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Friday, January 13, 2012

AT&T's Service Is Shitty

Posted by on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Tell you something you don't already know, right? Their customer service sucks, their coverage is spotty—and in many places missing completely—so it's time to move on. Got any recommendations for a different carrier?


Comments (65) RSS

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I'm not sure, but if someone can recommend a good ISP while we're at it...
Posted by funtervention on January 13, 2012 at 11:35 AM · Report this
Anthony Hecht 2
Pick your poison. In my experience no carrier is any better or worse than any other, depending on your personal experience. I've used AT&T for years and never had any complaints, but obviously others have different experiences. Verizon tends to have the widest coverage, but is known for horrible customer service and lots of add-on charges. Some people like T-Mobile, but they have a smaller network. Sprint is still around, I hear.
Posted by Anthony Hecht on January 13, 2012 at 11:36 AM · Report this
Anthony Hecht 3
@1 An ISP for what? Home internet connection? Hosting? Email?
Posted by Anthony Hecht on January 13, 2012 at 11:37 AM · Report this
Ziggity 4
You fuckers all need to get your own Tumblrs. This page is for serious news only.

(Also, ditto @1.)
Posted by Ziggity on January 13, 2012 at 11:37 AM · Report this
nseattlite 5
T-Mobile is cheap and fine if you stay local. Verizon has really reliable coverage and is on the cutting edge of phone technology. I have heard awful things about Sprint's local coverage.
Posted by nseattlite on January 13, 2012 at 11:39 AM · Report this
All cell services have problems. You'll find something else to complain about with whichever one you switch to. Personally, I've been on AT&T for about 13 years and never had a problem.
Posted by Chali2Na on January 13, 2012 at 11:39 AM · Report this
@2: Do you know of any reliable sources of coverage information? I've been considering switching from Verizon, but I spend a couple of weeks in South Dakota every year and I know T-Mobile at least has incredibly shitty coverage there. Most sites I've found rely on user reporting, and there's not enough people in the state to paint a useful picture.
Posted by Ben on January 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 8
DoCoMo is pretty good.

... oh, you meant here.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Fnarf 9
AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint all suck donkey balls.
Posted by Fnarf on January 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Kris 10
All of you saying you have no complaints about AT&T clearly do not have a smartphone.
Posted by Kris on January 13, 2012 at 11:43 AM · Report this
TVDinner 11
@9: So does WiS. Big, hairy donkey balls.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on January 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
T-Mobile, cause I go to the EU often... works good in Seattle too..;-D
Posted by pupuguru on January 13, 2012 at 11:49 AM · Report this
They are all the shitty. The only way to win is to use this to your advantage and complain/threaten to switch so they give you free shit. Once that stops change to whomever is offering the most free shit to switch then do the same. Repeat as needed.
Posted by giffy on January 13, 2012 at 11:52 AM · Report this
My Virgin Mobile smartphone thingy seems to work fine, and for $35 a month I get a buncha minutes, no data cap and no contract.
Posted by gloomy gus on January 13, 2012 at 11:53 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 15
I've never had trouble with Sprint in Seattle aside from sporadic network farts, but that's to be expected anywhere (although Quest field area on a game day is horrific for data, but fine for voice). I've actually been on Sprint since I worked at Radio Shack in school in the 90s, and have always liked their service. The store on Union & 6th is the best one in the area.

You'll get complaints about all of them for various things, but I love Sprint. I was ready to bolt to Verizon or AT&T for an iphone on this current cycle that was due to expire in May for me, but I called them last week and said, "Could you let me go early to get an iphone?" now that they had it. They let me move up my renewal date for $40, which netted me an instant $300 credit + $150 renewal credit toward an iphone ahead of time. The 16gb iPhone 4S is bad ass.

That's a service reach-around if ever I had one.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on January 13, 2012 at 11:56 AM · Report this
I've had really good experiences with T-Mobile's customer service. I sometimes get dropped calls but for the most part it's worth it not to be with AT&T (monopoly) or sprint (dickwaffles). I've considered verizon but every time I have a problem T-Mobile woos me back in with their service.
Posted by Kyleen on January 13, 2012 at 11:57 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 17
@16 Ditto. I've found that all of my dropped calls are with AT&T callers. If you stay in the greater I-5 belt, T-Mobile's coverage is solid.
Posted by Sir Vic on January 13, 2012 at 12:02 PM · Report this
I just switched last weekend from ATT to Sprint and I am very satisfied so far. My bill was cut down dramatically (like 50 bucks!), way faster service and so far my phone call quality has been much better.
Posted by pony on January 13, 2012 at 12:05 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 21
Telcos are, by design and definition, the enemy. They are to a last one horrible, barely-competent, customer-hostile semi-monopolies, and if we had anything like a functioning antitrust department, they would all have been forced to split their wholesale and retail operations years ago. Come the revolution, they will be the first against the wall.

