AT&T and Corporate Values: Throttling Your Customers, Suppliers and Society

AT&T is "throttling" five percent (5%) of their customers. Their word. Throttling.

Now, if you're a pilot and you're thinking takeoff - then you throttle up.

If, on the other hand, you're an AT&T customer, they're using the other definition of "to throttle." It means to choke. Like asphyxiate. Like to kill - which, in some ways, seems to be their goal.

What they're throttling is their data use. You see, the customers in question took advantage of an unlimited data plan that AT&T offered - which is no longer available.

Much to AT&T's dismay, these customers are actually using what they paid for. Since that's not okay with the company, AT&T is slowing their connection speed to the equivalent of a dial-up. Yes, a dial-up.

Think your very first AOL connection - modem sound effects and all - and you'll relive the nightmares that these AT&T customers are now experiencing (granted, without the sound effects).

Why? What is driving AT&T to throttle their customers?

Revenues and profits.

AT&T doesn't have the infrastructure to support unlimited data plans. Moreover, they evidently don't want to build it. They'd rather their customers buy the 'tiered' plans that are still available - and far more costly to every user.

There are two other impacts of this heinous decision that are just as important - and have nothing to do with AT&T's customers. In this case it's all about their suppliers...like Apple...and the role of the corporation in society.

On the supplier side, the reason that AT&T's customers bought the unlimited data plans (or the tiered ones, for that matter) is because they bought smartphones. Like the iPhone. And the more that the iPhone is capable of doing - from downloading maps so you can get to where you need to go based on the app you purchased to watching the cute kitties gambol about on YouTube - the more data access you need. And the faster you need to get it.

As well, because iPhones, along with iPads (which also have AT&T data plans), are the fastest growing equipment purchases for businesses, that data access isn't just for fun. It can be the make or break of small businesses that can't afford to buy into one of AT&T's 'business' plans.

Now, let's take a look at society. AT&T is doing just fine, thank you. Because of their relationship with Apple (among other decisions) they've got the money to invest in building the infrastructure required to allow unlimited data plans for all. But they don't want to spend it. Which means that they get to keep their money - and, of course, their shareholders benefit - but the jobs that the company can justifiably create are simply not being created. Not by them.

And that means that they are complicit in holding back the progress of the American economy. Their "throttling" policy is also killing job creation that they could, should and need to be driving.

Worse - because it does get worse - on the same day that the news media picked up on the extent to which the "throttling" policy was impacting AT&T's customers, the company put out a press-release-like, fake "news story" which was, embarrassingly, picked up by a number of papers as if it was news.

The storyline? It was all about the amount that AT&T has invested in the New Jersey area infrastructure. Only it takes a while to realize that that's all they're talking about - and that the investment was from a few years ago. Not now. Not when their customers and the broader American economy need it.

Just for fun, let's put the two together.  Frankly, if I were in the Apple senior executive team, I'd be seriously rethinking my relationship with a company whose decisions are adversely impacting our reputation - as well as, potentially, our sales.

AT&T has existed, in one form or another, since Alexander Graham Bell - with a history rich in innovation and success. It's time that today's executive management recognize their responsibilities to the wider world they're supposed to be attracting and supporting.

[This article appeared on Technorati.]

Reputation - Strategy, Management and Measurement

Leslie L. Kossoff on Corporate Reputation - Global Webcast from Leslie Kossoff on Vimeo.

This is the global webcast for the white paper I wrote on reputation for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

This was a fun one for me as I got to write a case-study based paper that featured companies like Goldman Sachs, Toyota, Apple, Johnson and Johnson and more.

Both the paper and the presentation take on every aspect of reputation - from how to create it to how to lose it to...most importantly...treat it as a managed entity.  Which it is.

The webcast lasts about twenty minutes, so get comfortable.

For a copy of the paper, you can visit the Reputation site at CIMA or write me at: