Timothy Butler over at OFB did some sleuthing and found that AT&T is downgrading its EDGE/2G service to the weaker 1900 MHz band. Their response to those with newly-lousy service? Buy a new phone.
EDGE/2G was previously using the 850 MHz band, which compared to the new 1900 MHz offered superior coverage, especially indoors. The switch, as confirmed by AT&T sources, is designed to boost the network's 3G coverage, but that leaves many users of previously functioning phones, including the original iPhone, with worse service, especially in rural areas. An AT&T PR representative, as well as several customer service reps, offered the same solution: buy a new 3G phone, at the customer's expense.
AT&T representative Mark Siegel denied that AT&T is forcing customers to upgrade operational phones to 3G, but this all amounts to a definite push, intentional or not. Customers who have recently purchased EDGE/2G phones may now find their phone unable to get adequate service in areas previously covered.
As much as we love the push for better, faster networks, it shouldn't have to come at the expense of those with last-generation phones.
[I disagree. If it takes hurting 2G networks to speed up 3G, so be it. — Blam]