A countdown continues as the wireless world waits to see if thousands of AT&T customers will bum-rush the network and choke off service. The movement started when Newsweek columnist Dan Lyons, aka Fake Steve Jobs, teased about a plan to clog AT&T's network on Friday at noon Pacific time.
In a blog post, Fake Steve outlined a plan he calls Operation Chokehold and encouraged iPhone users to use data-driven apps at the same time on the same day to cause a wireless traffic jam of sorts.
"The goal is to have every iPhone user (or as many as we can) turn on a data-intensive app and run that app for one solid hour. Send the message to AT&T that we are sick of their substandard network and sick of their abusive comments," Fake Steve wrote. "The idea is we'll create a digital flash mob."
Fake Steve Fights Back
AT&T called Fake Steve's plan "irresponsible and pointless." That statement elicited another response from Fake Steve, who said AT&T has a much bigger problem on its hands than a failure to reliably connect calls in New York City. The problem, as he sees it, is that the wireless data explosion is just beginning.
"The fact that AT&T is already bonking, here in the first five minutes of a 60-minute game, is terrifying," Fake Steve wrote. "It's their own fault, of course. Go look at their financial statements and open up the financial operations and statistics summary and look at capital expenditures over the past eight quarters."
"I'm no math whiz, but it looks like capex has gone down by about 30 percent over the time period. Scroll down a bit to the wireless section and check out data revenues -- they're up 80 percent over the same period," he continued. "Irresponsible? Pointless? Yes, that sounds familiar."
Who's to Blame?
The real Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, has yet to speak out about the plan. But federal regulators are making their position loud and clear, calling Fake Steve's call for a digital protest irresponsible. Jamie Barnett, chief of the Federal Communications Commission's public-safety and homeland-security bureau, said it could pose a threat to public safety.
"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," Barnett said. "To purposely try to disrupt or negatively impact a network with ill intent is irresponsible and presents a significant public-safety concern."
Mike Disabato, a senior analyst at the Burton Group, sees the dilemma from both sides. On one hand, Fake Steve could be viewed as inciting illegal activities through what could amount to a denial-of-service attack. On the other hand, if iPhone users decide they want to overwhelm the networks, he said, what's to stop them?
"It's a legitimate use of a legitimately purchased service on a legitimately authorized device on that service," Disabato said. "However, if SBC (the precursor to AT&T) had realized what was going to happen with the iPhone, they would have realized there are applications like YouTube that you can't even delete off the iPhone -- and they stream video. They would have realized there is GPS on the iPhone that uses more data. People want to get their e-mail, and that's more data. They should have upgraded their data network before they took on the iPhone."