As someone that was a fan of the iPhone, I was previously stuck with AT&T as my service provider no matter how good or bad their network was (mostly bad ) Now, with the pending arrival of the Verizon iPhone (finally!!) I will finally have some choice in the marketplace, though in order to have that choice I'd have to make some technical trade-offs and would also have to pay a significant early termination fee to get out of my current AT&T contract.
For now I'll likely stay with AT&T, at least until I get to hear and read plenty of reviews of how the Verizon network handles the load that a bunch of iPhone users may place on it. There's also the possibility that as a bunch of people jump away from AT&T and into the arms of Verizon that AT&T's performance actually does improve, but that remains to be seen and is probably just wishful thinking.
What would have and should have improved the situation is for AT&T to have done some serious reinvestment back into their own infrastructure. I know they've invested some as they get ready to do a full on roll-out of what they will be calling 4G service and I am someone who understands that you don't necessary want to do a lot of spending on fixing the current situation when you know that you'll need to roll-out new services soon that may not be (likely aren't) compatible with the older services, but still that all seems very short-sighted to me.
First, while I understand the double-edge sword that is keeping backwards compatibility in place -- you wind up being hampered by it even as you help build a bridge for customers to eventually walk across as they hopefully jump to newer technology -- I have to say for the most part I think it makes sense to take that approach. Granted, I wish that somewhere along the way, other than way back at the leap from Windows 3.x to Windows NT, Microsoft had thrown away the old cobbled together mess that is Windows and had brought us a whole new operating system that really took advantage of the newer hardware and capabilities that were available rather than half-stepped because of the backwards compatibility that had to remain. You get the idea, I hope, that while backwards compatibility can be good, it can also lead to a big mess over the longer term as sooner or later you probably really do need to make a clean break and leave behind all of the old limitations and mess.
In the case of AT&T, they need to maintain backwards compability as they build out their 4G network so that all of the 3G customers and even old Edge users can continue to use their phones without being forced to upgrade. Those upgrades would cost a lot of people a lot of money, not to mention the costs of all of the subsidies that AT&T would probably have to offer those same customers. Keeping a backwards compatible system would alleviate those problems and offer customers a slower and hopefully steadier path to upgrades.
Meanwhile AT&T should have been putting new towers up to expand their reach and improve their coverage. It should have long been clear to them that they had poor coverage in many areas where they believed they offered stable coverage. They had even created an app for that (their "Marks the spot" app that can be used on an iPhone to report back signal drops and other problems) and had been nailed repeatedly in advertisements from their main competitor (with maps that showed how poor their coverage was). AT&T claimed to have been reinvesting in their infrastructure and making improvements, but if they had been doing so the pace of such improvements seems really questionable and completely lacking in much real evidence of change.
Similarly, I can look at another company that has been in the news in the National Capital region lately: PEPCO, the power provider for much of the National Capital region. They were nailed after Snowmaggedon 2010 and have been a target after the ice storms and snow of 2011. Apparently it has been far more important for PEPCO to pay shareholder dividends than to keep an adequate staffing level available to respond to emergencies and power outages that are weather related. Instead, they prefer to be a smaller, more nimble, and more profitable company that will cry for help (normally late) when it is totally obvious that a nasty weather system is on the way or is actually right on top of them. Their compatriots in the area (BGE and Dominion Power in Virginia) were considerably better in getting their customers back online sooner, but much of that was likely just being lucky with how bad the damage was in their coverage areas compared to PEPCO's.
All of these companies seem to be lacking in the vision to actually INVEST back into their own futures. The only vision they seem to have is of paying dividends to demanding shareholders rather than balancing out the demands of those shareholders with the demands of their customers. The short-sightedness is easily apparent and could be somewhat easily corrected if the companies had leadership that actually wanted to lead rather than simply bend over for shareholders and others who see nothing but profit demands.
Personally, I am a big fan of putting money back into insuring the future of a business. Money spent now to lead to greater profits in the future is a very worthy investment. Money paid into the pockets of greedy CEOs and other officers of the companies don't really do much other than keep those officers from leaving for supposedly greener pastures and while it would seem important to keep your leaders in place, if they haven't been that effective in their jobs anyway, why fret over keeping them at all? Instead, how about paying their fair salaries and offer them decent bonuses for performance and otherwise let the needs of the customers -- as well as those of the shareholders -- determine what you do in the marketplace.