Sifting through the tidal-wave coverage of AT&T’s wireless network improvement announcement this past week, I was struck by two divergent trends: One, the absolute avalanche of so-called “news” sites that simply parrot press releases without question; and Two, a growing consensus among top tech reporters that AT&T’s press release proclamations are simply not to be trusted.
Tops on the cynical list is Om Malik, who has been hammering on Ma Bell’s wireless network problems for some time now. While duly reporting the facts of the release, it sounds like Om isn’t being allowed to reach out and touch someone for more information. Says Om:
We wanted to ask Ma Bell about the dropped call problems, but the executives are too busy with meetings or talking to reporters who don’t ask tough questions.
Karl Bode over at DSL Reports also covers the stated release facts, but adds his own caveat at the bottom of his post:
It also goes without saying that the speeds AT&T trots out in their press releases quite often aren’t anything like the speeds seen by real users in the wild.
Under any other circumstance, I might applaud a company like AT&T for acknowledging service shortcomings and scrambling to improve them. But that’s not the case here. AT&T has been quiet for a long time about the service issues and has stayed on track with its “more bars worldwide” advertising campaign. AT&T should not be patted on the back for this news.
My question to the huge number of reporters who simply took AT&T’s numbers at face value: If you don’t know how much spectrum AT&T is using now, how can you write with any certainty that AT&T is “doubling” the amount of spectrum it will use? Unless you believe everything the company tells you?
Better, perhaps, to start looking at AT&T press releases with the kind of skepticism shown by Om, Karl and Sam. Here’s hoping some of those tough questions about Ma Bell’s real-world 3G network start to get answered.