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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Verizon to AT&T: Can You Sue Me Now?

Verizon to AT&T: Can You Sue Me Now?


AT&T may have the iPhone, but Verizon claims its network offers five times the 3G coverage – a stinging accusation considering that even the best phone in the world can be hobbled by a slow or non-existent data connection.

After Verizon’s “There’s a map for that” ads (above) started appearing online and on television, AT&T asked a judge to bar Verizon from airing them. An Atlanta judge denied that request on Wednesday, so for now, the ads mocking AT&T’s “There’s an app for that” ads, and the one where the iPhone is banished to the Island of Misfit Toys, continue to run.

To counter the attack, AT&T launched an ad campaign of its own (below) featuring a guy in a blazer who isn’t Jason Schwartzman filling in a checklist of AT&T’s alleged advantages over other networks. The point appears to be that when you have access to AT&T’s 3G — or its slower Edge — network, the iPhone works great. (A Wired.com comparison of the 3G speeds of various cellphone networks found that AT&T’s 3G network is the slowest in the country.)

Verizon redoubled its attack following AT&T’s parry, claiming in a response filed earlier this week: “AT&T did not file this lawsuit because Verizon’s ‘There’s a map for that’ advertisements are untrue; AT&T sued because Verizon’s ads are true and the truth hurts.”

Ouch.


It’s no coincidence, of course, that Verizon’s attack on AT&T coincides with the availability of its iPhone-competing Droid smartphone, which has been selling briskly although it’s not flying off the shelves at the same phenomenal rate at which the iPhone did.

After conducting an in-house survey, AT&T determined that Verizon’s ads are misleading because the average person doesn’t understand the difference between 3G coverage and the Edge network. The company claims that Verizon’s 3G coverage ads are unfair because they don’t take AT&T’s Edge network into account. The map contains several prominent references to “3G,” which appear to make clear that the map refers to 3G coverage.

If one company can successfully sue another because consumers don’t understand something, opportunities surely abound for similar lawsuits.

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