As 'Operation Chokehold' nears, second thoughts abound

A protest aimed at bringing down AT&T's network saw support and then a rush of concerned opposition.

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    'Chokehold' choked? An iPhone sits on display at a San Jose, Calif. Apple store in this July 2008 file photo.
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Call it "Operation Oh, Nevermind."

It sounded like a great idea: Protest poor AT&T service by using the iPhone's "unlimited" data plan to download large amounts of information at the same hour as thousands of others. Operation Chokehold, conceived of in a satirical blog post by Newsweek columnist Dan Lyons (aka Fake Steve Jobs), was meant to bring the network to its knees, sending the message that the company was woefully unprepared for supporting its current customers, and that charging them more for access isn't fair.

AT&T and the FCC weighed in earlier in the week, calling the protest irresponsible and dangerous, but as the deadline drew nearer – 3 p.m. Eastern Friday – a growing chorus of restraint rang out on the Web.

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Perhaps the most telling step back from the edge came from Fake Steve himself, who wrote early Friday in a post titled "Some last-minute thoughts": This was meant as a joke. He was joined by a small Facebook group calling itself Operation Cuckoo, which formed to discourage the method, but not the message, of the protest: "Operation Chokehold is not a smart way to address our gripes with AT&T. Join this group if you agree," its founder writes.

Many in the tech world have joined the chorus, pointing out that the plan amounts to a grass-roots denial-of-service attack. Chicago Now's Scott Kleinberg, echoes the calls of many who believe the protest would do more harm than good. He writes:

Let's counteract "Operation Chokehold" by making sure we don't make things worse for AT&T. We're not helping anyone if AT&T's network goes down. We're certainly not helping ourselves.

Lyons told his readers that much of what the protest wanted to accomplish has already been fulfilled: people got talking about AT&T's network and how its profits have increased dramatically since the iPhone arrived, but capital investments have not. In what can be seen as a last-ditch effort to turn back the masses, he implores his readers to look past just AT&T, to the future of wireless communication:

Ultimately, we want to end our country’s rotten wireless system of exclusive deals and lock-ins. We want a system where we can run any phone on any network. That means overcoming huge entrenched corporations with powerful lobbyists and a Congress that is beholden to those special interests.

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What's your take? Do you feel protests like "Chokehold" are the best way to be heard? Will you participate? Leave a comment below, and catch up with us on Twitter.

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