'Operation Chokehold' takes on AT&T

UPDATE 4 p.m. ET: Anecdotal evidence suggests "Operation Chokehold" may have had some effect. In Web posts, users around the country reported scattered difficulty in accessing AT&T's 3G network on their smartphones Friday, although others said it was working fine. As for Lyons, he posted an item to his blog Friday afternoon saying, "As far as I can tell, there’s been no impact at all. My iPhone is working just the same as ever. I’m talking to someone on it right now."

If AT&T's wireless network bogs down today, you can blame - or maybe even thank - a fake Steve Jobs.

Complaining of poor service on his iPhone and angered by the company’s suggestion that it may take action to discourage heavy bandwidth users, blogger Daniel Lyons is pushing “Operation Chokehold.” The idea, says Lyons, is for every iPhone user to open a data-intensive application at noon Pacific time (3 p.m. ET) to overload AT&T's 3G network as a form of protest.

“Send the message to AT&T that we are sick of their substandard network and sick of their abusive comments,” wrote Lyons earlier this week. The tech writer and Newsweek columnist writes a popular mix of fact and fiction on his blog, “Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.”

AT&T, predictably condemns the effort, which has picked up steam on lots of tech-related blogs and Web sites since Lyons first wrote about it Monday.

“We understand that 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 to more than 80 million customers,” the company said in a written statement.

On Friday, Lyons was both promoting and downplaying the effort.

He noted that the idea started as a joke, “[b]ut some people took it seriously and now the joke has taken on a life of its own.”

He said he and supporters have “already won” with the attention they’ve drawn to the network’s service and predicted that any “Operation Chokehold” effort won’t actually do much to cripple AT&T's service.

“This may be cathartic, but it is pointless,” he wrote. “A few thousand people are not going to make a dent in a wireless network. If you participate, you’ll most likely be wasting your time.”

We'll soon find out.