But we don't have that, so pick your poison. Verizon has the best network by far, but they go out of their way to cripple their phones and will nickel and dime you to fucking death at every last possible moment. The others are basically in a three-way tie for second aka last place, and it's really the luck of the draw whether their network will work perfectly or not at all for you, depending on where you live/travel. (And it's not like they're shy about the stupid add-on charges either, they're just like 15% less shameless about it than Verizon.)
Posted by Doctor Memory on January 13, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
Teslick 22
If you're going to stay in the urban areas, then any of the other major carriers should be ok. I've been with Verizon for a number of years, and have had no complaints. Verizon has had some major issues with their new LTE network in the last few months, though.
Posted by Teslick on January 13, 2012 at 12:12 PM · Report this
JonnoN 23
My HTC on AT&T works fine everywhere, you probably just have an iphone :)
Posted by JonnoN on January 13, 2012 at 12:12 PM · Report this
AT&T is the Britta of phone companies.
Posted by AndyInChicago on January 13, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Report this
Julie in Eugene 25
I switched to Virgin Mobile and am on the same plan as gloomy gus - 300 min, unlimited data/text for $35 (including tax). They use Sprint's network (which is who I was using before). Sprint is great in urban areas, but their coverage in rural areas is pretty poor. And "rural" can mean 5 minutes outside of Eugene, if you're going south/southwest.... But, I'm still happy with what I've got.
Posted by Julie in Eugene on January 13, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Report this
Geraldo Riviera 26
I get data coverage in my building on T-Mobile and my co-worker on Verizon does not.
Posted by Geraldo Riviera on January 13, 2012 at 12:17 PM · Report this
I used AT&T for work, switched to Sprint and found it to be unbearable. More dropped called in the year I used Sprint than in the 5+ years with AT&T combined. I am back with AT&T now and generally satisfied. The network in Seattle seems to be faster than in other cities I visit.

My family is on T-Mobile and again generally satisfied.
Posted by I Got Nuthin' on January 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 28
@11 it's obvious you've never seen them.

Envy ill becomes you.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM · Report this
tournant 29
@15--I'm with sprint and would like to do the same thing but where did that $300 credit come from?
Posted by tournant on January 13, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this

I have a Samsung Galaxy S-II and it works just peachy over AT&T's network. The only time I ever had coverage issues was out on the coast using my old HTC Tilt II, but my guess would be ANY carrier would have spotty coverage out there, regardless of what type of phone was being used.

Also, AT&T is the only major U.S. carrier with a substantial union workforce, and as an added bonus union members receive a 15% discount on their monthly billing.
Posted by COMTE on January 13, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
biffp 31
Verizon has great coverage. Terrible roaming charges (particularly for use in Canada), but great coverage.
Posted by biffp on January 13, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Fnarf 32
@11, Will @28 has quite hilariously misinterpreted your comment, thinking it refers to HIS balls, which he even more hilariously is denying are large, instead of the big, hairy balls that Will sucks on every time he touches his keyboard.

Will, you are the most ridiculous person who ever lived. Go away.
Posted by Fnarf on January 13, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
Original Andrew 33
I have Credo Mobile, which uses the Sprint Network. Their customer service is fantastic, and they donate tons of money to liberal causes and organizations.…

Occasionally I get dropped calls, but you'd have that with any carrier.
Posted by Original Andrew on January 13, 2012 at 12:56 PM · Report this
I have an iphone. I started out with AT&T. Grew tired of dropped calls and spotty coverage, so I switched as soon as I could and went with Verizon. I travel all over the country (including some remote areas) and have yet to suffer a single problem with Verizon.
Posted by Fire Chief on January 13, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
For $60 a month, T-Mobile gives me unlimited everything -- including 2GB of high-speed data, but unlimited slow data after that -- with no contract. And I can bring my own phone. Virgin and Boost don't let you do that, or at least don't make it easy; T-Mobile is happy to just sell you a SIM card.

