Oh man. It took me almost an entire week, but I am off AT&T Wireless and onto T-Mobile. I'm battered, I'm bruised, I didn't get to keep my phone number like the FCC says is my right to do, but hey...I'm cool with it. T-Mobile even gave me a more memorable mobile number than what I had last...I might even memorize this one. ^_^
Let me paint you a picture of how badly AT&T are running their mobile division currently. My mobile phone needs are rather modest actually...I usually keep mine shut off and only use it to call or send text messages out every so often. Most of my calls are along the lines of "Richie, please pick me up from College," or "Hello, am I scheduled for today? When do you want me to come in?" calls to work.
For this reason, a prepaid phone actually works for me. My husband is even less likely to use his phone so he'll probably stay with his Free2Go phone. Most of the time his stays either in the glove compartment or his jacket depending on where he is.
However, since my job frowns on using company phones to call out for any reason other than dire emergency, I have been using mine more often than I usually do. So it's been eating $25 cards for dinner and $10 cards as late night snacks. Not good for the budget.
The AT&T GoPhone plan looked a lot better for my needs, and I wanted to move to that. Anyway, long story short, I went to an AT&T Wireless shop to get the job done, and they said "sorry, our GSM equipment is down, come back tomorrow." I came back the next day, and then when I got the same answer as last time I asked "well, is there a nearby AT&T Wireless store which is up and running?" The answer was shocking: "No, the system in the entire US is down and has been since Sunday."
That did it. November 24th, Mobile Phone Independence Day, was fast approaching. I could just pick up and go to another provider and take my number with me. Time to do research. I hit the Web and Googled until my eyeballs bled. Then I paid a visit to all the stores run by the majors: Verizon, Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile.
Verizon pissed me off for two reasons: one, theirs was the only "local calling area" that would have left me paying roaming charges if I used my phone in Santa Barbara. Two, they really, really *should* give their landline customers a break on wireless service. They don't. I said "see ya!" and moved on.
Sprint is probably good for expats from Finland, Sweden or any other place where people live with mobile phones welded to their ears, or for people who have given up their landlines in favor of mobile 24/7. Their deals are only deals if you use your phone a lot. I moved on.
The fact that the Cingular site crashed my browser on multiple platforms pissed me off enough to give them a miss, although I did look through their brochure just to be fair. They're good if SBC is your landline provider.
However, T-Mobile got thumbs up for three reasons. One: their network is better and newer and wherever they have holes, they have good agreements with other providers. Almost all their phone plans have a service area covering the entire US, including their entry-level budget plan. Two, they have a wide spectrum of plans that cover everyone from light users like me to the heavy use crowd. And three, they have the geekiest network of the bunch. GPRS Internet, complete with their own ISP? Check. 802.11b? Check, and people who have T-Mobile accounts get 1/2 off unlimited monthly use plans. Their 802.11b "HotSpots" are everywhere: Starbucks, Borders, etc. etc. They come for an extra fee: $20 more a month for either. Neither makes sense for me at present, but it's nice to know the services are available if I need/want them.
Anyway, I waited a day to make sure the crush of new switchers had passed, and then made my move. I got a nice little Ericsson phone with Bluetooth and a built-in cellular modem but without all the bells and whistles I didn't need. Color screen? Please. Camera? I already have one. Polyphonic/.WAV ringtones? Not a priority. PDA functionality? I have a Palm for that and am happy with it. The phone I got isn't even one that SonyEricsson released in the US...it's a Euro-only one called the R520m. However, it does take most common SonyEricsson accessories, which is good. It's making me a very dangerous girl on eBay, though. :P
Anyway, according to FCC regs, the switch from mobile carrier to mobile carrier should only take a matter of hours. Not days, hours. I knew that Turkey Day was coming up, so I figured that I'd better give AT&T a little more time to get their act together.
Friday was the first estimate. Then this morning. Finally, at 3pm, I called T-Mobile on my non-working phone (611 worked) and got the straight dope about why the delay. "AT&T hasn't been relinquishing numbers. We have no problems with the other carriers. Just them. Really sorry. Do you want to wait longer or do you want us to activate your account with a new number?"
I sighed and said, "Yeah, activate me." In a matter of minutes, my phone sprang to life with a couple of text messages. "You got the text messages from us?" "Yeah, they're here." "You're live, then." "Thanks."
Anyway, I left a nastygram at the FCC letting them know of my misadventures. If any of you have had similar misfortune getting AT&T to cough your number up, I suggest you do the same. AT&T used to be an amazing, clueful company way back when. Alexander Graham Bell. The vacuum tube. Transistors. UNIX. Now this is what they have become. They truly Deserve To Lose (tm) now. Maybe Darl McBride should think of switching jobs. AT&T and McBride deserve each other, they're that lame. [sigh]