On one hand, it’s easy to feel sorry for AT&T because it takes a long time and a lot of money to build out wireless infrastructure and they clearly can’t keep up with the massive increase in demand from iPhone users on their network. It’s arguable whether any other carrier could have done a better job. In all likelihood, if we had put this tremendous burden on Verizon instead, they probably wouldn’t have done much better.
On the other hand, the entire wireless data business has always been predicated on the assumption that nearly all users would use nearly no data. Even as they rolled out one smartphone after another, they knew that these devices were so clunky and difficult to use that nobody would really do much beyond occasional email checks with their expensive data plans.
When a device comes along that legitimately raises the usage rate of wireless data, and AT&T has trouble delivering a larger portion of the capacity they’ve been supposedly selling to us all along but always got away without, I can’t really feel sorry for them.
From a practical perspective, it’s a terrible place to be. But selling a feature based on almost complete non-use of that feature, without the ability to actually deliver it if people started using it to even a nominal degree, seems like they’ve been getting away with a great fraud. I know this is how the business works, and that’s how many businesses work (such as mail-in rebates), but that doesn’t make it right.