COMTE makes a good point regarding unions, but I'm not a single-issue shopper. Unions aside, AT&T is no saint. Personally, I simply can't justify spending 2-3x as much a month for shittier service to reward a carrier whose business model is primarily based on milking a 100-year-old brand name. If you want to assuage your conscience, use the savings to buy groceries at a co-op (like PCC or Madison Market) instead of your neighborhood megachain.
Posted by aleks on January 13, 2012 at 12:59 PM · Report this
orino 36
I've found AT&T sucks less than the others, and since I have about 4000 rollover minutes banked (plus the last of the unlimited data plans), switching is not an option for me. Really, in the U.S. we pay more and get less than every other nation on Earth...
Posted by orino on January 13, 2012 at 1:01 PM · Report this
Machete 37
You should sign up for republic wireless and do a write-up in the future for the rest of us. It's your professional duty.
Posted by Machete on January 13, 2012 at 1:04 PM · Report this
Aurophobia 38
T-Mobile was decent to me. I only switched because at the time, the only smart phone they had was terrible. I might switch back when my current contract is up.
Posted by Aurophobia on January 13, 2012 at 1:06 PM · Report this
Spoiler Alert: They all suck.
Posted by ALEX37V on January 13, 2012 at 1:07 PM · Report this
StellaLuna 40
Credo Mobile! The phone selection isn't as great (this is an understatement) but their customer service is amazing, I've never had an issue with coverage, they donate money to liberal causes, and when I switched to paperless billing they sent me a gift certificate for a pint of Ben and Jerry's and planted a tree. They're awesome.
Posted by StellaLuna on January 13, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 41
@36 is correct.

On average, Americans pay between twice (vs Canada), ten times (EU) and twenty times (Japan/Korea/Asia) what most places do.

That said, and this is practical advice - if you are thinking of buying a phone with a certain service provider, I highly recommend inviting a friend with the same phone/provider to visit your home and make sure it works in your place. Reception depends upon the actual antennae and you might choose a provider with great reception that you just happen to be in a dead zone or blind spot with at your place.

(caveat - I only wrote GPS scripts for various telephone and wireless providers, so what do I know)
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 13, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
I have T-mobile, a smartphone, and live in Capitol Hill, and baaaarely get enough bars to have a conversation IN MY HOUSE. At work (SLU), I get a couple of bars and no 3G.
Posted by hereiswheremynamegoes on January 13, 2012 at 1:12 PM · Report this
After some 12 years (!) in the cell phone game, all I can say is that one size does not fit all. My son (Ohio) and I (Boston) use Virgin Mobile (which uses the Sprint network, but no roaming) and are very happy with it. No contract, very reasonable prices, solid service.

My spouse (also Boston) and daughter (Minnesota) use T-Mobile now, after 2 contract-filled years of complaints about Verizon. They are also not on a contract now (at my insistence) but so far (3 weeks) they're reasonably OK with the service (particularly the data speed). They may go on a contract in a month or two if they remain happy. T-Mobile is less expensive than Verizon or AT&T.

My only recommendation is that you try a few month-to-month plans before committing to any contract, and to do some self-examination as to phone needs and phone plans. I had to create a sizeable Google doc to track the different plans and phones for comparison.
Posted by uubuntu on January 13, 2012 at 1:12 PM · Report this
@33: For $100/month, you can get an unlimited plan from Credo, and 1% of that (so $1) goes to progressive causes of their choice. Or for $60/month, you can get an unlimited plan from T-Mobile, and you can donate the $40 you save to progressive causes of your choice.

And like most Sprint MVNOs, Credo does not let you bring your own device.

Furthermore, most of the evidence I've seen suggests that, aside from their charitable giving, CREDO isn't particularly different from a regular for-profit telecom. This isn't PCC we're talking about. CREDO is not unionized, for example. And when you buy CREDO service, you're indirectly paying for Sprint's network, and Sprint is no saint either.
Posted by aleks on January 13, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Report this
Baby Blue 45
They all suck. I'm with Sprint and have had the most maddening experiences with "customer support" imaginable (we don't get signal at our new house but they say we're in a "good coverage area")...but in conducting my own research, I discovered that T-Mobile is the only carrier who can compete with the data plan we have from Sprint (all others would represent an increase in our monthly bill of at least $100...I use a lot of data...) and several of our friends actually just switched from T-Mobile to Sprint because they were so unhappy with Sprint.

Screwed if you do, screwed if you don't. They all know the other guy is providing equally shitty service so they have no incentive to improve.
Posted by Baby Blue on January 13, 2012 at 1:25 PM · Report this
T-Mobile is as close as you can get to a locally based business. Keep them alive and help the local economy!
Posted by SeattleSeven on January 13, 2012 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Give it a second. It's going to space.
Posted by mint chocolate chip on January 13, 2012 at 1:29 PM · Report this
Fnarf 48
@41, the answer to your question is "nothing".

