New AT&T 'hotzone' opens on University Ave. | September 9, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 9, 2011

New AT&T 'hotzone' opens on University Ave.

Company says initiative will provide 'fast and reliable' Internet access between Bryant and Cowper streets

by Gennady Sheyner

Seeking to provide local technophiles with faster and easier Internet access, AT&T on Wednesday launched a "hotzone" initiative in the heart of downtown Palo Alto.

The initiative, known as "AT&T Wi-Fi Hotzone" essentially drapes a busy section of University Avenue, between Cowper and Bryant streets, in what the company calls "fast and reliable" Wi-Fi network. AT&T customers with qualifying plans get unlimited access to AT&T hotzones at no additional cost, the company announced.

The new hotzone is the latest effort by AT&T to increase its local presence. The company had recently installed new Wi-Fi antennas at Hotel President on University Avenue, despite protests from a group of building residents. The company is also plans to put up a network of antennas around existing utility poles — measures the company says are necessary to accommodate the city's limited capacity and insatiable appetite for Internet service.

AT&T has also recently partnered with Stanford University to provide Wi-Fi service at nine athletic facilities on campus. Ken McNeely, president of AT&T's California operation, said in a statement that the company's initiatives aim to address an increase in connectivity and mobile data use across the company's networks.

"We're focused on increasing our coverage and enhancing the customer experience in the Palo Alto area, and we are excited to continue efforts with the launch of our second Wi-Fi hotzone in the past year for AT&T customers in California," McNeely said.

Though the company's efforts have angered a small but vocal sector of the community, particularly in those areas where AT&T proposed to put up new antennas, city officials have been generally enthusiastic about the company's efforts to improve Internet service around town. Mayor Sid Espinosa said the city appreciates AT&T's investment in the Palo Alto community.

"As the center of technology and innovation, Palo Alto is proud to be one of the first cities in the country to have a Wi-Fi hotzone deployed in its downtown corridor," Espinosa said in a statement.

Paula Sandas, CEO of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, agreed and said her organization "applauds AT&T's expansion of Wi-Fi coverage in Palo Alto."

"Wireless connectivity in today's business is a requirement, not a luxury," Sandas said in a statement. "Our businesses depend on reliable wireless connectivity for their day-to-day operations."

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by for the general public?, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Can the general public connect to this service? All AT&T customers? Or only selected AT&T customers? Very sleazy for AT&T to brag about this service if only a few people can actually use it.

Posted by Jeff, a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Any AT&T customer with a Smartphone (Iphone, Blackberry, Android, etc) will be able to connect for free.

Posted by general public?, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2011 at 8:46 pm

I am an AT&T customer with a smartphone. Can I connect my non-AT&T devices to this WiFi?

Posted by Emily, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Now, if only I could get AT&T cell reception at my house...

Posted by Marilyn, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm

A couple of weeks ago, Stanford and AT&T ballyhooed their partnership to increase WiFi connectivity at nine Stanford sports venues including Stanford Stadium.

Yet at last Saturday's football game, my iPhone's WiFi connection felt like a decade ago dial-up service at best. Very, very poor first Stanford Stadium connectivity experience.

AT&T has a pattern of big press releases yet consistently lousy service. It is disappointing to see Stanford partnering with AT&T on anything.

Posted by AT&T's reputation, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2011 at 11:23 pm

It seems a lot of people are not familiar with AT&T's long time reputation for misrepresentation and deception.
The corporation was broken up some years ago (anti-trust) but they have gobbled up other companies and are back at their old tricks.
If you believe what AT&T says, there is a bridge you might also want to buy.

Posted by mj, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

Bought a new 4G AT&T phone, but most of the time can not get reception in my house or garden. When I do more than 50% of the calls get dropped part way through and I have to redial! Of course now I am locked into another two year contract. Useless!

Posted by return it, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm

mj - don't cell phones come with a 30 day money-back guarantee? If it doesn't work, just return it for a full refund.

Posted by kp, a resident of Los Altos
on Sep 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm

What exactly is a '"hotzone" initiative'? Is AT&T going to collect petition signatures to place an initiative on the ballot? Or does AT&T have a specific plan they are proposing? If so, what is it? Or does it just mean that AT&T wants this to happen so they are waging a PR campaign with a catchy name, trying to get people's support? Is this really news, or is the Palo Alto Weekly being used for free advertising and PR for AT&T? (Or maybe it's not free).

Posted by techie, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm

TWO blocks of wifi and this gets a press release?! How about two miles?! That would be worth talking about

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 8:33 am

to me this sounds like a michael crichton slash george orwell scenario.

again, I watched recent hearings, at commission level and council level and was appalled at the arrogance of the corporate lobbyists telling local officials what they must do -- "there is a federal shot clock you know -- you must submit"" and how our so-called leaders caved in so easily. I called it a "tap-out" which is a wrestling term and I guess means we can save our energy for another day and fight back.

equally appalling was all the government time and energy promoting another corporate communications pr program -- and that featured literally our paid staff dancing and shaking their hips for a video and doing childish acts like leapfrog to be "cute" and impress a sly corporate marketing team to give us free goods. Despicable! What a disgrace!

Get a spine people! Not an antenna!

Posted by Dave Hoffman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2011 at 9:14 am

Honestly, I'd rather AT&T spent their time, money, and effort on improving their cell phone service. I have an iPhone 3GS and am always surprised when I'm able to complete a call without having it dropped at some point. I call it my intermittent connectivity device the service is so terrible...

Posted by Marilyn, a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 9:40 am

I will be issuing a press release shortly about the AT&T MicroCells I had to install in my house to get AT&T service for my iPhone which I had earlier paid though the nose for.

While AT&T MicroCell coverage is only out to my sidewalk, and it took 2 MicroCells to get there, and I must enter the phone numbers of the cell phones permitted to use it, it is roughly equivalent to the AT&T 'hotzone' ballyhooed downtown.

To say I feel under-served by AT&T would be the understatement of the decade.

Posted by Jim Larkin, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2011 at 10:02 am

There's such a bunch of cry babies on this thread. It's amazing!

#1: If you don't like AT&T then switch to Verizon, TMobile, Sprint, Virgin or any of the other providers.

#2: If you bought a smart phone recently and were ignorant about the reception issues in PA, then you've been living under a rock.

#3: If you don't read the article and then ask questions about the service, maybe you just need to go back and read it one more time.

#4: if you think AT&T service is so bad, go do it better. This is Silicon Valley....the hot bed of VC funding and technologists. Go provide the best phone service in PA and steal business from AT&T if you think you're so smart and they're so bad.

As an aside, I would love to know what percentage of the people who complain about call quality are the same people who complain about installing more cell phone towers. Seems to me that some people just like to complain.

Life is short- smile a little!

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