Ralph de la Vega promises fix for San Francisco and Manhattan coverage, plans to 'address' heaviest data users

Love that Pandora app? Well, we've got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that AT&T's wireless head honcho Ralph de la Vega says it's hard at work at improving service in San Francisco and Manhattan, where it sees especially high smartphone penetration -- and coincidentally a higher concentration of whiny tech journalists. The bad news, though, is that it might end up hitting you in the pocketbook. Speaking to investors today, de la Vega mentioned that the company is well aware that downtown New Yorkers are suffering, specifically calling out the area for "performing at levels below [its] standards" expressing confidence that it's going to get the problem resolved. In the same breath, though, he assured attendees that independent testing conducted by Global Wireless Solutions shows that a test of over 415 markets (which probably means 416 markets) has AT&T coming out on top for network speed -- something that we found in our testing as well -- and is "within two-tenths of 1 percent of the highest score among major providers" for dropped calls at 1.32 percent averaged nationally. Anyway, about that bad news -- the company has noticed that a huge chunk (some 40 percent) of its broadband is consumed by just 3 percent of smartphone users, and it's suggesting that it'll "address" that through a combination of usage meters (no complaints there) and likely a tiered pricing model that sticks it to the heaviest users "in a way that's consistent with net-neutrality and FCC regulations." At a glance, that sounds "fair" -- we'd rather they not increase data fees across the board to average out a very small number of users -- but the long-lost term "unlimited" still gives us a warm fuzzy that we're hoping to win back sooner or later. When LTE shows up, perhaps?