You know those TV cop shows, when the detective is outnumbered by the bad guys and is in the basement of some derelict building, and calls for backup which usually arrives just in time. In my case, I would be one dead cop, because my iPhone is linked to AT&T, and I would probably get a signal that said “no service” or “network busy,” or “call failed” – the most common occurrence. So I’m amused when I see on TV or in a movie people having no trouble in communicating on their cell phones with instant response, clear messages, and no “can you hear me now?”
My AT&T service is beyond a joke. My colleagues and I office in one of the most prestigious Class A buildings in Chicago, built in the early 1990s. All of us who use the iPhone with AT&T have difficulty in making connections. Our landlords had written to us many months ago, advising that AT&T would be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade their systems so we could enjoy a better service within the building. So far nothing has been achieved. In fact on making recent enquiries we find that the work hasn’t even started. I’m no better off at home. I have poor performance on my cell phone within my own house and no connection in my yard or in the streets around my house. Complaints to AT&T, who always respond politely and courteously, as if their personnel are trained to deal with protests about their poor service, confirm that they do not have adequate towers within our area to service our needs. Driving from my home to downtown Chicago invariably results in dropped calls when I use my Bluetooth connection. Very frustrating!
However nothing can match the poor performance of AT&T in international markets. I have just received a massive bill for $888, which covered a period during which I was travelling in Europe and in particular the Baltic countries. I had paid for 50 MB Global add-on at a cost of $24.99, plus data unlimited at a cost of $30, plus AT&T world connect $3.99 and AT&T world traveler at $5.99. All of this however was to no avail. I was billed for 343 minutes of roaming charges at a cost of $599.17. The main problem was that I was unable to retrieve my e-mails in most countries I visited, and I resorted to phone calls back to the US. When I put on my data roaming, the little icon went round and round minute-after-minute but never connected. This is a frustrating experience. I only retrieved my e-mails by finding a Wi-Fi café in the cities that we visited. I was instructed to turn off data roaming when not in use. Firstly, you have to remember to do that on every occasion; and, secondly sometimes when you turn it off, it comes back on. The telephone service is hardly better. On many occasions a “no service available in this area” appears. But my wife’s T-Mobile Blackberry worked perfectly. She paid a total cost of $19.99 and had no trouble retrieving e-mails or making calls. We were often standing in the same location while she had a clear connection to the US and I couldn’t get through, or she could receive all her emails and I got none.
When I told my sorry tale to my European friends and family they invariably laugh. It is hard for them to believe that, in this day and age, AT&T, the leading US phone provider, is unable to service my calls or provide email connections. As one friend said in London, “What is happening in America? The US used to lead the world, but is now falling behind most developed countries.” This applies in many areas – transportation, education and communications and is regrettably true.
Wake up America, before it is too late.
Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com