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Operation Chokehold: AT&T, FCC condemn Fake Steve Jobs plan

In response to reports that AT&T will begin charging 'bandwidth hogs,' Fake Steve Jobs had urged iPhone users to run bandwidth-intensive apps for an hour on Friday. AT&T calls the stunt irresponsible and pointless, and the FCC said it was a public safety concern.

By Andrew Heining / December 16, 2009

Operation Chokehold on hold? An AT&T Wireless store is seen in Times Square in this December 2007 file photo

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Operation Chokehold: it sounds malicious – violent, even. But the plan, proposed by "Fake Steve Jobs" himself, doesn't involve bodily harm.

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Rather, the scheme is aimed at bringing AT&T's wireless data network to a crawl Friday afternoon as a protest against plans by AT&T to impose fees on iPhone users who use what the company considers too much bandwidth.

Fake Steve Jobs (Newsweek columnist Dan Lyons) proposed the move Monday, urging iPhone users to run data-intensive apps for an hour on Friday afternoon after an AT&T official Ralph de la Vega told shareholders of the company's plans for charging so-called bandwidth hogs more for using "too much" data on the network.

Pinged about the plan by Cult of Mac, an AT&T spokesman said:

We understand that fakesteve.net is primarily a satirical forum, but there is nothing amusing about advocating that customers attempt to deliberately degrade service on a network that provides critical communications services for more than 80 million customers. We know that the vast majority of customers will see this action for what it is: an irresponsible and pointless scheme to draw attention to a blog.

The Federal Communication Commission agreed that Chokehold probably wasn't a good idea, telling ABC News that "To purposely try to disrupt or negatively impact a network with ill-intent is irresponsible and presents a significant public safety concern." It added that "threats of this nature are serious, and we caution the public to use common sense and good judgment..."

Lyons (aka Fake Steve) has continuously updated his site with new posts (some serious, some not-so-much) chronicling the support and derision the plan has garnered. In a post Wednesday he acknowledged the concerns surrounding the plan, and proposed two scaled back protests. "Operation Silent Scream" would do away with the network crippling, and instead see participants turn off their iPhones nationwide – though the impact, he acknowledges, would be impossible to gauge. Also proposed was an in-person flash-mob outside AT&T stores on Friday, where participants would duct-tape their mouths shut in protest.

Intentionally disrupting a wireless network seems irresponsible to us, but so does threatening to impose penalties on people for using "too much" of an unlimited data plan, especially if that plan is the only option offered by the exclusive US carrier for the iPhone.

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What's your take? Is Chokehold irresponsible? Will you take part? Leave a comment and let us know what you think, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.

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