses especially–running critical wireless apps during the protest hours.
The FCC tells ABC News that the danger is even more serious: Suppose a 911 call is blocked by protestors jamming AT&T’s network and someone is injured as a result?
“Threats of this nature are serious and we caution the public to use common sense and good judgment when accessing the Internet from their commercial mobile devices,” Jamie Barnett, chief of FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau, said in a statement. “To purposely try to disrupt or negatively impact a network with ill-intent is irresponsible and presents a significant public safety concern.”
My idea is different: Friday at Noon (Pacific Time), I won’t be using iPhone data. I may not even use my iPhone at all. I’ll do this as a show of solidarity with my fellow customers who actually use AT&T’s data network for something important, They don’t deserve to lose access because of some bogus protest intended to drum up blog readership.
More importantly, I’ll do this on behalf of people who depend on 911’s first responders–isn’t that everyone?–to save our lives and protect our property. That is hard enough without some moronic iPhone protest getting between victims and rescuers.
Like many people, Lyons, better known as blogger “Fake Steve Jobs,” is upset over AT&T’s iPhone service. After AT&T recently suggested the possibility of tiered data pricing or usage caps (which I vaguely support), Lyons proposed tomorrow’s protest.
AT&T says the protest is “irresponsible,” and I agree. It is also likely to backfire: When digital Armageddon doesn’t happen tomorrow, AT&T will be able to claim its network is actually quite robust. Heck, they will probably do that whatever happens.
Because AT&T and other carriers use a distributed architecture for their wireless networks, the onl y way for the protest to work will be to have large numbers of protestors who will be able to impact service only in limited areas, experts say.
Thus, people who live in areas, such as New York and San Francisco, with too many iPhones may potentially see some slowdown or blocked access. People in more rural areas, won’t, if the networks behaves as expected.
Lyons’ should to call off this protest before somebody gets hurt as a result of it. And readers should avoid his blog until Lyons’ apologizes for the mess he’s created, perhaps unintentionally.
The FCC is right, intentionally disrupting critical infrastructure is irresponsible and presents a public safety concern. Is sending a message to AT&T really worth the damage it might cause some innocent bystander?
Update at 4:35PM PT: Yes, dear readers, I am aware that if all goes right, voice and 911 traffic should not be impacted. I am also aware that systems aren’t perfect, the wireless network was created piecemeal, and that lots of emergency and 911-related messages go over the normal voice and data networks. Patient reports to hospitals go over the voice network in my own community at times and I am sure there are places that use the AT&T data network for important public safety information.
There are places, I am told, where iPhone pictures are sometimes e-mailed to hospitals before the patient arrives to show the damage done to vehicles involved in serious accidents.
Some of you seem to feel that AT&T’s network is so lousy that it will perform perfectly when users intentionally try to block it.
David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.