Cell service is a little cheaper in some countries; the average in Japan is about 3000 yen, or ~$40, a month, or half what you'll pay in the US. Less, but not 1/20th. The fact that Will thinks the Japanese pay $4 a month for smartphone service tells you far more about his knowledge than whatever idiot scripts he may or may not have written fifteen years ago. Everything he has ever said about cell service anywhere dates from when WAP was the only way to go, Europe and Asia were indeed ahead of us, and there were no smartphones. Will himself has never seen a smartphone.

Also, Canada has the most expensive cell service in the world last I checked.
Posted by Fnarf on January 13, 2012 at 1:29 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 49
@48: note that that ¥3000/mo generally does not include the data portion of the service, which can quite easily push you back up into the range of ¥6000/mo, well within range of the average US smartphone plan.
Posted by Doctor Memory on January 13, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
Original Andrew 50
@ 44,

My Credo plan is like $33 a month including taxes, but I've been with them for maybe 7 or 8 years (they were Working Assets before), so I'm not sure if the plan I have is still available. They actively oppose all the evil shit that Congress trys to force on us, like wiretapping without warrants, and they also donate to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Amnesty International etc. What really sold me is the customer service: Incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and the associates will work directly with you until whatever issue you're having with the phone is resolved.
Posted by Original Andrew on January 13, 2012 at 1:52 PM · Report this
@45 Depending on your location, the coverage maps may not be realistic. Hills, water, trees, etc. make propagation modelling pretty difficult in the PNW.

Depending on how much you want to make a phone work, you can try using the Airave product that Sprint offers. It does require Internet access to backhaul everything, but supports both voice and 3G data and may fix some (or all) of your drops.
Posted by Action Slacks on January 13, 2012 at 2:01 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 52
@9: "AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint all suck donkey balls."


Anyway, cancelled AT&T last month. Had two options, between Verizon and Sprint.

Verizon has much better service than AT&T, but it's a bit more expensive.

I went with Sprint, who have the same coverage, and costs less than AT&T.

T-Mobile was a consideration, but they didn't seem to have the will to live (continued investment infrastructure and network) enough for me to pay attention.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 13, 2012 at 2:06 PM · Report this
If coverage is your only metric you have no other choice but Verizon. It also matters where you live. If you're on the side of a hill in a "shadow" you may be completely SOL to get decent phone service. Of course Verizon is just as evil as AT&T, but both came out of Ma Bell. Whatcha gonna do? I've been with T-Mobile (or what became T-Mobile) for over 11 years with no problems as it works for me where I need it to. Best coverage though goes to Verizon.
Posted by Weekilter on January 13, 2012 at 2:22 PM · Report this
stinky 54
I've had okay luck with two cans and a string.
Posted by stinky on January 13, 2012 at 2:32 PM · Report this
@50: Fair enough. Do you have a smartphone? These days, they seem to charge $30 (excluding taxes) just for a data plan, on top of whatever other service you want.
Posted by aleks on January 13, 2012 at 2:39 PM · Report this
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot 56
Never had a problem with coverage with ATT except a little bit in BFE on the Peninsula. Even then I simply didn't get 3G, just E.
Posted by Whiskey Tango Foxtrot on January 13, 2012 at 3:22 PM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 57
Here in Baltimore, AT&T is just awful. I'd find myself walking around public saying "HELLO! HELLO!", because while the call didn't actually drop, (not that I didn't get regular drops) all I got on the line was silence. It got to the point where I knew where the calls would drop. "I'm going by Patterson Park, I'm going to lose you now." I live downtown, near the Inner Harbor, and couldn't make a call from my house. Verizon has by far a better network, with almost no dead zones, again this is Baltimore.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 13, 2012 at 3:49 PM · Report this
Ms_Emme 58
I've been with AT&T for over a decade. I've had an iPhone iteration since its inception. I live in Seattle and travel for business to CA often and the east coast sometimes. I've had no problems, and I'm on the (grandfathered) unlimited data/text plan so my cost is a steady $80/mo. The only time dropped calls are an issue is on I-5 under the convention center. Other than that I've got great coverage and as a previous commenter observed the worst that happens when I'm traveling is that in the boonies I'm on Edge instead of 3G. I also have an iPad w/3G and its coverage is as reliable as my iPhone.

Beyond that, their customer service has been nothing but stellar to me and my family (also all on AT&T). In fact, 3 years ago my sister got a $1000 bill, because of having gone WAY over her minutes on a family plan she shares with my brothers; one of whom is 15 year-old who was away from his girlfriend for a month in the summer = bored/lonely = LOTS of talking on the phone.

