It seems like every other week we're writing about T-Mobile's attempts to garner attention via, shall we say, nonstandard PR. Usually, it comes in the form of Twitter hijinks from its bombastic CEO, John Legere, who has carefully crafted an online persona based on a relentless barrage of attacks on his competition. Most of them involve touting whatever latest small change T-Mobile has made to its wireless plans, and until recently they were met with stoic silence from the likes of AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. But the goal isn't just to establish a leather-jacket-and-magenta-t-shirt cool guy image for T-Mobile. The goal is to get a response.
It's trolling, basically. You set the terms of the debate and make enough noise to draw somebody in. To get a response from Verizon, T-Mobile took its trolling off Twitter and into the real world — into the airspace over Verizon's headquarters, to be exact. T-Mobile sent a skywriting plane to fly over Basking Ridge, New Jersey and write the words "End overages now" in the sky.
See, back in April of 2014 T-Mobile made the switch to stop charging overage fees for data, opting instead to throttle users that go over their plan to lower data speeds. It would like other carriers to do the same — or rather, it would very much like you to know that other carriers charge overage fees. But question of whether T-Mobile is genuinely trying to get Verizon to change its wireless plans or not is beside the point. What T-Mobile actually wants is a low-stakes Twitter fight with Verizon that will draw attention to T-Mobile.
It got it, in the form of a furious series of tweets from Verizon VP of communication Jeffrey Nelson:
That time when your wireless company's CEO did a circus act to deflect the real problem: a lousy network that doesn't meet your expectations— Jeffrey Nelson (@JNels) October 26, 2015
Not to mention some backbiting from Verizon, who thought the quality of the skywriting wasn't all that good:
And so the wheel turns. It's fitting, I suppose, that the companies that we use to read Twitter are using Twitter to snipe at each other. Also, when it comes to complaining about wireless companies, I live in a glass house. Even though their motivations aren't as pure as yours or mine, we can all get behind the idea that loudly and publicly kvetching about bad cell service is cathartic. And hey — if either carrier feels compelled to change things based on this trolling, that's a win too. So go on, enjoy watching these two big companies go at each other, just remember why they're doing it: for attention.
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