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12/29/2009
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AT&T Resumes NY iPhone Sales

The company may have been trying to prevent fraud when it stopped online iPhone sales to New Yorkers.

AT&T on Monday resumed selling iPhones to New York City residents through its Web site, but the reason the company temporarily stopped offering the popular Apple smartphone to New Yorkers remained a mystery.

People who entered a New York ZIP code over the Christmas weekend while trying to buy an iPhone from AT&T received a message saying the device wasn't available in their area. The device, however, was still available to New Yorkers through Apple or AT&T stores.

On Monday, New Yorkers could once again buy an iPhone online through AT&T, the Wall Street Journal reported. AT&T is the exclusive U.S. wireless provider for the iPhone.

AT&T declined a request for an interview from InformationWeek, but a spokesman said in an e-mailed statement, "We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels." No reason was given for the recent change.

The Consumerist, a Web site published in partnership with Consumer Reports, was the first to report that AT&T had stopped selling iPhones online to New Yorkers. The report led to speculation on the Web that AT&T was trying to reduce data congestion on its networks.

Earlier this month, Ralph de la Vega, chief executive of AT&T Mobility, told investors that the company was considering ways to curb data usage on its wireless networks, where 3% of smartphone users are responsible for 40% of traffic. In New York and San Francisco, smartphone use had brought performance levels "below our standards," he said.

On Monday, however, the Associated Press reported that the reason AT&T stopped online sales may have been to prevent fraudsters from buying phones, reneging on contracts, and then selling the devices to others.

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