"AT&T will have its best service in America right here."
The words of Gary L. Smith, Chairman of the War Memorial Stadium Commission in 2010, when the last major upgrade to The Littlest Stadium That Could was made in the form of a new press box and new artificial turf that christened the playing surface "AT&T Field".
It makes sense, right? It would seem logical that in the course of spending money to name a football field, and spending money to be The Official Telecommunications Sponsor of The University of Arkansas, good old American Telephone and Telegraph would drop some coin on, you know, helping assure customers attending these events are actually able to use their AT&T phones.
Best service in America? Proof's in the pudding, and the pudding sucks. The pudding is so bad it was actually taken off the menu, but it's not like you'd be able to call in an order anyway. Hell, you can't even give it a bad review on Yelp. Cell coverage in War Memorial Stadium, at least for AT&T, is consistently awful. For a company with its name emblazoned on the actual playing field, that's an embarrassment.
But this isn't a bitch session just about War Memorial. Or even AT&T, for that matter. There are plenty of organizations and venues to shoulder just as much blame.
It seems like such a simple problem that should lend itself to a simple solution. The "why" is so easy to grasp. On a normal day, there are x amount of cell phones in a given area, which may be adequately serviced by y number of cell towers. On gameday, the amount of cell phones in said given area increases exponentially to the nth power, and when the number of towers doesn't increase in a similar fashion, it leaves us lost on the golf course and really ticked off at Facebook and Twitter.
As I said, I am not picking on War Memorial Stadium. Reynolds Razorback Stadium is just as bad, if not worse. Bryant-Denny Stadium is also plagued by the same problem. The Mercedes Superdome in New Orleans. The Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Virtually every sporting event I have attended over the last several years.
It seems that every summer I read how service providers have taken strides during the off-season to solve the problem. Mr. Smith's words above were prompted by AT&T's work on building War Memorial's very own 3G network in 2010. Last summer, AT&T boasted of their work on campus in Fayetteville and how it would solve the issue for games played at Razorback Stadium.
Improvements, at least seen through the Gorilla Glass of my smartphone, are halting and incremental. I still have a difficult time checking stats. I still have periods where I cannot tweet. I still receive approximately 37 texts all saying "WPS!!!!" as I leave the stadium that I should have received after the first touchdown. I can pretty much count on being able to place a call, although my level of confidence is certainly not as high as it should be if that call were one of emergency.
It's really the thing that I hate most about gameday. Really the only thing I truly dislike. Some like it and some hate it, and I am one that loves being connected 24/7. I thrive on information and interaction, and it really stinks that on eight of the most socially bustling days of the year in Arkansas, tens of thousands of us are seriously hamstrung because we cannot communicate with each other.
Since AT&T seems unable to Rethink Possible on this issue, I would imagine Mr. Smith might wish to rethink his words. If I may recommend this edit:
"AT&T will have
its bestservice in Americaright here."
In a season full of retooled expectations, I find that to be a wholly reasonable and acceptable modification. Unfortunately, I fear that even with revamped goals, AT&T's success in delivering might be the biggest longshot of the year.