An advertisement battle between Verizon and AT&T over who has the best and most widespread wireless coverage has been raging on our television sets for many months. While the fight between these two telecommunication giants will continue well into the future, the lack of coverage in the "heart of technology" by one of them has one customer throwing in the towel.
I can understand not spending the money to get cell towers and the necessary infrastructure in place to expand coverage throughout the entire United States. After all, much of it is so rural there are very few full-time residents to warrant it. There are places in the deserts of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah where humans probably haven't stepped in months or even years. As someone who has hiked throughout the Lake Powell area and mountains of Utah and Colorado I can personally attest to that.
What is not understandable, though, is why that coverage does not include the most populated area of Northern California — the greater San Jose area. This isn't the backwoods of Montana or Death Valley — it's Silicon Valley, home to the most recognizable technology and Fortune 500 companies in the world. And, yet, as I look down at my iPhone all I see is one wireless bar indicating very low service.
"I am here to set the story straight," says Luke Wilson. "AT&T covers 97% of all Americans."
That is what popular actor and AT&T pitchman Luke Wilson states in one of the many advertisements airing on our TV sets. Now, I am a big fan of Luke Wilson and love most of his movies (Old School was hilarious and his own Wendell Baker Story humorously quirky), but as a salesman I have to say it's not his best role.
Perhaps they get off on a technicality for saying they cover 97% of "Americans" and not "America." But, again, that would work if I'm complaining while fishing Crater Lake or driving through west Texas. I am not. I am sitting at my home office in Saratoga, just a few miles from the headquarters of eBay and literally just down the street from another pretty popular and well-known company called Apple — which just happens to be the manufacturer of my phone.
Last week, while talking to a potential customer, the call dropped. I called him back and just as I started into my sales pitch again, it dropped again. I ran around the house trying to find the best coverage and dialed his number again. Before I could get the apology out, "Call Failed" popped up on the phone.
I ended up leaving several messages for him from my landline, but have not heard back.
My family and I just moved back to Northern California from Austin, Texas. We are told by friends and family who have lived here for quite some time that AT&T is notorious for poor service in the Bay Area. They cite the fact that the company can not keep up with the popularity of the iPhone and thus don't have the cell towers in place and thus the "bandwidth" to provide quality service to so many users.
After I lost the potential customer, I decided to email AT&T's customer service department to find out, first-hand, for myself (also, due to lack of service, I also wanted to check on my contract). Despite several emails, I never heard back.
Thus, I picked up the phone and called them. While I was irked since we were now talking about potential loss of business, I really was just curious as to what the situation was. I mean, it is rather comical that in one of the most popular cities in America, the largest in Northern California in terms of overall population and land area, a wireless provider could deliver such inferior service.
The service agent, Jay, was extremely pleasant. He was, however, not sure what to say about my current situation, nor had he heard of the "iPhone overload" theory. So, he ended up transferring me to his manager. Tony, another friendly fellow, did confirm too many users on one cell tower "could quite possibly lead to dropped calls." He was unsure, though, as to whether that was the cause behind both the spotty service and lost calls in my case.
So, he issued a "ticket," which basically meant my situation was sent on to technicians to try and remedy. I really did not think I would hear back since my question was so broad and not a quick fix. I was wrong. They actually did call back. And, better yet, they told me on my voice mail that they had resolution to my ticket number.
Finally, I was going to get answers. Finally, I was going to find out if friends and family were accurate with their cell tower-to-iPhone user ratio rationale. When I called back, I was actually kind of excited.
"It says here that the technicians have deemed you to be in a low to no service area," stated Carly in customer service.
My excitement faded fast. That was it? After all that round-and-round from agent to manager to technician, that was their conclusion? Despite living in the "heart of technology," despite living in the same cell tower area as actual Apple employees, my problem was simply I lived in a lousy service area?
The answer from Carly was "yup." The answer, despite my astonishment and constant reminders of where I lived — and who else lived and worked here — was over and over again, an apathetic "yup."
Maybe there are enough cell towers here, maybe there aren't. Maybe there are other issues at play here that a technology, wireless ignoramus like myself just can't understand (I did hear of some upgrades by AT&T recently to help with dropped calls from iPhones). What is clear, though, is I still have no answers and I am still left with almost no service.
What else is clear, is that while I do like Luke Wilson, I believe when it comes to AT&T, he is fighting a losing advertisement battle.