I had previously had great experience with AT&T CS agents so I called them acting as her to see what they could do. Long story short they RETROACTIVELY changed her plan to one that would accomodate the extra usage, dropping her bill from over $1000 to under $250, which was only about $60 more than she had been paying for their plan. She had to stay on the higher plan for 3 months, and then went back to her original plan. There is no way she could have paid the $1000+ bill and they didn't have to work with us, they could have just disconnected the phones and ruined her credit. Instead they were helpful and generous and reasonable.

They earned customers for the duration that day, and they have never let us down.

The truth is YMMV, I've no doubt those in this thread expressing their unhappiness with AT&T have legitimate beefs, but that does not in any way establish a universal law that all AT&T customers have those problems.
Posted by Ms_Emme on January 13, 2012 at 4:22 PM · Report this
CookieKwon 59
T-Mobile is the best. They actually base their guidelines around being competent and friendly to customers. Their plans beat everyone else out there and their network is super fast!
Posted by CookieKwon on January 13, 2012 at 7:50 PM · Report this
I work on mobile software and this week i was curious about what each of the major carriers had in terms of max data speed. I found the following.

AT&T's 3G and HSPA rates are ok. max 3Mbits/s download/1mbits/s upload. Both iPhone and Android

Sprint is horrible with a max of 1 Mbits/sec on a very good day. .5 Mbits/sec upload (iPhone and Android)

Verizon is ok on iPhone. Haven't tested with Android and it's 4g connection. 1.2 mbits/sec download .8 Mbits/sec upload

Tmobile has the best data transfer rates in this area. on 3G 6 mbits/sec 3 Mbits/sec upload. 4G - 13mbits/sec Download. 4-6 Mbits/sec upload speeds
Posted by apres_moi on January 13, 2012 at 8:09 PM · Report this
watchout5 61
CREDO I haven't found a place without 4g in the city yet and they don't give money to the tea party.
Posted by watchout5 on January 13, 2012 at 10:21 PM · Report this
Knat 62
I second Machete's notion, that you should sign up with Republic Wireless (or a similar WiFi-based provider, since RP is way, waaay backed up on signing up new people, I believe) and let us know your experience. If you're doing it for a column, it's a work expense you can write off anyway, right? So do it.
Posted by Knat on January 14, 2012 at 2:05 AM · Report this
Ever hear of an MVNO? Credo uses Sprint's network. Does Sprint give money to the tea party, because Credo sure does give money to Sprint. Sorry limited research activists, you are not WINNING!
Posted by Mike Silva on January 14, 2012 at 2:19 AM · Report this
@15 Glad you were able to get something out of Sprint. My partner was not so lucky. He was a long time customer who held off upgrading his Blackberry until Sprint had the iPhone. His contract was up, but Sprint would not give any additional incentives for his long term (11+ year) business. Basically, all he could get out of them was the same offer a new customer would get. When he threatened to go to Verizon, they said "go ahead". Yeah, Verizon costs a few $ more a month, but the service also works better.

I used to have Sprint back around the turn of the century and had nothing but technical and customer service nightmares. I switched to Verizon and never looked back.
Posted by WestSeven on January 14, 2012 at 6:06 AM · Report this
Karlheinz Arschbomber 66
I live in Germany, and it is NOT 10x cheaper to get service (WTF, Will?). There ARE 10x more providers, if you count all the front-companies that repackage and rebrand the basic networks. There actually is an active, competitive market, which is more than I can say for the US system. If you own your phone, and don't talk a lot, you CAN get super cheap prepaid deals, which can easily be 4 or 5x cheaper than the US prices. And incoming calls and SMS are always free, no matter what. This is a STUPENDOUS ripoff in the US.

But if you get an iPhone on a contract, it's maybe 10% cheaper.

I will -never- do THAT again. Nie wieder!
Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber on January 14, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
I am looking to get the new iPhone but haven't decided on whether to stay with AT&T or try Sprint or Verizon. Doesn't appear to be any difference between the monthly fees. I drop AT&T calls in my car about 85% of the time I am on the phone ALL OVER SEATTLE. 100% of the time if I drive over the West Seattle bridge, on I-5 through Eastlake, or 10th on Capitol Hill near St. Mark's. Sprint or Verizon *has* to be better than that, right?
Posted by thunderchaps on January 14, 2012 at 2:49 PM · Report this
I'm down with Sprint ... unlimited data is the clincher.
Posted by BD on January 15, 2012 at 1:50 AM · Report this

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