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  • Writer's pictureErika Andresen

“I couldn’t work all day!” – When AT&T Goes Down

Do you know why I love to start all exercises with “You’ve lost all your phone and internet access”? Because it is likely to happen and we are soooo dependent on them! It doesn’t have to be a cyber-attack. The very nebulous (and crisis communications approved) “maintenance activity” can bring your workday and business operations skidding to a halt. Just ask AT&T about Thursday.


Connectivity is an assumption we all have. Screenwriters had to start writing in scenes in horror movies showing a cell phone with “no signal” or a dead battery since no one could suspend disbelief enough for the slasher’s victims to be unable to just call for help. The world of the remote gig economy -- mobile access giveth and mobile access taketh away.

I have first hand experience with losing comms. I remember being in my office on 9/11 and the landlines were useless and cell towers overloaded. I only had very slow internet access and used AOL IM to ask my friend in Boston to call my parents to tell them I was ok. That was over two decades ago - it would likely be worse today.


The problem is even bigger when you assume, just like EMTs and the police, that they are always going to be there, and you’ll be fine in a short period of time (sometimes they are too busy helping others and being victims themselves). Because you don't remember a time it wasn't there.


Speaking of EMTs and police, did you know (I did!) that AT&T is one of two providers of networks for emergency services personnel? When AT&T went down during a software update gone wrong a few days ago, in certain impacted areas, 911 calls needed to be made from a landline (who has those anymore??). There were a lot of eggs in the AT&T basket.


Who else did it impact? Lots of folks. Uber drivers couldn’t get access to their app to work, so they couldn’t work at all. Shop owners had to turn away customers because they couldn’t process payments.


Having a backup is important. Maybe you actually take that landline when your cable provider offers it. Also important is knowing about your backup and making sure it is a viable one. Did you remember that in 2011 AT&T acquired T-Mobile? While AT&T had major issues Friday, T-Mobile experienced a slight degradation of services. Would I recommend having T-Mobile as a backup to AT&T? What do you think? 😉 

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