Cairo, Egypt - Phone and internet service across Egypt stalled Thursday last week. Most blamed President Mubarak for the disruption, but new evidence suggests that the blame lies with AT&T.
Eighty-five percent of Egyptians subscribe to AT&T, a service provider notorious for having poor service. Half of those subscribers recently purchased the iPhone 4, a handheld device with highly publicized design problems that further limit its connectivity.
"The problem is that the country is not used to having such inconsistent coverage," said political strategist Katherine Ashmore. "Americans are used to losing service, but this is something new for Egyptians."
"This is not some government conspiracy," said President Mubarak. "I'm actually totally willing to step down, but I haven't been able to get a hold of anyone to let them know because my bars have been at zero. I knew we should have held out for Verizon."
The youth-led protests have been organized largely through the use of social networking sites. It is believed that mobile and internet traffic spiked on Thursday, the day before Egypt's "Day of Rage," a planned, nationwide protest against the incumbent president and his government. AT&T's flimsy network could not sustain the sudden volume.
"It was the last straw," said protester Abasi Sawalha. "I'm college-educated and hard-working. Those in power are keeping from me what I deserve. When all my bars went out on my iPhone 4, I just lost it."
Though wireless service now has been restored, protesters have refrained from using the internet or their phones when organizing tomorrow's "March of Millions" for fear of another blackout. Instead, they have been using smoke signals and carrier pigeons.
"Far more reliable," said Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and leading opposition figure.
An AT&T spokesperson said that if the country signed on for two more years, they would receive the iPhone 5 at minimal discount. Egypt agreed.
Cross-posted at http://dailypygmy.com/?p=390