I'm not a fan of AT&T's service (I'm a customer, so how could I be?), but I can't help notice that coverage of the ad verges on fawning admiration for its cleverness, and basically amounts to free publicity for Verizon Wireless.
And the fact is, Verizon's televised maps exaggerate its own coverage while distorting AT&T's.
So let me say this more plainly: Verizon Wireless is distorting the truth, and being rewarded by reporters more interested in reporting on the catfight angle than on the facts.
The caveats and disclaimers fly by too quickly on television, but they're easy to read on the Verizon Wireless Web site.
Moreover, Verizon uses the most flattering data for its map, while in fact the map it should really be using, since it's touting mobile Web services, is much, much less flattering. On the map it uses to glorify its coverage, the default setting only reflects voice and text messaging coverage, but that's the setting it uses in the ads.
To see the map it should really show for the ad -- because it includes data coverage needed for mapping -- you have to select the "Enhanced Services" radio button on that same page. Much less coverage, you notice.
And even here, Verizon covers itself in fine print:
In plain English:
These Coverage Locator maps are not a guarantee of coverage and may contain areas with no service. The maps reflect a depiction of predicted and approximate wireless coverage. The coverage areas shown do not guarantee service availability, and may include locations with limited or no coverage.
This "map" is an alternate reality and is no guarantee that you'll have coverage, even if it shows that you would. In some cases, the red reflects areas we fantasize about covering in the privacy of our homes during foreplay with our spouses, and are in no way intended to reflect actual welts or bruises.
Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless admits that the coverage map it uses for AT&T is months old and may be inaccurate as well.
This [map of AT&T's coverage] does not show exact coverage.
Why does AT&T let the ad slide? Because to be honest, while its own map is more flattering, "we're not quite as bad as they say" doesn't have a good ring either.
And one more thing: the incumbent carriers use these same maps, with the same caveats about their accuracy, to try to persuade the Federal Communications Commission that more than 95 percent of Americans in the contiguous U.S. states have access to wireless coverageand that public-private partnerships and local carriers shouldn't be funded with broadband stimulus dollars because it creates "unfair competition" for their services.
Very, very truthy.