The iPhone’s rebel underground: AT&T vs. Vermont

August 16, 2007

The iPhoneIf they knew where he lived, AT&T would instantly cancel his iPhone contract.

John Canning bought an iPhone in Boston, then snuck it back to his home state of Vermont. But the iPhone’s exclusive wireless carrier — AT&T — doesn’t have direct service anywhere in the state.

Canning found a workaround. For other AT&T devices, the company has partnerships in place with other carriers. Canning’s iPhone is slipping onto the network of these non-AT&T partners.

Unfortunately, this is forbidden by the iPhone contract, an AT&T spokesman told a local newspaper. “Just by doing that you’re violating the terms of the agreement. We will spot that very quickly and most likely would terminate that person’s service.

“I’m sure these are really nice folks,” he added, “but I don’t know what else to tell you.”

AT&T isn’t winning any points in Vermont. “The whole notion of AT&T having exclusive access to the iPhone seems wrong anyway,” writes one Vermont-based technology blogger. “I understand it as a competitive marketing advantage, but it doesn’t seem like good marketing to refuse entry to entire populations of your potential market.

“I thought a key mantra for sales was about making it easy for people to give you money.”

Another blogger claims a reliable source told him AT&T might bring service to the state within the next 12 to 18 months. He says Vermont’s iPhone fans would welcome that over their current option — “getting a post office box in another state that AT&T Wireless services…”

Vermont isn’t the only state without an iPhone carrier. The same problem is plaguing the state of Alaska, according to a Vermont newspaper. (Though it notes that AT&T plans to buy Alaska’s main wireless carrier.) They interviewed the owner of an Apple reseller story in Alaska, who said he wouldn’t try the same partner-riding trick. “It’s bootlegging,” he tells the newsaper. “It’s illegal.”

But six of his employees are doing it.

And it’s not just Alaska and Vermont. Another newspaper article lists 15 other states in which “large portions…are without service,” including Maine, New Hampshire and upstate New York, Nevada, Oregon, and Wyoming.

AT&T is already terminating the contracts for “rebel” users in those areas who buy an iPhone anyways and attempt to use it on the networks of AT&T’s partners. They’re refusing to provide an exact count, though an AT&T spokesman described the number of terminated contracts as “a very small percentage”.

But resentment to the policy is growing — at least, judging from the comments left on an iPhone fan site.

“I paid the full retail price of $600 for this device… But now, AT&T will render it useless.”

“AT&T ruins Apple’s image.”

“As much as I love Apple… I do not need Steve Jobs or the others in Cupertino, California deciding who my cellphone carrier should be.”

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4 Responses to “The iPhone’s rebel underground: AT&T vs. Vermont”

  1. Julie Lerman:

    To be fair, John didn’t sneak the phone into Vermont. He grilled the AT&T sales person and made sure everything was legit before he purchased his phone. He clarified these details in the comments of my blog which you referred to, though he may have done so after you linked to there. [http://www.thedatafarm.com/blog/2007/08/16/iPhonesInVermont.aspx]

  2. Douglas:

    Important note to add: John went into the AT&T store, asked them if he could buy an iPhone, explained where he lived, and had them examine their U.S. chart to make sure it was a coverage area. They said yes, and were eager to sell to him. The whole “it’s illegal!” and “that’s bootlegging!” argument is just nuts… John bought and activitated his iPhone with full complicity of AT&T.

  3. Mr. Roboto:

    Hello, I just heard about this story through Wired.com. I’ve been following the sorry excuse for a company called AT&T since they tried to push a “tiered Internet” plan as a means to control the net last year.

    There’s something about AT&T that should be brought to light but you may already know about: AT&T have been openly cooperating with the NSA by handing call records over to them, and even going so far as to set up a wiretapping hub in their San Francisco offices (Room 641A). This arrangement is why I refer to “the new AT&T” as “NSAT&T.”

    To hear that there are those willing to violate a corporate contract is such a lift. We need more people like the Vermont folks to stand up to NSAT&T and say “FUCK YOU!” to the conspiracy.

  4. Kaitlyn @ Vermont 4G Wireless:

    Hello, just stopped by doing some research for my Vermont 4g site. Truly more information that you can imagine on the web. Wasn’t what I was looking for, but interesting page. Cya later.

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