We may all live in a great big global community, but in my Blog, it's my world.

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.


Comments
on Feb 03, 2011

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.

That is a good idea and question.  But Verizon has had other intelligent phones (both blackberry and android), and so far, most people I know with them (including my wife) rave about them.  I am going to get an android soon (my contract expires in a few months).  So far, Verizon has been great for me!  But then my comparison is with a local outfit - nTelos - which really sucks!  Both the service and the billing.

All of these companies seem to be lacking in the vision to actually INVEST back into their own futures.

I will give you 2 reasons why I swear by Verizon - where only 10 years ago they were a dirty word in my vocabulary.  1) - Service - While I do not know if they are better than everyone else (because I have not tried everyone else), I have had no complaints on the service!  NONE!  And 2) (Actually 2 and 3) is customer service and technical support!  Both have been outstanding!  But that may just be me since both of those were non-existent with previous companies, so the bar was set very low.

While PEPCO is probably just laughing at your complaints (they are still a monopoly so they do not have to worry about customer service), AT&T should be quaking in their boots.  There is a better outfit out there today.  And they are doing the invest dance, both in physical plant and in Customer/Technical service.

I did have a chance to actually talk to verizon technical support before I switched to FIOS (a couple of years before).  And they really sucked then! (Customer - technical was ok).  I switched to them because their competition was even worse!  And they had been given a few years to improve.  They did!  So AT&T still has time, but not a lot.

on Feb 03, 2011

Funny that you mention service there Dr Guy as the one big issue I have had with Verizon is service.  Well, that and billing.  Not that they screwed up my bill, just that their bills are nearly indecipherable when you get them and it takes several billing cycles to get a regular bill after you make changes as they credit this, double bill that to cover additions and subtractions, etc.

On the customer service front though, I was really, really disappointed and downright angry with Verizon back around Christmas time.  They were supposed to come out to my house on 12/23 and instead they missed the appointment and claimed that I wasn't there (which was complete b.s.) and then couldn't resched for about 10 days.  When I got it rescheduled they scheduled for the wrong day and had someone trying to come out on a different date/time than I had requested.  Thankfully their local dispatcher was able to work me into their schedule on the date that I did request and I finally got done, but I have a repeat performance coming up and I'm not looking forward to the fun that will be getting them back out again.  I'm sure I'll be waiting around my house all day, waiting for them to come out and bring me cable cards again (new devices that I'm adding to my service will need them).  Something I could do myself rather quickly and easily if they let me (and by rule they will have to let me in the future, but don't have to for about 6 more months )

In terms of their phone service everyone I've talked to likes them and finds them solid.  I am tempted to jump ship and pay AT&T their early termination fee just to be done with them, but for now I think I'll keep waiting.

And like you said, with PEPCO, well there's no competition.  I wish there was as competition has helped make things better when it comes to TV service and the like.  Certainly the threat of cancelling service with Verizon did seem to get them to make that effort to get their butts out to my house when I wanted them (and DirecTV was recently falling all over themselves trying to keep me as a customer as I called up to cancel service with them having finally fully commited to Verizon).

on Feb 04, 2011

Well as I said - my experience is limited - so I can only give you how they are down here (and I know my service guy is not yours).  I will soon find out about a service change however as I did add some boxes back in December - and so far, there has been no charge for them (I figure that will come).

I sing Verizon's praises guardedly as I keep expecting the other shoe to drop.  So you may be right.

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