Letter from AT&T About Dropped Calls and Moth Problems

Moths are causing problems for AT&T
Moths are causing problems for AT&T
Martin J Calabrese

For those who didn’t read the letter to the editor in Dan’s Papers last week from the president of AT&T, we publish it again here. — Dan Rattiner

Dear Friends:

Since I’m told most of the movers and shakers in New York read Dan’s Papers when they are at their summer places in the Hamptons, I thought to address them in your pages to tell them about a particular problem with our service and what we are doing to soon fix it.

As you know, during the past two years, many phone calls have been unexpectedly dropped in mid-conversation. I know how disconcerting this must be. The culprit, you have been told, is a lack of telephone cell towers in some areas, and the opposition to erecting new ones by people who want them, but not in their backyard. Once that is successfully dealt with, this problem will be solved.

I can’t speak for Verizon, our biggest competitor, but I’m writing to let you know that the problem for us lies elsewhere. We do go along with Verizon in quests for new towers, figuring the more new towers built, the better and also because until now, some of our lower-level executives don’t want you to know the real story. I think it is time you knew the truth about AT&T. So here it is.

Every five years, AT&T builds and then launches the most complex and sophisticated satellite in the industry. We are leaders in the field. The new satellite arrives and settles in to our predetermined spot in the stratosphere over Ohio, where it boots up and then directs the cellphone traffic to all the various towers in the country.

The most recent new satellite was sent up two years ago, launched from Cape Canaveral by NASA. We had high hopes for it. It parked at its spot correctly and began its work sending phone calls back and forth at a rate five times faster than the one that it replaced and seven times faster than that of our nearest competitor. Voice reception and quality were unparalleled.

However, after it was up and working properly for three months, this new satellite began to drop calls at unexpected intervals several times a day.

We jumped on the problem immediately. Our first thought was to transfer the calls back to the older satellite. But as part of a new clean skies directive from the government to reduce space junk, we had taken the earlier one out of orbit and sent it off to a fiery exit through the atmosphere and a sensational crash into the Pacific Ocean.

As this was therefore not an option, we then sent a test probe up to our new satellite to see what was wrong. The probe, fully equipped to fix any problem, found nothing to fix. Complexico 7, as this latest satellite is called, was working correctly. We then sent up a second probe affixed with a camera to video the satellite over an extended period of time to see if we could capture this intermittent problem on our screens at our headquarters in Midland, Texas. What we found was astonishing.

At certain alignments, the shiny surface of Complexico 7 strongly reflects the blinding light from the sun in a certain direction. When that happens, a flurry of moths, attracted by it, show up and block the satellite’s ability to perform. Then, when the angle of the sun shifts and the reflection subsides, the moths go away.

As soon as we discovered this situation, the researchers and experts at our Fargo, ND facility raced to build a rocket with a nose cone of bug spray that, when arriving up there, could be remotely released in a puff to do away with these pesky moths.

The first of these rockets blew up on the launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, resulting in the bug spray saturating a 3-square-mile area in the desert just next to the town of Los Machos Rodeos, ruining the crop of several cactus farms. A second rocket was then successfully launched from Vandenberg, but soon veered off course to crash into a meadow outside of Davenport, IA, again releasing bug spray over a wide area which, fortunately, did not involve downtown.

During this time, there was speculation at our laboratories about how moths could have gotten to the satellite. There are, after all, no moths in space. Re-enacting the satellite’s conveyor belt construction period at our Wichita, KS factory, we were able to determine that moths could have gotten inside the satellite when it was open for a 12-second period so technicians could slide a special wool warming sweater around a piston that sends the stream of air through a nozzle, to gently turn the satellite to a new orientation. As this construction opening was 1 millimeter wide and just 5 millimeters long, it was calculated that only two moths could have wriggled in during those 12 seconds, but if they were a male and a female, particularly of the Hyalophora cecropia genus of the Saturniidae family, which our space photographs have shown is what is fluttering around up there, then very soon, the moths could have feasted on the wool, mated, built a nest and produced the infestation that we are now experiencing.

I am here to tell you at this point that we have now constructed a third rocket with a new and more sophisticated bug spray that will neuter but not kill the male moths of this genus up there, which, given the short life cycle of this particular moth, will result in the extinction of this Outer Space Stratospheric Hyalophora Cecropia moth infestation in about 48 hours. Also, this new bug spray will not harm or injure — should another launch crash occur — any human beings, other mammals, dogs or cats.

We expect to launch this rocket in early August from the Ariane European Space Launch Station in Kourou, French Guiana, South America, a facility that has a far better launch record than either Cape Canaveral or Vandenberg.

We believe this will resolve this problem and ask your forbearance for just a few more weeks.

Remember, here at AT&T, “Progress is our Most Important Product,” and with the moth problem solved, we look forward to serving you better in the very near future.


Liketo Winn, President, AT&T

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